By Stephanie Donald—Art Book Review
It’s seldom that I use the word “genius” but this word definitely applies to the photographic book, X-Rated Dolls by Larry Singer.It’s been said that all art has been done before. Those who think that really need to take a careful look at those plastic action figures they sell in the toy department of your favorite department store.
Singer imagines these figures in an adult way, but like a child would look at sex if they understood it—and safe sex to boot! The figures are laden with condoms—even over their heads and bodies.
While the larger portion of the photographs are gay-themed, Larry allows for all sexualities (hence the less noticeable sub-title of “The private, passionate and pansexual world of inanimate objects”) and you observe the photos and wonder, just like Pixar’s Toy Story, when you aren’t looking, if these dolls can be seen crawling out of Singer’s toy box with some WWE wrestler doll being in charge every night and reading off a list of the planned sexual antics that will last until the Singer household has its first cup of jo in the morning. The dolls are probably back in their box wiping the super-glide off and pensively waiting for the sound of snoring, which might well be the doll to human equivalent of hearing a belt buckle hit the floor.
Larry Singer has given these pieces of plastic a life through the lens of his camera that’s no less entertaining than Toy Story for adults. Make no mistake that might make you think this is puerile in its conception. This isn’t something that would make some drunken frat boys yuck-it up (well it might, since I’ve seen American college students make sex jokes over the original Venus de Milo statue, but let’s just say young people who haven’t killed their brains drinking the bong water). This book is meant to stimulate the artistic view of the ordinary and the bourgeois world that has been made from reality, pick-up sex today. Getting laid isn’t hard for two gay men, but does it mean anything? Is it possible that Singer’s dolls show that meaningless sex? They certainly express the restriction of bawdy, unrestricted sex of days gone by with condoms over the heads of some male dolls, while other dolls stand up to their chest’s in a glass full of condoms while a potential sexual contact looks angrily on, unable to reach the object of his lust.
The lesbian poses of Barbie dolls and other glamour dolls further expand the feeling of the state of bourgeois sexual escapades in today’s world, where a one-night stand is like using a moist towelette you throw in the garbage can when you’re done with it. Don’t get me wrong: The women’s movement had to crawl a long way to get to the point where young women treat sex exactly like men do. My question is; I thought we were capable of so much more than being on their level, so did we sink that far? Larry Singer doesn’t deal with the “why”, but rather illustrates things just as they are—the plastic world of sexuality with an undertone of safe sex—while necessary, it further distances humanity from the tenderness, or the roughness, or even the intimacy of what sex should be.
Or it simply could be that all those dolls do come to life when we aren’t looking and for them, this is their world of ideal sexual play, tenderness, roughness, and intimacy.