Gallery showcases censored art in nude exhibit

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Artist Eric Cox’s self portrait is just one of the pieces that is featured at the “Unveiled” uncensored artshow at {9} The Gallery. (Photo courtesy of Eric Cox)

After being banned from various galleries downtown, artwork by Phoenix artist Eric Cox has finally found wall space alongside other censored works in an exhibit created for the suppressed pieces.

Unveiled, the current show at {9} The Gallery, is a nude exhibit featuring works by multiple downtown artists. Some of the pieces were censored from shows downtown after they were deemed inappropriate.

The exhibit highlights works of local artist Eric Cox, showing 10 paintings and three sculptures. {9} The Gallery curator Laura Dragon is calling the exhibit uncensored because she is showing all of Cox’s work, including the pieces other venues would not.

“I believe that emerging artists and emerging writers and emerging musicians really have an impact on social consciousness,” Dragon said. “So when we start censoring art, we might as well start burning books.”

Cox has been a professional artist in Phoenix for the past ten years and said he has experienced various forms of censorship, mainly in the case of nudity in his artwork.

Galleries asked Cox to do solo shows, he said. But when he brought his paintings for the exhibit, galleries were hesitant to show the works containing nudity for fear of offending clientele. According to Cox, none of the works are pornographic.

“When the solo show comes to fruition, I bring in my work and they go, ‘Uh, we like that one but we can’t show that, that and that,’” Cox said.

It was a similar case with the art show Chaos Theory, hosted by Legend City Studios.

Randy Slack, curator and one of the founders of Chaos Theory, described Chaos Theory as an annual family-friendly exhibit showing work by multiple artists.

Cox initially submitted a painting called “Candy Coat,” a piece created in reference to the censorship Cox was facing. The piece showed female genitalia. Slack told Cox the piece would not work for the venue.

Cox then submitted “Welcome To Arizona,” a painting of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a poncho and sombrero. That piece was well-received at the show, Slack said.

“I felt the common theme (was) that I want the community to be able to come here and feel comfortable, especially because I know that there are a lot of kids,” Slack said.

Slack also said the space was being used for multiple events at the time, including a wedding and a political party for Mayor Greg Stanton.

At Chaos Theory, Cox told Dragon he was not going to show in Phoenix anymore to protest his censored art, he said.

“You don’t want to sit there when you’re creating and go like, ‘Well maybe I shouldn’t paint a female nude because I’m not going to be able to show it anywhere. It’s going to sit in the corner of my studio,’” Cox said.

Dragon said she set out to convince Cox to stay in Phoenix and show his work at her gallery. Cox was hesitant at first. After multiple calls, emails and a trip to {9} The Gallery, Cox agreed to the show. Dragon joked that she would have bribed him with tequila if necessary.

Dragon said she wanted to do a nude show in January. It was Cox’s censorship experience that brought the exhibit together.

Dragon said she did not understand why certain pieces were censored.

“(‘Candy Coat’) wasn’t a vague nude painting where you just kind of get a glimmer. It really was all out there for everyone to see. But, you know, so what? So is David. Michelangelo’s David is out there for everybody to see, so I didn’t get it,” Dragon said.

Slack said he is happy Cox has a place to show his work. He is also glad fliers for Unveiled say the show is for ages 18 and older so people are aware that the show has nudity.

Cox said he finds it interesting that some galleries in Phoenix and Scottsdale are hesitant to display work that pushes the envelope. Especially, he said, because that is what art should be doing.

“You would think in 2013 that censorship of art would not be something that would even be in the topic of discussion right now,” Dragon said.

Unveiled opened Jan. 4 and will run to Feb. 1. Other artists shown are Peter Benke, Matt Dickson, Bill Collier, FX Tobin, Wayne Michael Reich, Hugo Medina, Martin Hazine and Allison Luckock.

Contact the reporter at danika.worthington@asu.edu