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ART REVIEW : Summer Photo Show Sealed With a Kiss

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Although some people say it’s more fun to think about kissing than actually do it, almost no one will argue that it’s more fun to think about “Kissing,” a summer group show at G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, than to actually look at its nearly 200 photographs of men, women, children, animals, statues, objects and images kissing and/or being kissed.

This salon-style, 134-artist exhibition, organized by Marla Hamburg Kennedy, is a pleasant, something-for-everyone extravaganza --unless you don’t like kissing. To its credit, the silly, sweet and very wholesome show doesn’t pretend to be a thorough, historical survey, a sustained exploration of orally focused cultural issues or a boundary-pushing challenge to middle-American sensibility.

While it displays an impressive taxonomy of kisses, no attempt to categorize or evaluate is undertaken. Passionate smooches intermingle with nervous pecks; breathless lip-locks are interspersed with camera-conscious poses; and the undying love of sons for their mothers hangs, cheek by jowl, with vivid depictions of teen-age lust.

Celebrities pucker-up with one another, or with a fawn, snake or chimp, depending upon the nature of their fame. Dignitaries kiss cheeks, foreheads and the backs of hands, depending upon their stature. And anonymous individuals get lost in the feel and taste of their partner’s mouths.

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Passion, affection, exasperation, respect, uneasiness and insouciance, as well as intimacy, inaccessibility, delight, relief and shock are written in flesh on the faces of those photographed. The significance of their expressions, gestures and couplings is left to each viewer’s discretion. This is appropriate, since kisses, like fingerprints, belong to unique individuals, though sometimes it’s difficult to tell them apart.

* G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, 908 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-5558, through Sept. 2. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


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