NAUGHTY LADIES on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West) until May 27. Rating: NNN
the ago is dusting off its dirty postcards for Naughty Ladies: Postcards From Paris.
Officially, Ladies has been timed to coincide with the high-profile show of photographic pioneer Eugène Atget. But texts within the exhibit position these 240 erotic historical postcards as a study into female representation in pop culture, making it clear that the timing also reflects on the escalating current taste for ultra-revealing images of female models on the covers of men's magazines.
Mass-market postcards were invented in Austria in 1869 and, as with most new media, their pornographic potential was exploited almost immediately. The association of these pictures with the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Paris lasted until the popularity of the French postcard began to fade in the 1920s.
The AGO's erotic cartes postales are relatively tame. A selection is available online to send as e-postcards (at www.ago.net) and any card that gets sent comes with gleeful links to the rest of the museum's current programming.
So their makers could sell them legally, most French postcards hid behind the conventions of the female nude as depicted in highbrow salon paintings. The overtly "artistic" poses, of voluptuous babes draped in oriental veils or across chaises longues, are very telling in terms of how they help document the objectification of women.