Eros 6 at Lyndon Street Artworks

by Brian Clarey

I catch up with my pal Erik Beerbower as he’s making his paces down the hallway at Lyndon Street Artworks, the downtown creative collective he oversees from a double-sized studio back in the corner. He’s covering a lot of ground tonight — it’s the sixth annual installation of Eros, the Valentine’s erotic art show that never fails to tweak the boundaries between lust and love, and the space is straight-up jamming with bodies, both filling the warrens of the warehouse and splashed all over the walls of the joint for tonight’s event.

“It’s down the hall and on your left,” Beerbower says to me. “The blue dude. You seriously can’t miss it.”

Days earlier, in prepping me for the show, he had told me, “We’re gonna have the painting that shut down Babylon.”

Babylon, of course, is the now legendary nightclub that blew minds during the 1990s with a series of raves that echoed through the downtown streets every Friday night. This was before the murder of party promoter Ed LeBrun in 1999 and a notorious drug bust in 2000 shut it down for good.

The space eventually morphed into Sky Bar, which was replaced by a Mexican restaurant after another timely police raid. The space is currently vacant, its role in Greensboro nightlife relegated to aging memories and obscure websites.

The painting had archaeological significance to the city’s culture, I had become convinced. Naturally, I wanted to see it up close.

My wife and I are big fans of Eros, and have been just about every year. It’s a great excuse to dress up, of course, and we love the art itself — this year more than 300 works jockeyed for oglers on Saturday night. But most of all we love that this is one event that the sizable class of perennially offended in Greensboro tend to avoid.

It’s a good thing, for there was much to be scoffed at:

inks, paints and captured images of every imaginable iteration of the human form, a telephone that talked dirty, erotic slides and suggestive sculpture. To describe any of them with words would be doing the artwork great injustice — and just might surpass community standards of decency.

But then there was this piece, “Alone,” by Greensborobased artist Ron Curlee, a simple male nude in hues of blue. The figure wraps himself fetally in his arms, obscuring his featureless face, legs curled so that his gentalia is exposed. It’s at once tender and melancholy, a study in vulnerability. And it doesn’t seem particularly offensive — at least not to me, but I have a notoriously high tolerance for that kind of thing.

My wife neither blushes nor gasps when she sees it. She just kind of shrugs. “It’s no big deal,” she says.

But Beerbower had assured me this painting was the one that spelled doom for Babylon: “Yeah dude. Cause they were serving alcohol. You can’t have full nudity.”

True enough, but as it turns out Babylon had bigger problems than our hairless blue friend.

“That is a rumor that is untrue,” Curlee says from his house. “I had work hanging in Babylon at the time [it got busted]. I was actually their art curator and we had a revolving show every month. My group of nudes was hanging in Babylon and it was right after Ed LeBrun was murdered and [Greensboro police] raided a party and that’s what closed Babylon down. It was the raid and the rave scene — not Ron Curlee artwork.”

He pauses. “Everyone kind of associated me with it because I was on the affidavit, because it was nude paintings in there,” he continues. “It does get listed as one of the reasons for the shutdown.”

“Alone,” (detail) an acrylic painting by Greensboro artist Ron Curlee, did not acvtually get Babylon nightclub shut down. (courtesy image)