At first sight, nothing could be more reasonable or understandable than the illustration of the present issue of PLURAL. As the texts spin around the sexual obsession in Romanian literature, running from Creanga`s licentious Tale of All Tales to Agopian and Aldulescu`s swank, obscene delirium, one would certainly expect a consistent visual reflection of the sexual theme in the appended illustration. And as a matter of fact, one got it indeed. This issue is stuffed with blatant sex matters. Either as a reader or as a beholder, one would nonetheless perceive, from the very first glimpse, what is being dealt with in Eromania. No prudish blinds hang over the often crude substance of the present issue.Yet, nothing is so less easy-going as the present illustration. This is mainly because the two very different artists whose works are reproduced here have significant, though paradoxical, links to each other. Florin Mitroi was the professor of Dumitru Gorzo throughout his studies at the Bucharest Academy of Art. Even afterwards, he acted as a kind of mentor to his former student, if one could pertinently use the word in the case of Dumitru Gorzo. When seeing their works, one would say that their relationship, the influence of the professor over the development of the student, is discernible at least in the firmness and determinate, clear-cut sense of the vigorous drawing, and also in their choice of the subject, that is the sexual subject matter. But this is the most problematic point of their relationship, and this is the explanation of the counterpoint-like use of their works as an illustration in PLURAL. Although a professor at the Bucharest Academy of Art since 1960, Florin Mitroi, the author of a few thousand drawings and hundreds of paintings on canvas, wood, glass and metal, has had only one solo exhibition during his whole life, in 1992, just ten years before his premature death. That exhibition presented the artist as a most subtle chamber-music painter of elusive spiritual matters, of contained and inchoate expressive moods, bordering on religious practices. A definitely secret artist, Florin Mitroi has also exhibited in group shows various samples from the consistent output of his successive artistic periods. But he never exhibited works with sexual subject matters. They were virtually unknown, as his workshop was accessible only to a chosen few, and his students knew him only as a school-mentor and friend, and much less as a private man. In an alchemist's fashion, his work was made in thorough privacy, and was a subject of private matters, not intended for immediate communication, and decidedly not designed to be shown. The drawings, together with related paintings, most of them on glass, surfaced only after his death, showing that the sexual subjects were the real core of his subject matter, since the early 1960s until his death. That prompted a reconsideration of his whole career and his entire vision, disclosing a much more acute and distraught artist than the refined spiritual researcher, constructed and configured by his own choice of exhibiting only a small and partial, if not indeed misleading, aspect of his creation. On the contrary, his own student Dumitru Gorzo has made himself a name on sex matters right from the very beginning of his career, turning genitalia into his favorite iconography while still a student. As a representative strategy, his was undoubtedly opposed to the one professed by his mentor. Mitroi was secluded and pursued a secret path, far from the public. Conversely, Gorzo aimed almost exclusively at the public, and his iconographic sexual exhibitionism was, and still is, a mainly social contrivance of mass communication and general horrification. Gorzo hunted for the occasions and means of shocking and mocking his contemporaries, employing the sexual obsession as an appropriate tool with a rhetorical, rather than a psychological, impact. He is not searching for a smooth approach to the evanescent matters of sexual relations, but is employing their frequently graphic rendering as a banner, or another advertising device, designed to stir the beholder, to get a strong reaction from him, be it outrage, shame or contempt. His work and strategy are at one with the actual state of mind of a society divergently over-individualized and super-communicative, unable to cohere even around basic instincts. Gorzo`s sexiness comes somewhere at the end of the anthropological chain of cultural consumption, where sex is not brutal, but only brutally stated. Up there, sex is a substitute of the sense, and its imploding exasperation is simply a travesty of its becoming nonsense, non-sex void. In his work, sex is a text, a noisy message beside the image, a