Thoughts On Phillip Dvorak's Erotica
Recently I was introduced to the erotic work of the San Francisco-based artist Phillip Dvorak (1958) by one of our long-time members, JB. On Dvorak's site, his work is described as follows, 'Phillip Dvorak's explorations are rooted in the erotic, subconscious, and emotional possibilities of the human body. Regardless of the form, Dvorak invites the viewer into an intensely anthropomorphic universe. The biology of his charcoal and pastel drawings can sometimes focus so intensely on the human body that it grows microscopic. The viewer finds cell structures, organelles and strange hair-like protrusions engaging in active frenzy across the paper's surface. The effect is positively sexual.'
Fig.1. Shine (2021) Charcoal on paper
Fig.2. Repose (2022) Charcoal on paper
In my reply to JB, I told him that Dvorak's art reminded me of the work of Loic Dubigeon (in his drawings) and Egon Schiele (in his etchings) and asked him what appeals to him about Dvorak's erotica. This was his reaction:
"The main reasons why I like Phillip's work: his handling of the human form, with a certain necessary dose of correct imperfection; his use of color, which is like the right use of adjectivation when it comes to writing and essay or poem; and, the story telling in his etchings that lets you take any image anywhere your imagination is capable of carrying it.
Fig.3. Untitled (2021) Charcoal on paper
Fig.4. Réunion (2022) Charcoal on paper
Also, there is a very obvious Eros/Thanatos dichotomy in his work, that is not simply suggested (that is obvious and spelled out, so to speak --- the skulls, the burning house, barbed wire, etc.,) and enhanced by his etching technique. Then, to crown it all, he has a flawless sense of composition that enhances everything else, and if you add to it the cinematic details (his sketchy over imposition of parts in some pieces, that suggest movement,) he gives me all I need to love his work. If you can think of Schiele, Klimt, and DaVinci (think of his anatomical sketches, hands and feet studies, for example,) all wrapped up in one, to me, that's Dvorak.
Fig.5. Bisous (2021) Charcoal on paper
Fig.6. Paysage (2021) Charcoal on paper
I don't know if Loic Dubigeon (Fig.7) is one of his influences, maybe, but I consider his work superior to Dubigeon's; Dvorak offers a flexibility, a malleability in his work that Loic lacks. Loic's work for Histoire d'O is a good example of that "stiffness" (no pun intended) for lack of a better word. Loic, in most of his work, is "almost there"... but not quite!, and in some, he falls miserably short. Phillip, au contraire, never lacks: he never falls short, he never says too much.
Fig.7. From the series Soumission (Submission), 2003 by Loic Dubigeon
I do not own any of Dvorak's charcoal work, or anything else, just a number of his etchings, but the quality I see in his hand colored prints is present in all his work.
Also, and this may sound a bit weird to some people, but the way an artist signs his work is a deal maker of a deal breaker to me; Dvorak's signature offers the same quality that his everything else does. Another artist that I love his signature (in fact, there's commonality, aesthetically speaking, with Phillip Dvorak, is Paul Wunderlich.) The Chinese speak, in art, of "writing paintings" （写画）and when it comes to calligraphy of "drawing characters" (画字）--- it's a way of stating that when you paint you are describing, speaking about what you are moving to the paper, and when writing calligraphy, you are indeed painting the characters. Dvorak's and Wunderlich's signatures have that quality. Marc Michetz is another artist that offers a signature matching the quality of his work. Some artists, I just wish they didn't ruin their work with immature, totally lacking in aesthetic value signatures; anything you add to the paper, canvas, etc., must carry that same quality, or it shouldn't be there.
Fig.8. Réunion (2021) Charcoal on paper
Fig.9. Encuento (2021) Charcoal on paper
There's something we can call bad painting or bad drawing (in a praiseworthy manner, and "bad" in fact means "very good,") but not everyone is able to navigate these waters graciously and not sink the boat --- that gentleman you added to the Shunga Gallery, that you thought my comment on his work was too harsh and you removed*, is a good example of that. To engage in "bad" painting/drawing, you need to show that you know the rules and are breaking them willingly and with mastery, because if you cannot do that, then it's just lacking and simply not worth looking at."
Fig.10. Madrigal ll (2008), etching hand-colored with gouache and watercolor
Fig.11. A quick study of L. (2023), watercolor and graphite on paper
Fig.12. Pretty Baby (2005) Line etching hand-colored with gouache and watercolor
Fig.13. Back to Marseilles (2003) Line etching hand-colored with gouache and watercolor
Fig.14. Better Than Beautiful (2006) Line etching hand-colored with gouache and watercolor.
If you as the reader of this post are also interested in sharing your thoughts or views on an artist, artwork, or movement don't hesitate letting me know.
Dvorak is active on Instagram
* This refers to JB's comment on our interview (and the work) with Giuliano Amedeo Tosi. We don't believe in censorship so his reaction will be included in some shape or form in the future.