On late Saturday afternoon, I snuck into English Kills gallery before the official opening of Puss, a solo show of new works by Don Pablo Pedro. Entering the vast space on 114 Forrest Street, I enjoyed the emptiness of what was to later become a happening, over-crowded gallery.
The pink painted walls gave the sensation of entering a womb, or someone’s very private, sacred space. Don Pablo Pedro, an eccentric figure of the Bushwick art scene- and Chris Harding’s protégé- was visibly excited, maybe a little nervous before his big solo show was ready to be unveiled to the public. It was his first solo show in this space since 2009.
Two spacious rooms were covered with almost 30 paintings Don Pablo Pedro created over the past year. The big portraits of male figures were hanging amongst a number of smaller portraits of females. In typical Don Pablo Pedro fashion, sexual organs were accentuated on each of the portraits. Some of the figures were even hermaphroditic. Don Pablo likes to walk that line between beautiful and ugly; iconic and kitschy; celebratory and self-accusatory; kind and offensive; and he walked it successfully once again in Puss.
“My close friends call me Puss,” explained Don Pablo Pedro, another reason for the title of his show (besides the obvious). He went on to explain that a year ago his relationship of 5 years ended, and he found himself single, meeting and experimenting with other women. Soon he realized that he was sketching the faces of his brief sexual encounters. For the first time, his figures started to possess definite human features, making it possible for ladies to even recognize themselves if they came to the show. The large male portraits amongst the women are interesting as well. “Those are self portraits,” the artist told us. He painted himself larger to reflect the presence of himself as something perpetual as opposed to flashes of presence of his one-night stands.
The Puss series exhibited at English Kills clearly belongs to one period of life of the artist. Unlike his previous work, Don Pablo painted the Puss series without decorative edges- the exhibited paintings simply have a golden edge. The artist explained that the decorative edges were taking too long, while he wanted to create a greater amount of paintings.
You would think a show of works featuring the sexual conquests of the artist would be in some way machist, yet somehow, the show is free of it. He wants to talk about intimacy and about sexual act, which captivates him, but he pauses in the middle taking the conversation into a fantastical land where the reality resembles a mirror maze, and the creatures slaving to their sexuality are being laughed at (lovingly); they are being accused of the lack of self-control and accepted and embraced for it at the end. The artist, in my opinion, doesn’t stop to wonder; he takes the viewer on a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions; and despite having created more sophisticated work in the past, Puss is very real, raw and honest show that will not leave you uninvolved. Seeing the show is definitely an experience, and Don Pablo Pedro once again confirmed his unique place on the Bushwick art map.
Puss by Don Pablo Pedro is currently on view at English Kills through October 13, 2013. The gallery hours are 1 to 7PM on Saturdays and Sundays.