'Dirty Show' does Detroit Friday through Feb. 15
The "Dirty Show" -- Detroit's annual salute to erotic art, timed around Valentine's Day -- kicks off Friday and runs through Feb. 15, with enough naughty paintings, sculpture and lewd performance to satisfy the lustiest soul.
"This is our 21st year," said founder Jerry Vile. "We’re finally old enough to get into our own show" -- assuming that the "Dirty Show" has a valid picture I.D. (And heads-up -- they're required.)
Pop-art aficianados will be delighted to learn that the special featured artist this year is Detroit's own Niagara.
The rocker from Destroy All Monsters specializes in comic-style portraits of dominatrixes and vixens with bad attitude who've livened up art shows around town for years.
It's a big weekend for Niagara. Not only is she in the "Dirty Show," she's also part of a group exhibition opening Saturday at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery in Los Angeles.
So what does Niagara think of the "Dirty?"
"Well, suddenly I think it’s like marvelous," the artist said with a laugh. "All of a sudden."
In reality, of course, Niagara -- who's been one of Vile's pals for years -- has attended any number of "Dirties."
"I asked Jerry how many years it’s been," she said, "and I thought he’d say 'Seven.' When he said 21, I couldn’t believe it."
The show, which Vile says typically pulls a couple thousand people a day, has come a long ways from its 1999 inauguration in the Royal Oak offices of Orbit magazine.
Now celebrating its sixth year in the cavernous spaces of the Russell Industrial Center, the "Dirty" will feature go-go girls and boys in cages, bump-and-grind burlesque acts, drag queens, porn star Chris Harden, a spanking booth, and tons of highly salacious art, which runs the gamut from elegant to sleazy as all get-out.
Curious for up-close representations of body parts that rarely see light of day? This is the show for you.
And keeping spirits bright, there's also a cash bar.
But is an erotic art show really necessary in 21st-century America, with our hyper-sexualized commercial culture? Vile gives the question a straight, simple answer.
"You know, it makes people really happy," he said. "The subject matter makes for fun patronage. The people who suck the life out of art galleries stay away. And it's weird - some nights there are more women than men."
Of course, he adds, it all comes back to the eternal question: "Who gets to call it art?" Vile asked. "And we’re in the position where we can say, ‘We do.’"
While Niagara's aggressive heroines often resemble Marlene Dietrich, lush and super confident, the artist says that nude drawings by the star of the Austrian Secessionist movement at the turn of the last century, Gustav Klimt, impressed her deeply.
"I remember I had a book of nude sketches," Niagara said, "and just loved the way Klimt drew her, which was all very fluid."
But her artistic enthusiasms range all over the place, from the exquisite languor of the Pre-Raphaelites to the commercial zing of Andy Warhol.
As for Niagara's forthright vixens, she characterized them as "very smart. And people usually say they’re strong and funny. They’ve got humor in their strength."
Tickets are available online by visiting dirtydetroit.com, as well as at the following shops: Noir Leather, Third Man Records, Road Show, Found Sound, River's Edge Gallery and 96-Printing.
Russell Industrial Center, 1600 Clay, Detroit
7 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri & Sat; 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Feb. 14 & 15
21 and over
Tickets: $40 (one night only) - $150 (all four nights)