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Paul P. solo show at BROADWAY 1602 reviewed in The Kinsky

“Provocation, Evolution, and Immutable Essence”
Benna Douglas

Renowned critic, curator, and creator of BROADWAY 1602, Anke Kempkes, has come together with the superb talent of artist Paul P. to present “The Homosexual Lovers Throughout The Ages Party” exhibition.  This is the first solo showing of Paul P.’s work at the gallery though the two have known each other for many years.  After sharing time with Anke in the gallery, newly filled with Paul’s provocatively titled show, I found it surprising an engagement on this level did not exist between them before.  The affinity of their sensibilities is quite apparent if not kindred.  This proclivity has revealed a profound exposition of Paul’s purposeful employment of newly accomplished practices.

“This exhibition continues the artist’s profound history and presence in New York. Paul P. has been known to local and international audiences for his intimate paintings inspired by a milieu of gay subculture of the near past and by sites and places charged with cultural and social longing central to the history of innuendo. Recently Paul P. has introduced significant new genres and practices to his work, – delicate furniture pieces, rugs with the appeal of abstract paintings, monochromatic décor paintings, abstracted collages, all of which inhabit the gallery space for this show, forming an all-encompassing aesthetic interior.”

Paul’s portraiture of young men, the work for which he is best known, is far from austere. These portrayals gave rise through subversive innuendo somehow still begetting fragility.  Yet, to me as to many, the more powerfully felt statement is his delicate expression of compassion imbued by reverent intimacy. In an effort to archive faces that would sooner be forgotten, he lent a tenderness that masterfully depicted his subject’s humanity. The emotional message he shared through his work was spawn of his own experience. Paul P.’s erotic emergence and induction into NYC’s gay culture was entangled by a devastating awareness that his burgeoning sexuality could be inextricably linked with death.  For his generation blossomed at time when gay rights were none, and falling a victim to AIDS felt assured.

The revelation of Paul P.’s divergence into new modes of expression has enveloped the gallery rooms of BROADWAY1602 in an awe-inspiring interior of abstractions and allegorical functionality. His compellingly gentle narrative flows through the space, deftly articulating life’s paradox through subtle evolutions and repeating themes retold independently though ever-still identifiably part of the whole.

I am drawn to the back room almost instantly by the allure cast from stunning shadow play, the cause of which is hidden by the wall separating the gallery’s rooms.  Anke leads me in explaining the piece as it becomes revealed to me, “The table in the back is dark bourdon in color, very beautiful.  With the pedestal, they become very animated. They are somewhere between an everyday situation and the functional illusionary poetic kind of world they allude to.” The minimalist mannerism styled tables designed by Paul P. were inspired by the work of E.W. Godwin, yet I can’t help seeing the balance and shapes reminiscent of Yves Saint Laurent’s collection of Mondrian dresses. Each of the mahogany tables in the gallery was fabricated in Paul’s hometown of Toronto and is set on 3-tiered risers with elongated steps accentuating the hushed drama of their elegance.

Anke continues showing me around the room expounding on the staging experience, “We were quite stunned because when we set this up the shadow play is almost the same shadow play as in the abstract painting shown (referencing the painting on the wall to the right) and also the color scheme is almost…well exactly the same as the color of the pedestal.  This all came together quite organically, this all fell in to play while we were hanging.”  I smile imagining the excitement of those realized alignments happening in the moment, the flow throughout does feel curiously significant.

There is a private dialogue underscoring my journey through the exhibition, a closeness that is formed from the refined subtlety of mirrored aspects from furniture to frame to abstract collage to rug all bearing the same intrinsic sensibility.  It is the mark of the artist that accentuates and allows a kind of familiarity, an intuitive closeness that quickly forms.

The encompassing consciousness is a calming expression of complexity through nuance.  The viewer is challenged to see the critical significance so quietly spoken in the subtext of the work, which paradoxically crashes forth in the brightly provocative title.

Though the pieces carry weight independently, as exhibited with spatial confidence, once having shared in each piece, I step back and the consonance resonates, a deeply conscious construction.  This, however, speaks only to the strength of Paul P’s essence as an artist; it is the divinity of his distinction rather than a contrived creation.

The content and style of the story has evolved with the artist shifting into more abstraction and functional works of art, “alluding to certain lives lived”(Paul P.), intended allegory, indeed.  However, the cultural and emotional association that these quoted words elicit is of the same sentiment expressed throughout Paul P.’s archive of work.  And sadly, now, again, they are relevant political statements when viewed in earnest.  His titling and work express comradery and compassion for those in less accepting political climates.

Paul’s exposition may be articulated in new mediums but the singular sensibility of his life inspired schema remains immutable.
In tandem with the solo exhibition at BROADWAY 1602 Paul P.’s new drawing series, an amalgam of his figure drawings and abstractions, will be shown at the Whitney Biennial.  Intent on blurring the lines of perception, his new life drawings of 19th century sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum are line drawn, then, “later accentuated in the artist’s studio by dramatic ink wash outs creating an animating play of shadow or radically obscuring… the object with dark undertones”. Thus breaking the concreteness of conditioned reality creating an ethereal world; an effect is reminiscent of Emil Cadoo’s photomontages of sculpture and organic life.

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