Robert Storr lectures @ the MET

Pop sex images are ubiquitous and easy to digest but they lack substance and identity. Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale University School of Art, in his lecture “What is Too Taboo in Contemporary Art” acts as the gatekeeper of knowledge, showing off work that is hard to understand but ultimately reveals the complexities and challenges of gender and sexuality. One gift of taboo art is its ability to remind the viewer of character, whether its the satirical use of stereotypes or the shocking depiction of someone during an intimate moment. He cites work of the utmost importance; it forces viewers to look at the personal and often disturbing. Art isn’t superficial, nor is life, so to repress the scandalous image is limit civilization. To bare witness to Storr’s taboo selections was difficult, but to create them demonstrates artistic bravery: they are artists, not pornographers, who actively are pushing a myriad of identities into public discourse, articulating the role and significance of gender and sexuality. Storr covered a range of topics, from masturbation to faux gay, from voyeurism to molestation and with each step he elucidates how and why these works are profoundly moving. He also examined shock value and subjectivity within the realms of politics and sex.

A brief reminder: sexuality concerning stud females, femme women, and lesbians has been historically and almost inherently taboo. Similarly, images of gay men and effeminate males have been judged and removed from public discourse. Or, when and where we do enter, it has been immediately controversial if not an outright a source of hatred. So rather than tone down the gender bending or the provocative, alarming images that Queer culture provides, take a moment to consider the value of this history and own it.

A few of the artists he discussed, although not the exact slides:


Lisa Yuskavage


Nancy Spero


David Hockney


Kiki Smith


Kara Walker


Chris Ofili


John Currin