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Art Exhibit Takes Sadomasochistic Culture to the Dolls

By DNAinfo Staff on November 9, 2012 3:45pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — Biohazard bags and biographical paintings. Pill vials and pinned-up effigies. Sequined gowns and and spider-like webs of torn and stretched hosiery. A stop-motion video of dolls attacking one another in sadomasochistic sex acts.

These are just some of the eye-catching objects in Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard's latest show "A New Novel by Bjarne Melgaard."

The exhibition — which is part painting, part art installation, and part book —  opens at 6 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 9 at Luxembourg & Dayan, located at 64 E. 77th St.

Melgaard's project is a collaborative effort with artists JoJo Baby, Gabe Bartalos, Colleen Rochette, and Jessica Scott, who designed the Tim Burton-like figurines that enact chapters from Melgaard's novel.

With dioramas, wall displays, and a short film, the exhibit tells the tale of an artist's loneliness and search for intimacy via increasingly violent, sadomasochistic acts.

Alissa Bennett, gallery co-director, said some of the images might be disturbing, but must be considered in context.

Gallery organizers hailed the dark exhibit as part of an artistic tradition that includes the Marquis de Sade and Andre Gide — authors who explored the taboo side of human sexuality.

"It's trying to sublimate violence," she said.

Another appeal, Bennett said, is that Melgaard incorporated parts of his life into the exhibit, including some characters the gallery said are autobiographical, so that the lines between artist and artwork become blurred.

"I loved how he played with the distinction between fiction and reality," she said. "It exploits this flexibility with what's real and unreal."

That exhibit spans all five floors of the art space, located in a posh townhouse just off Madison Avenue.

Also key to the project is Melgaard's series of 13 oil paintings, which feature portions of his sparse prose on the back of each canvas. The oils, which start at $40,000, are mounted on walls like typical paintings, but Melgaard designed a hinge mechanism which allows viewers to pull them out and easily read the back.

Bartalos, 47, told DNAinfo.com New York that Melgaard wanted the display to have "schizophrenic" ambiance — a quality Bartalos said he was happy to bring to the table.

"I've been accused of that," said Bartalos, a filmmaker and special effects expert, of his work. "So I said: 'I'm the right guy!'"