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Art Review : ‘Diatom’ Art Novel Is Scantily Clad

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the 19th Century, European aristocrats amused themselves after dinner by dressing up as figures in famous paintings and staging detailed tableaux vivants .

The makers of “Diatom: A PhotoGraphic Novel” update this impulse to imitate images by dressing models in comic-book costumes, posing them on elaborate sci-fi sets and photographing them in comic-strip sequences.

Unlike the 19th-Century aristocrats, commercial photographer Dan Couto and costume designer/art director Glen Hanson do not participate in such theatrical undertakings for their own entertainment. Their goal is to sell a series of designer comic books in which glossy, retouched photographs replace mass-produced prints.

At Pheromone Salon d’Art, 32 enlarged prototypes are presented singularly as fine art photographs that follow the frame-by-frame sequence of comics. The story they tell is as cliched as the generic narratives that structure conventional pornography: Its only role is to provide a sketchy framework for the display of scantily clad bodies in provocative poses.

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Couto’s and Hanson’s soft-core dramatization looks like the ill-conceived offspring of Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs and a B-movie rip-off of “Star Wars.” In their corny black-and-white pictures, corporate wholesomeness seamlessly merges with sadomasochistic exploitation.

“Diatom’s” upscale photographic comic strips represent an avaricious attempt to cash in on camp. They trade the perversely sophisticated appeal of extreme artifice and ostentation for the uninspired ploys of a middle-of-the-road marketing campaign.

* Pheromone Salon d’Art, 8642 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (310) 659-5075, through Wednesday. Closed Sunday and Monday.


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