Carrie Gray at Good for Her (175 Harbord), to July 6. 416-588-0900. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Pleasure and control have become such dominant cultural themes in Western society that BSDM has been openly accepted as a "naughty" sideline in the bedroom. The art and fashion worlds are particularly fascinated by stylized representations of bondage and domination. But SM's commercial mainstreaming has glossed over what could be called the original SM agenda, which resurfaces in Carrie Gray 's photo series at women-centred sexual empowerment venue Good for Her .
In Gray's SeXXXtacy series, each photo portrays some form of BSDM role-playing, mainly between lesbian/queer and transgender couples. She says she uses people who don't fit the usual definition of fetish models to show hot queers and gender rebels in beautiful, self-empowering and playful aspects of sexuality.
Gray's images are saturated with the icy glamour you'd expect from this kind of intense sexual theatre. The tension is heightened by the fact that the images are printed as negatives. Gray serves up an inversion of an inversion: skin tones are dusky black, while the leather and PVC harnesses glow transcendently white.
This technique reflects BSDM's stated aim - namely, the exploration and transcendence of personal fears and social taboos around gender roles, dominance and submission. Restraint becomes a form of liberation, and the heavily stylized roles of dominant and submissive, butch and femme become a way out of societal constraints.
That being said, the work doesn't amount to much more than artful, thoughtful erotica of the SM variety. For all its protestations of standing outside the mainstream, these images don't seem especially transgressive or beyond the underground norm, especially in the context of today's burgeoning fetish erotica scene.
Even so, this show is still a long way from Kansas.