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Betty Tompkins

The large scale photorealistic paintings of heterosexual intercourse which Betty Tompkins made between 1969 and 1974 were practically unknown when they were exhibited together for the first time in New York in 2002. Knowledge of Tompkins’ paintings immediately broadened the repertoire of first generation feminist-identified imagery. More significantly, their materialization made manifest an unacknowledged precursor to contemporary involvement with explicit sexual and transgressive imagery. Shown at the Lyon Biennale in 2003 beside Steve Parrino’s equally wayward abstractions, Betty Tompkins’ work garnered extraordinary attention. The first painting in the series – there are only eight extant early Fuck Paintings – was acquired for the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou/CNAC in Paris. (A satisfying postscript given that the paintings were detained by customs officials and ultimately denied entrance to France in 1973; a situation that was repeated two years ago when Tompkin’s work was sent to a gallery in Japan.

 
 
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