Paul Lee, "Reservoir"

Massimo Audiello, through Dec 16

Untitled

Untitled Photograph courtesy Massimo Audiello

Time Out Ratings :

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Paul Lee’s beautiful if uneven show is a meditation on loneliness, vulnerability, and how the erotic and emotional needs of the individual are often subsumed by social, religious and political demands. Yet Lee holds out hope; according to a handout, the “reservoir” of the title refers to the endless store of love in the human spirit.

Lee constructs small sculptures from painted soda cans, washcloths, lightbulbs, coal and string; he hangs worn, dyed towels on the wall, and builds three-dimensional collages from photographs of boys’ faces. Throughout, the clandestine desire of the love that dare not speak its name is almost crushingly obvious. The towels evoke bathhouses, as well as the yearning of queer boys covertly observing bodies in locker rooms. Cans printed with images of male faces are positioned so they seem to glimpse each other obliquely. The collages suggest the cultural taboo of men looking at men, with marbles in place of eyes and faces fractured into multiple planes.

Neither the collages nor the mutely colored towels are visually complex enough to surmount such conspicuous allusions to homoeroticism. The sculptures, however, have a formal lyricism that gives them a metaphoric impact. For example, a string that connects images of eyes and fingers implies the fragile intimacy of male interaction in societies that demonize desire. By using soda cans, emblems of mass consumer culture, Lee suggests that sexuality in America has been reduced to a kind of marketable merchandise. The cans are empty; surface image replaces content; the reservoir of the title remains untapped. — Joshua Mack