Sex Drive is an exhibition that asks us to consider the conventions that govern sexuality as well as its unruly power. Curated by Stuart Horodner, the show runs at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery January 28-March 4 and presents the work of 22 artists, both established and emerging, who address identity and gender, romance and lust, religious and legal strictures, and public and private scandals.

Horodner, artistic director of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, developed the exhibition in conjunction with the faculty seminar, “Sex, State, and Society in the Early Modern World,”  one of a series of faculty seminars sponsored by the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center.   This seminar offers an historical perspective for understanding why sex and sexuality have been and remain such volatile issues.

Sex Drive features the drawings of Larry Jens Anderson, who uses the iconic boy from the Dick and Jane readers as a stand-in for himself as a youngster grappling with identity in small-town Kansas; the erotic watercolors of Patricia Cronin, whose cropped views depict lesbian love-making at intimate angles; and Melanie Manchot’s video Kiss, which presents an oblivious, lip-locked young couple on a bus.

The work of Duncan Grant focuses on joyful male nudes, shown dancing and embracing; photographer Christopher MakosAltered Image portrays artist Andy Warhol in drag; and drawings by Leon Golub depict prowling satyrs and lascivious women.  In his Day/Night diptych, Forest McMullin shows photographs of men and women in their workday clothes, next to images of them brandishing the gear of their sexual predilections. Also featured in the show are Andres Serrano, David Wojnarowicz, Leigh Ledare, Mira Schor, Peter Hujar, Ion Birch, Lynn Cazabon, Michael Patterson-Carver, Anissa Mack and Steve Gianakos.

Horodner also found a rich source of works for the exhibition in Haverford College’s own photography collection, whose 5,000 prints are part of Special Collections at Magill Library. On view from the collection is a selection from Clarissa Sligh’s photo essay Jake in transition from female to male; John Coplans’ self-portraiture, showing his naked, aging body at close range; and the photographs of Claude Cahun, who began making self-portraits in 1912 showing a costumed sexually ambiguous figure.

Two of the pieces in Sex Drive, a wallpaper design by Nancy VanDevender and a video by Vertna Bradley, were commissioned for the show and were inspired by Horodner’s interest in exploring the contemporary phenomenon of sexual scandal. “What has been amazing in the last decade or two is that the number of sexual scandals we hear about seems to be exponentially increasing,” says Horodner. “Between the issues in the Catholic Church, John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Elliot Spitzer … there is this constant cycle of revelations, denials, evidence and apologies. I was interested in finding artists who could work with that kind of material.”

To assist the artists with their commissions, Horodner enlisted Haverford students Ellen Freeman ’11, Michael Rushmore ’14 and Patrick Phelan’11 to provide images, texts, and clips that went into the works of VanDevender and Bradley, which explore some of the issues covered in a “Digital Fame” student seminar organized by Phelan.  The non-credit, student-run course, sponsored by the Humanities Center, looked at the concept of celebrity in an era when Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes” of fame are condensed into a single viral moment.

Freeman and Phelan contributed an essay, “Likes, Favorite, and Other Obscenities,” to the exhibition, Rushmore contributed “We Feed Our Heroes Until They Explode.”

The opening reception for Sex Drive will take place Friday, January 28, from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. in the Gallery.

Overseen by the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center and located in Whitehead Campus Center, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is open Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 12-5 p.m., and Wednesdays until 8 p.m. For more information, contact Matthew Seamus Callinan, Campus Exhibitions Coordinator, at (610) 896-1287.