Emma Kohlmann is the artist whose erogenous pantings and zines explore themes of eroticism and empowerment through an unforgivingly female gaze. The conventions of female sexuality are discarded within her work and replaced with a fluid darkness, ambiguity and unnerving pleasure.
We asked Kohlmann to share with us her most inspiring books from her collection and describe to us what they mean to her.
You can purchase some of her zines here.
Louise Bourgeois: I Have Been to Hell and Back by Louise Bourgeois, Iris Müller-Westermann
Louise Bourgeois is one of my hero’s. I find her work to be so close to my own. In this most recent publication of Bourgeois, it is a monograph of her tremendous body of work. I enjoy reading Bourgeois’s writing especially talks about the privilege of sublimation, “controlling of chaos by one of us” . She speaks to the importance of women embracing their sexuality, in addition to men allowing themselves to be vulnerable, instead of perceiving gender as a dichotomous relationship, “we are all male/female.”
Snapshots by Marv Bondarowicz
Marv Bondarowicz’s Snapshots is one my favorite books I own. I would describe this work as erotic abstraction. I was never able to find where this book came from or any information on the artist himself. I love how experimental and elusive it is. I am drawn to its physical nature of the mirrored erotic creations. I enjoy the movement of the images. The photographs have a certain ambiguity to them, at times the viewer has no idea what you are looking at. I like the blatant hints Bondarowicz gives, whether it be a squeezing hand or nipple. In my own creative practice I like working in abstraction. I find work most intriguing when there is obscurity. The way I approach working with gender in my work is by complicating or obstructing it. I use androgyny to disrupt this narrative. I try to create multiple genders or simultaneously having none at all.
Heather Benjamin “Romantic Story” 2015
Heather Benjamin is going to impact our generation’s way of viewing art. The intricate detail of her work is staggering. “Romantic story” takes place in a post apocalyptic erotic fantasy world of portholes, pin-ups, nails, sphinxes,drips, bugs, blood,hair and constellations. Benjamin’s illustrations are delicate and deliberate, they have the consistency of lace. Each figure,unless in an amorous embrace, stares directly at the reader enticing or repelling a silent story. There is a tension between beauty and monstrosity. Benjamin’s illustrations are on-going sites of fantasy and horror and I will always continue to enjoy them.
“Kynisk Æstetik” by Jesper Fabricius
I first found Fabricius’s work at Printed Matter in new York city. His zines are comprised of collaged danish and swedish pornography from 1960’s and 70’s. In Frabricius’s zine Kynisk Æstetik, there are white boxes covering the sexual organs of each pornographic image. Centered on the page the original image is disavowed from what it was originally “intended” to be. Each page is comprised of altered and methodically organized erotic imagery. Sometimes just fragments of hair, detached areolas, bushes, penises, or silhouettes. I enjoy the same deliberate cropping of body parts in my own work.The human body is a political site, there are aspects that are allotted and hidden. There are parts that are celebrated or shamed. I instinctively want to obstruct certain aspects, I think that’s why I am so intrigued by Jesper Fabricuis’s work.In my own practice I strive to create images that are androgynous or multiplicitous. I would like to have conversations that deter from the heterosexual binary canon. Making work that depicts the looseness of genders . I often keep that in mind when I draw, because it’s about being multifaceted. Its about being limitless.
Fleurs de peau (Skin flowers) by Gerard Levy and Serge Bramly
I found this book at one of my favorite book stores called Grey Matter in Massachusetts. I’m not really sure what this book would be considered. It’s a collection of found color photographs of tattooed convicts in prison and landscapes taken by an unknown dermatologist in the 1930’s. What’s amazing about this book is the juxtaposition between the images. Pre-war prison tattoos are comical, oddly placed and strange. The photographs show the toughness of their skin, though possibly used for medical documentation. The photographer treated each subject with the same intention and sensibility. Each photograph evokes a tenderness and softness surrounding them. Sometimes I try to emulate the expressive line work of the ex convict’s tattoos that are documented in Skin flowers.
You Who Read me with Passion Now Must Forever be my Friends , Dorothy Iannone
One of my more recent purchases, Dorothy Iannone’s book “You Who Read me with Passion Now Must Forever be my Friends”. Iannone is a powerful artist, I am fascinated by her earnestness and sincerity. Especially in the “Icelandic Saga”, where she illustrates and narrates the story of how she fell in love with Dieter Roth and subsequently leaves her husband for him. Her work is transgressive, she truly knows herself. What i find inspiring is the fact that she is still creating work with such exuberance. Her ideas of “ecstatic unity” through love making. I think her work mostly inspires me to stay to true my voice, she has never wavered despite the fact that she was never considered by the art world until recently. When I create Zines I often think of Iannone. I’d like to think that when I write i speak from multiple parts of myself. I often try to imagine different perspectives, even speaking from inanimate points of view. It’s difficult confronting emotions, writing had been something I’ve always struggled with.
Erotik Im Fernen Osten Oder: Transition from Cool to Warm, Anselm Kiefer
This book inspired a lot of the work that I make now. I found it while perusing my local library several years ago. Unlike Kiefer’s other work which is often massive apocalyptic landscape paintings, this imagery is confined to a book. Depicting the frigid landscape of Norwegian icebergs and steam ships taken from photos Kiefer took in Norway.I love the transition to hot which is speaking to the warmth of the human (female) body, is almost like seeing the seasons changing. Keifer’s watercolors are melting from page to page, it’s like conversations between the figurative and the landscape.
One of the more impactful books on my work had been this monograph on Man Ray. These photos have implanted themselves in my brain. Many of Man Ray’s photos have inspired my work but this image in particular the image of crouching butt, it’s reminiscent of an abject image. An image built on being “casted off or baseness”. I have several different collections of erotica that i refer in my library. Its seems symbolic to me that I refer Man Ray. I find myself recreating it over and over again. I am most enthralled with the trudging figure, searching with no clear direction neither living or dead. It is undeniable in ways.I have a vivid imagination. The work that i create comes from voyeurism, there series of interruptions, almost like performances, there is eye contact and subversion. I feel like the art that inspires me is confusing or transgressing image.
Jen Shear 11 Works in Vermillion zine 2015
Jen Shear zines are often a mix of collage and poetry. They are a collection of found ephemera, advertisements, phone numbers, optical illusions, pornography and typography. Shear’s work gives the illusion of symmetry. There is always something mysterious underneath each page. I enjoy the holistic view of each page, as if it were a list of intricate subtleties.