A Cincinnati jury must decide whether an art gallery and its director broke obscenity laws by exhibiting five sexually graphic Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, a judge ruled yesterday. The Mapplethorpe exhibit, organized by the University's Institute of Contemporary Art, was on display at the ICA last year before it went on tour around the country. Hamilton County Municipal Judge David Albanese ordered Dennis Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center to stand trial September 24 on one misdemeanor charge each of pandering obscenity. Barrie and the gallery already were scheduled to go on trial that day on one charge each of using children in material involving nudity. Albanese said the trial, which will address the obscenity and nudity charges, could last 10 days. In his order Thursday, Albanese rejected defense arguments that the obscenity charge should be dismissed because state obscenity law exempts legitimate art displays. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for Barrie and a $5,000 fine for the Contemporary Arts Center. Albanese also granted a prosecution request to let jurors see only the five photographs that depict sadomasochistic sex acts when considering the obscenity charge. Prosecutors will only have to prove that one is obscene to win a conviction, the judge said. The court believes the retrospective is a vehicle for displaying the five S&M; photographs,'' he said. The charges were filed April 7, the day the exhibition opened to the public. The exhibition closed May 26, after 81,000 people had visited the gallery. The Mapplethorpe exhibition opened August 1 at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. On Wednesday, A court clerk in that city refused a request to file obscenity charges. Marc Mezibov, the lawyer for the Contemporary Arts Center, asked Albanese whether he was aware of the Boston ruling. Mezibov said he believes it means the pictures have artistic value and would be immune from obscenity charges. Albanese indicated he had not read the ruling. He cautioned, however, that Massachusetts obscenity law differs from Ohio's, and that the Boston decision would have no bearing on the Cincinnati case. For all I know, the photographs may be in a different arrangement, a different order. They may even be different photographs,'' the judge said.Comments powered by Disqus
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