Bacchante with lowered eyes
In the gray-blues and dim lavenders of the canvas, only the highlights of the face, picked out by sea-foam accents, are visible—the crest of the cupid’s bow, the tip of the nose—like a slumbering lover seen in the half-light of early morning. Paul P.’s watercolors, oil paintings, and ink drawings, on view at Queer Thoughts, are sensual depictions of faintly-seen figures, sourced largely from gay erotica dating from the decade between Stonewall and the onset of the AIDS crisis.
A similar temporal distance is lapsed and explored in the work itself, which probes the artist-muse relationship in art history. In the paintings, P. finds shared form between erotica from the twentieth century and Victorian-era painting. A reclining male nude given prominent place across a full wall of the exhibition, for instance, recalls the curled and sleeping women in the works of James McNeill Whistler and Albert Joseph Moore. A set of ink drawings, drawn from a marble Hermes at the Metropolitan Museum, references the figure’s lineage as a covert figure of homoeroticism within the safe harbor of neoclassicism. Hermes is known in Greek mythology to have transformed the body of his mortally wounded lover, Crocus, into a flower. In turn, across a progression of three intimate works, the bust of Hermes, seen in profile, becomes successively more shadowed until nearly one with the background, as if also seen mid-transformation.
Paul P., Untitled, 2020. Oil on linen, 9.4 x 7.5 inches. Courtesy Queer Thoughts, New York.