Taco was cordially invited by Brady Brim-DeForest of Found Gallery to take a peek at their current exhibition of Irene Kai’s photo essay: “What do you see?” I jumped on the opportunity to discover a new gallery and to see why, according to the press release, “Princess Margaret was shuffled past an art exhibit at the Royal College of Art in London in 1976. College officials deemed Irene Kai’s work too provocative for even the liberal minded Countess of Snowdon. The images caused a major uproar within the Royal College of Art staff, which took two months to settle and caused the Royal College to change its hiring policy.”

frankiely: How is a show that was judged shocking in 1970’s London relevant in Los Angeles of 2008?

Brady Brim-DeForest: What was shocking to me was that this show had been in New York City and London but had never made it to Los Angeles. Many LA galleries are very SoCal-centric. They show contemporary art made in LA – so we were interested in showing a retrospective of an old show, one that has been around for a while – one that had perhaps lost a little bit of its luster. It’s definitely not as shocking now as it might have been in 1976 London but it’s still relevant – especially in an American society that still struggles with its own sexuality today.

frankiely: What have people’s reactions been like?

Brady Brim-DeForest: This image (above) generates the most negative reactions, some people feel disgusted by it. Some are intrigued. Either way, it regularly produces a very visceral reponse in the viewer.

frankiely: I think it would have been interesting not to refer to the 1976 scandal in your press release to witness people’s reactions free of the knowledge that they might be shocked. Why did you make that choice?

Brady Brim-DeForest: We had an endless series of discussions about this particular point – but we determined that the best way to get people to the show, in a city dominated by endless noise, was to tell them a story that would pique their interest, appeal to their inner voyeur – and it worked! Ultimately, it is better for us to push through the noise, and encourage people to see the work, than to get lost in the shuffle.

frankiely: The fact that informing the audience that the pictures are sexual in nature is the best way to get people into your gallery makes a point that this exhibit is still relevant today.

Brady Brim-DeForest: Definitely. Nudity and sexuality are much more acceptable in European culture than in America today. What strikes me as funny, however, is that during the time that these photos were taken, “Deep Throat” was all the rage on this side of the pond. I can’t imagine the same film enjoying that kind of reception in the States today. Maybe we have become more conservative as a society over the last thirty years?

frankiely: That first picture definitely had that “Ooohhh what am I seeing here?” effect on me… but the more I paid attention to the photographs the more I was drawn by their sweetness, humor, the poetry a la Georgia O’Keefe and yes that liberating feeling.

Brady Brim-DeForest: Some people are disappointed because they expected to be shocked and they find out rather quickly that they are not. There’s a mix of excitement and disappointment. From that perspective it’s been great to watch people’s reactions.

frankiely: Every time we’re confronted to how we feel about something, it’s a great mirror for where we are at as individuals and as a society. Is that Found Gallery’s goal?

Brady Brim-DeForest: To a certain degree, it is. We’re interested in showing artists and producing shows that no other gallery would take a chance on. We love to explore art as a process. For instance, the Joint Custody Project, which this year paired 44 artists of different disciplines, twenty-two each in Berlin and LA, to work together. The show opens in Berlin on June 28th and the reception for the LA artists will be here on July 5th. You can see them at work on jointcustodyproject.blogspot.com.

I see a flying elephant. You have until the closing reception, Saturday, June 28th between 7 and 10pm, to be attended by Irene Kai, to tell us what you saw. Found Gallery, 1903 Hyperion Avenue, LA, CA 90027. Tel: 323-669-1247. http://www.foundla.com

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