piece of bad news of sex selling nonsense, although putting on a big show. From this point of view, it is not at all a paradox that Gorzo, whose works have as a basic matter the grief of a disturbingly failing sense, insinuating and imposing itself in spite of its blustering over-affirmation, through the hot means of sex, proves sometimes to have something of an unconscious pathfinder of spiritual solace, searching for a sort of deliverance precisely through his clamorous, yet vulnerable, naked injunctions. Once again Mitroi draws a definite counterpoint to this situation, as his secret, un-publicized sex-bound work was elaborated on the background of a conscious, and, to some extent, even triumphant, spiritual quest. His sexiness is a place of regaining a primordial anxiety in the larger context of a work striving to place landmarks in the territory of refined proceedings of the spirit. Gorzo`s sexiness is, on the contrary, a makeshift device of alleviating spiritual losses, a visual hysteria practiced as an incessant therapy of ineffectual address. Consequently, although their imagery hovers above the same subject, their approach is utterly opposed. While Gorzo plays the apparently self-confident (but deceptive) macho part, depicting basically an erectile universe made up of possession and ejaculation, Mitroi is coming closer to androgyny, finding something of a deeper apprehension and uneasiness facing sex, craved as a perfection of every state, and feared as a withdrawal at every step. The typical Gorzo work is the isolated, though riotous, phallus entrenched in a fabulous, but fatuous, world of its own. Couples seem almost unknown in this world of autistic exhibitionism, so specific of a logocentric substitute. When they appear, couples put forth nothing but a war of sexes in the most literal sense. They shout, spit, fight. The work of Mitroi is almost always about couples, about the infinitely complicated and evanescent ties intending to accommodate reciprocal susceptibilities and affinities. They see, touch and silence each other, making moderate gestures and displaying shy figures.If such are the differences between the two artists, and such are the complex relationships between them, one is nonetheless struck by the unexpected sharing of the same motifs by the two painters. These are mainly iconographic structures, expressing vehemence and fear, the need of (erotic) power, and the subsequent panic of being deprived of it, such as the sporting of a knife, sword or other cutting instrument, and the complementary theme of the stabbing and beheading (of the male by the female), which may also appear, in both cases, as hanging. The very accessible, frequently oversized females (with androgynous traits sometimes, in the works of both artists), show themselves as unattainable, inciting and repelling at the same time, with their tongues idiosyncratically pulled out of their mouths, both in Mitroi and Gorzo. They are motifs elaborated by Mitroi already in the '70s, and rediscovered by Gorzo, by himself, at the end of the '90s. No doubt, there was no direct influence of the professor on his student in the matter of selecting such motifs. The only possible explanation is that there is in fact a certain iconographic vocabulary and gestural rhetoric that incorporate and manifest specific states of mind and feelings, when they are represented by artists sharing the same cultural environment and affective milieu. In this sense, one may speak of a series of coordinates and invariants in visually expressing eroticism, precisely in the same sense they are to be found in literature and music, for example. Therefore, despite the differences and the oppositions that one may detect between the two artists, despite their positioning on two divergent philosophical stances facing eroticism, they possess and share a culturally and psychologically relevant stock of visual devices, implicitly arguing for the social significance of expressing sense out of sex. Florin Mitroi, 1938-2002. Studies with Catul Bogdan, at the Nicolae Grigorescu Institute of Art, Bucharest. From 1961, professor at the same Institute. 1992, solo exhibition, Catacomba Gallery, Bucharest. Many group exhibitions in Romania, but also in Germany, Poland, Portugal, France, USA. 1978, the Painting Prize of the Romanian Union of Artists. Dumitru Gorzo, b. 1975. Studies with Florin Mitroi, at the Academy of Art, Bucharest. From 1998, numerous solo and group exhibitions in Romania, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. In 1998 co-founded Rostopasca, the most renowned and influential artist group in Romania in the last decades. 2001, the Prize of the ARTEXPO Foundation. 2002. The A.F.R.A Prize.

by Erwin Kessler