Paul P.’s sculptures take the form of polished mahogany end tables, whose attenuated legs and severe rectilinearity suggest a mannerist version of Donald Judd. They stand on platforms surrounded by monochrome yellow canvases hung in asymmetrical frames, torn-paper collages set on a multilevel wall shelf and luxurious wool carpets. The last, handwoven with images of other collages, complete a mise en scène of rarefied taste and refinement. Compared with Jorge Pardo’s overscaled interior decor currently on view at Petzel Gallery, P.’s show exudes reclusiveness, hermeticism and, dare we say, faggotry.
Elegance is refusal, Coco Chanel once said, and P.’s eschewal of sensationalism seems not only stylish but a radical response to an overweening art world. Indeed, the work harkens back to various late-19th-century aesthetes: The yellow panels, for instance, allude to The Butterfly Cabinet by James Whistler and architect E.W. Godwin.
P. first gained notice as a painter and draftsman (his drawings are in the current Whitney Biennial), and his suite of seven small untitled paintings constitutes the beating heart of this show. Resolutely abstract, they recall his earlier images of sunlit Italian walls or gauzy fabric blown by a summer breeze. Spare, gorgeous, rendered with loose brushwork, they suggest Abstract Expressionism as envisioned by an enraptured dandy.—Joseph R. Wolin