If you know anything about the bizarre art of Genki – the Japanese porn/film company that has made “eel porn” a household world in Tokyo (watch the show on VBS.tv if you don’t believe me) – the juxtaposition of naked ladies with tentacles is probably not so shocking in the work of Zak Smith.
Smith has become a hot, hot commodity as of late and has landed in numerous important art collections including the Saatchi Gallery, which has acquired all 98 pieces of the wildly colorful, metal-leafed master work 100 Girls and 100 Octopuses.
In a manner reminiscent of Kill Bill – which made violence abstract, colorful and almost humorous – 100 Girls makes the absurdly perverse subject of girl-octopus sex seem both beautiful and, as personal narrative, kind of profound.
The 98 10” x 8” panels are individually rendered with japonisme perfection – delicate, asymmetrical compositions each of which is invaded by graphic patterning that strongly references, in particular, the work of Gustav Klimt.
Klimt, as most know him, was the star of the Austrian Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) period and he revolutionized the way that painters thought about the frame. His gilded compositions would literally invade the static wooden frames that encased them, or (in the case of the famous Beethoven freezes) the architecture that enclosed them.
100 Girls is different in that the 98 images actually invade each other. In a gymnastic feat of graphic design, each composition has its own integrity but one flows seamlessly into another, despite the fact that each has a completely different color palette and setting.
There is no denying the raw sensuality of these images, especially as “raw” could be doubly intended to mean “on the half shell” in this case. Clearly Zak Smith has no problem with sex. He is, after all, a porn star himself. Yes, true a real porn star (if you don’t believe me check out his website).
But despite the bizarre human-mollusk intimacy, these images manage to be beautiful, sometimes extraordinary, and using a natural metaphor -- the tentacles of the octopus --they manage to capture a sentiment that would otherwise be hard to put into words.
In the quest to find oneself, we humans seek comfort (and sometimes partnership) in that which is alien, and in the absurdity of that interaction we might eventually find ourselves. The final frame of the series shows a real human-human interaction in which the bizarrely colored octopus is nothing more than a figment of imagination.
- Karl Burkart
Click HERE to see big version of 100 Girls and 100 Octopuses