…In order to convey a sense of the painting’s monumental scale to potential art dealers and collectors, Tompkins staged a photograph in which she stood between two works from the series. The resulting image juxtaposes the young casually dressed artist with pictures whose sexual explicitness and sheer size still have the power to startle. Tompkins met with only limited success in her attempts to show the Fuck Paintings publicly. In 1973, she was invited to exhibit two of the pictures at a gallery exhibition in Paris titled “Realism, New Realism, Photo Realism.” The paintings never made it to the gallery, however. French customs officials deemed the works obscene, confiscated them as contraband, and refused to release them for nearly a year. During 1974-75, Tompkins returned to this incident in a series of grid drawings, some of which combine freehand sketching with repeated ink-stampings of the word “censored.” In response to the official confiscation of her work, Tompkins staged her own scene of censorship. Within the frame of the grid drawings, the artist “stamped out” the visual form of her intercepted paintings while protesting the public restrictions to which they had been subjected. In 2004, the Centre Pompidou in Paris purchased Fuck Painting #1 (1969), one of the canvases confiscated by French customs officials thirty years before. In acquiring this work for its permanent collection, the Pompidou responded to and (belatedly) redressed the prior censorship of the painting.
Images: Top: Betty Tompkins with her paintings in 1973. Photo courtesy Edelman Arts. Bottom: Betty Tompkins. Censored grid #7, 2007. Pencil and ink on paper 14 x 17 inches.
Text: Meyer, Richard. “Hard Targets: Male Bodies, Feminist Art, and the Force of Censorship in the 1970s.” WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution. Ed. Lisa Gabrielle Mark. Boston: MIT Press, 2007. P. 363.