On view at KW Institute, Berlin | PAUL P. in Ruins of Rooms

Paul P., Untitled, 2023

PAUL P. & Jimmy DeSana: Ruins of Rooms
July 6 – October 20, 2024

KW Institute, Berlin
Auguststraße 69, 10117 Berlin

Ruins of Rooms looks at the notion of portraiture through the lens of Jimmy DeSana (b. 1949, d. 1990, US) and Paul P. (b. 1977, CA).

Jimmy DeSana was a photographer whose portrayal of New York’s East Village scene in the early 1970s would prove to be highly influential later in terms of sensibility, playfulness and storytelling. Starting out shooting nudes set against the uniform architecture of his suburban childhood, he would continue to focus on exploring the human body throughout his artistic career. DeSana’s portfolio is extensive, typified by contorted limbs, concealed figures, saturated colors, and surreal mise-en-scène. A fixture in New York’s punk and no-wave scene and the queer fetish subculture in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he also dabbled in music photography, taking early portraits of musicians like Yoko Ono, John Giorno, David Byrne, and Debbie Harry—like him, members of the city’s avant-garde scene. Contracting HIV in the late 1980s precipitated a radical change in his artistry: a shift towards abstract and otherworldly imagery that also reflected a shift away from the body as a subject, both as a result of the changes in his own body and the polarizing political climate of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Paul P. is a artist, known since the early 2000s for his melancholy drawings and paintings and, in recent years, for sculptures in the form of furniture. Drawing from and re-imagining existing images of young gay men, he finds most of the subjects of his portraiture in the archives of gay erotic magazines, particularly those published in the years between the onset of gay liberation and the nascent catastrophe of the AIDS crisis. Employing mode akin to late 19th century portrait painters, his fragile and dreamlike works remove and liberate his subjects from their highly specific context and shroud them in timeless and seductive mystery. The artist’s more recent work has further developed an expression of beauty coupled with cultural tragedy, presenting his brooding subjects alongside atmospheric abstractions, crepuscular landscapes, and allegorical sculpture.

Ruins of Rooms presents works that span the entirety of both oeuvres, bringing them into dialogue for the first time.

For more information, please visit the KW Institute's website.


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