Warning: This post is extremely NSFW. We mean, lots of nudity and images of sexual acts. Shunga does, after all, mean erotic art. Proceed with caution.
For the uninitiated, shunga is a Japanese term for erotic art.
Reaching its climax in the Edo period, from the 17th to 19th centuries, the NSFW genre was often realized via ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints. Japanese greats including Katsushika Hokusai, Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Kunisada all dabbled in the bawdy art form. Shunga prints, though undeniably sexual, favored the strange and the silly as much as the romantic. Expect many ornate robes in various states of undress, lots of pubic hair, sex positions and the occasional octopus.
The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife, Hokusai, 1814.
Now, fast forward a couple centuries and reorient yourself from East to West. That's where Jeff Faerber comes in. The Brooklyn-based artist has created a series of modern shunga, erotic prints for the contemporary set. And if you thought Hokusai could get nasty, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Reclining Couple with Bonzai Tree, Girl Twittering
Faerber's decidedly NSFW works are enough to make even the most salacious of viewers blush. The colorful works, updated from woodblock prints to acrylic and pencil works, depict love in the 21st century, or at least lovemaking. Sexual partners donning many a piercing and tattoo flaunt blatantly engorged genitalia, a cartoonish embellishment that harkens back to the playfulness of the originals. Occasional Japanese robes, printed screens or sushi rolls further pay homage to the images' roots, though the dildos, cell phones and camcorders are nothing you'd find in the Edo period.
"I've been a huge fan of all Japanese woodblock prints for as long as I can remember," the artist wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "This includes shunga (the erotic ones) as well as the 'family-friendly' ones such as samurai battling monsters, quiet landscapes, or the iconic Hokusai wave with Mount Fuji print. Something about their line quality and flat, limited colors always reminds me of super hero comics from my youth. The Japanese shunga prints, of course, have the added titillation factor and Incredible Hulk-sized hero phalluses which make them particularly memorable."
A brief respite in a discussion of Keynesian economics as it relates to GDP 14 x 18 inches Acrylic and pencil on paper mounted on acid-free board
The illicit images, hilariously endowed with titles like "Girl with Suitor, Listening to Radiohead" and "Two Scholars in the Cusp of Evening Utilizing Coconut Oil," present a lighthearted and super sexy meditation on how the erotic is portrayed and practiced, then and now, in the East and in the West. Though there are many differences -- ahem, iPods and genital piercings -- the main thrust remains the same.
"One thing that I find interesting is that when the shunga prints were produced, their contemporary society viewed them as low-brow pornography and many of the artists had stage-names to 'protect' their reputations for their mainstream work (including Hokusai.) Yet today, the places where one can view shunga pieces are in museums, revered art galleries, or respectable coffee-table sized books. Somehow most societies view contemporary expressions of sex as distasteful but veiled behind a century or two, suddenly these works have aged like a fine chablis and can be viewed with pinkies aloft in polite society. I look forward to the twenty second century where I will finally be viewed as snooty and de rigueur."
We look forward to that day as well, Jeff. Take a peek at Faerber's naughty renderings below and let us know your thoughts. Be warned, they are really, truly quite NSFW.