The last line of Susan Sontag's seminal 1961 essay "Against Interpretation" states, "In place of hermeneutics we need an erotics of art." As White Flag's current group exhibition lacks an explicit curatorial premise, it seems fair to fill in the conceptual blank with that — especially since Peter Hujar's iconic 1975 portrait of Sontag graces the exhibition's takeaway and postcard and is itself hung dead-center in the show. Indeed, erotics continue to replace hermeneutics (or textual interpretation) in Richard Kern's unblinking photographs of female nudes smoking pot, Ryan McGinley's statuesque black-and-whites of assorted young waifs and Linder's vintage-porn collages that place a blooming white rose over tawdry points of pinup-girl exposure. A desire to deconstruct (or even dismember) the body seems equally lascivious here, as Win McCarthy's clear sack of wet clay hangs limply next to two Kern nudes. Another McCarthy piece appears like a chopping block of severed limbs (also wet clay), and Sven Lukin's ejaculate-ish pink sculpture (titled Snug) squirms tightly into the gallery's far corner. The work that retains the most dignity in this spare bacchanal is also the most conventionally formalist; Ricky Swallow's small-scale bronze sculptures are sharp fractured forms that look like tiny Cubist throwbacks. While they least resemble it, they seem the most sympathetically figural of the group: modestly poised on white plinths, they appear mysterious, handmade, intimate and oddly vulnerable — and perhaps most illustrative of Sontag's point. Also showing: an alien mind-throb of a painting-and-light-show dyptich by Adriana Lara. Through June 15 at White Flag Projects, 4568 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-3442 or www.whiteflagprojects.org. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
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