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Mixed media installation in a live-in loft reflects a too often elusive sensibility

Paul Sharpe Contemporary Arts is a new gallery in a live-in loft in Tribeca. Artwork is displayed among household furniture in two largish rooms and along a hallway in an anti-white box environment.

The four featured artists have lots to offer by way of media-—photographs, carved stone, paintings, drawings, and installations. The often–cited yet seemingly illusive gay sensibility is everywhere evident, from the object of attention—um, yes… boys/men—to how these gay artists conceive of artwork and how they make art objects.

Robert Irwin is showing carved alabaster pieces and photographs. His photos have a grainy, endearing smudginess. Nude boys in couples or multiple figures—think steam room—are caught gesturing and posing in stop-action blur. Line and focus take precedence in photos and in abstract, organically derived sculptures. These competent pedestal pieces, sensuous and well carved, tread a very thin line—too often verging on the conventional and formulaic. 

Painter Alfredo Cannata offers three over-the-sofa-sized paintings of dreamy boys—and a figure and ground relationship that is anything but neutral. These shifty images are all about implied narrative, contoured overlapping shapes, and glowing color. In “Guy,” the image of a red-hot space alien boy with oversized animé eyes draws your attention away from the fact of his donut ears and invisible midsection. “Subjects Are Not Identified #1” presents an eyes-wide-open, shirtless youth in umber flesh with undertones of rose and magenta. Buddha-eyed, he guards the large, sleeping, spectral presence behind him. “Subjects Are Not Identified Untitled #2” portrays a more earthy cousin, standing/dreaming in a radiant blue T-shirt, watched over by hovering protective eyes. I couldn’t help being reminded of Paul Gauguin’s “Spirit of the Dead Watching.”

Conceptual work often thuds purposefully like a bad joke, and as a matter of course is not much to look at. Aaron Krach’s visually rich sculptures and installations are chock-full of gay humor. Three colored sheets of Plexiglas, two of them abutted, face each other along the hallway. If you stand in the right place you see yourself as a same sex couple—one side reflected in blue Plexiglas, one in pink—“Forever and Ever and Ever.” With a deft physicality, little ship shapes in post-industrial blue––a thousand cerulean post-it notes folded into origami boats––are piled into a Plexiglas box to become “His Face Could Launch A Thousand Ships (Or What I Did While Waiting For Him To Call).” A perhaps Felix Gonzalez-Torres-affected piece, “Indestruct­ible Artifact,” is an endless supply of “I T Everything” bumper stickers stacked in the hallway, a sweet example of the tell-everyone optimism of early love.

With a sure hand that is not afraid to be messy or demanding of the viewer, Robert Appleton takes on doubled images in a fleshy mix of drawn media. His subject is “how boys go together,” literally how they fit on the page. The homo-teenager voice he takes on is a great counterpoint to the wan teenage girl/Elizabeth Peyton-type work that is all the rage in Chelsea. “Head and Shoulders” and “Creeping Sleeping” focus on touch. Fragmented images of hands reaching out to the body of the other become a metaphor for the marks this artist makes on paper. With “Go-Go Boy: Wreck” and “Go-Go Boy: Wasted,” scary, sexy, Iggy Pop—type figures gloat wide-eyed over the smeared-up heads of the wrecked and wasted in a wonderfully updated version of “The Rake’s Progress.”

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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