Joseph Hadrin‘s work has always been divisive, especially in the countries which he credits with his inspiration. Delving into issues regarding women’s sexuality and the laws restraining them Hadrin’s work endeavors to express the disparaging contrast between the two.
Rarely tied to one particular medium Hadrin expresses himself throughout many forms that in the past have ranged from canvas to performance art and included some rather unique choices, something which he credits with helping him further his message.
Well regarded after several collective exhibits where Hadrin was a contributor he has seen much success in recent years with solo shows at prestigious galleries in both London and Amsterdam.
Though raised in Bristol, UK Hadrin was born in India and grew up with a strong female influence with 11 sisters. Frequent visits to India growing up opened his eyes to the discrepancies between male and female freedoms in his native land. Hadrin eventually became aware of a thriving black market sex toy industry, one fueled by the ban on sex toys like vibrators and dildos, something he found bizarre from the land that created the Kama Sutra. Further travel showed him how women were similarly treated in many other parts of the world such as Africa, and surprisingly even some parts of the USA.
Kutler Gallery, Amsterdam, 2014
Titled SexToyPia, Hadrin’s 2014 exhibit lasted for a period of six months from February 14 to August 25. It was well received and received high critical acclaim from the art magazines October and Frieze.
The exhibit focused on the freedoms denied women in certain oppressive countries like India and those in Africa using sex toys as a medium to highlight his commentary. Set up to resemble so many of the adult sex shops common along the streets of Amsterdam, the exhibit included sales girls with SexToyPia shirts and name tags, a neon sign at the entrance, and displays of sex toys and paraphernalia.
Those displays were the centerpiece of Hadrin’s collection featuring a myriad of life-like dildos and other sex toys that Hadrin utilized as his canvas. The phallic dildos were each from the Doc Johnson UR3 collection with a few added details. Dildos could be seen with warnings painted across such as one that read Danger! Indian Women May Prefer to Real Men as well as ones that were carefully printed with full versions of the Indian Obscenity Act. Among the displays were also popular male masturbators made to resemble vaginas. One titled “The Virgin’s Cure” was in reference to the myth held in remote parts of Africa that sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS, something usually enforced through rape. A separate bin titled “HIV/AIDS CURE CLEARANCE” was filled to the brim with these masturbators in what Hadrin says was a commentary on the disposable nature of women in these areas.
Crypt Gallery, London, 2012
The solo exhibit KREEP ran from September to December 2012 and featured a collection of Hadrin’s performance art which had been captured on film. Pieces were played in sectioned off cubicles and visitors were offered headphones to hear any audio that accompanied the pieces.
Most notably and favourably reviewed pieces from the show included “Street Relief”, a piece detailing Hadrin’s corner massage with a Bodywand massager while shouting out passages from Section 292 of India’s Penal Code which loosely defines what is obscene. The film includes Hadrin’s arrest by officers in New Delhi partway through his performance as well as his court appearances where Hadrin was sentenced to three months hard labour until Section 294 of India’s Penal Code for performing an obscene act in public.
KREEP also featured shorts of Hadrin perusing a sex shop in the underground black market of India while dressed in a “sexy” adult police officer’s uniform that could have fit as easily into a comedy program as it did the exhibit, plus a silent short of Hadrin naked on the peak of one of the craggy mountain tops of Ladakh, India where he was born, restrained to outcropping trees by handcuffs and silenced by a rubber ball-gag.