The Power Plant

Paul P.: Dusks, Lamplights

Paul P.

Past Exhibition

Sep 07 – Nov 03 2007


Robert Mitchell Families of Steven & Michael Latner


Helena Reckitt

The identities of Paul P.'s subjects are uncertain, their genders often ambiguous. Known for his portraits of androgynous young men, P. has recently expanded his practice to depict both male and female figures in natural and urban settings.

Dusks, Lamplights brings together oil paintings, pastels, watercolours, drawings and prints made over the past three years. The pictures are linked by their atmospheres of dim and glimmering light, with Venice as a recurring backdrop – a sinking, impossible city embodying doomed romanticism. The work of painter James McNeill Whistler, who lived in Venice following bankruptcy in England, inspires P.'s formal and thematic concerns, as does Whistler’s persona: his dandyism, interest in fashion and other signifiers of identity and pronouncements on "art for art’s sake."

Basing his figures on models in soft-core porn magazines from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, P. evokes a "golden age" of sexuality, at the height of gay liberation and before the AIDS crisis. The taste at this time, notes P., was for young men off the street, “somewhat rough or unkempt, yet seductively beautiful and very real.” Softening his subjects' features, P. nonetheless retains their touching everydayness – downy facial hair, traces of acne and self-conscious poses that undercut any attempts at nonchalance. By uniting soft-core porn photography with nineteenth century painting and drawing, P. explores how the idioms of female and feminine modelling have crossed over from fine art to commercial culture.

In the gauzy light of these pictures, figures on the verge of adulthood seem to vanish into the background. Androgynous models swoon, wait and peer expectantly from windows. Presenting these fugitive, languid subjects as metaphors for the collapse of two epochs – Europe before the First World War and North America before AIDS – P. captures the brilliance of their final exhausted moments.

Both oil on canvas, 24 x 33 cm. Courtesy Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Watercolour on paper, 37 x 27 cm. Collection of Doreen Remen and Steven Weiner, New York. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Graphite on paper, 28 x 33.5 cm. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Collection of Dianne Wallace and Collection of Jim Martin. Both courtesy Daniel Reich Gallery, New York. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.