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JH

Paul Johns Exhibition

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Paul Johns, BEEN HERE LONG? 2020, rocks, neon, transformers, wood, acrylic and stainless steel, 905 x 1455 x 1085 mm Paul johns, Spell bound, 1999, acrylic and enamel on canvas, 610 x 463 x 35 mm Paul Johns, I was just saying it's a shame none made it fashion to have blokes in high heels (except to a degree in Glam-rock era). Anyway I think it would be good. 2001, Polaroid, image 108 x 86 mm; frame 515 x 330 mm. Paul Johns, Auckland sucks, 1998, Polaroid, image 108 x 86 mm; frame 515 x 330 mm. Paul Johns, sull'angelo tra Via Terenzio a Via Crescenzio, 1985, Polaroid, image 108 x 86 mm; frame 515 x 330 mm. Paul Johns, 1980, 1980, screenprint on canvas, image 590 x 490 mm; framed 730 x 630 mm Paul Johns, I just thought I'd ring and say thanks, 1999, archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, image 580 x 580 mm; framed 825 x 825 mm. Paul Johns, #tamajanwitz, 2020, UV ink on canvas, 2340 x 1170 x 40 mm Paul Johns, Eggs, 2020, neon, transformer, acrylic and stainless steel, 300 x 1100 x 115 mm Paul Johns, 200,000,000, 2020, neon, transformer, acrylic and stainless steel, 300 x 1635 x 110 mm. Paul Johns, The Balcony--Beverley & Vicki, 1977, archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, image 600 x 400 mm; framed 1040 x 675 mm. Paul Johns, Beverley (1), 1977, archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, image 600 x 400 mm, framed 1040 x 675 mm. Paul Johns, Beverley (2), 1977, archival pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, image 600 x 400 mm; framed 1040 x 675 mm.

The show's title of course is about meeting strangers for sex, the initial contact and ritualistic exchanging of vacuous verbal pleasantries. These necessary socialising procedures are turned into glowing neon speech bubbles resting on a double-layered glass table, juxtaposed with chunky symbolic mineral materials. The stacked-up multiple reflections emphasise the repetitious nature of each encounter.

Auckland

 

Paul Johns
Been Here Long?
Curated by Francis McWhannell (as part of Auckland Pride Festival)

 


11 February - 20 March 2021

In-house curator McWhannell has selected a dozen works from Paul Johns, the Christchurch artist whose artmaking career goes back to the seventies. Polaroid photographs, stills from films, prints, neon sculptures and one text painting; these showcase a queer sensibility—pioneering in this country. However that LGBTQ component (albeit salient) is really only a part of his complicated art practice overall.

Though disparate stylistically, and in method a mixed bag, McWhannell has selected carefully so that all of Johns‘ assorted narrative threads connect. The stories feed into each other, but you have to join the dots.

Three Polaroid portraits (1985, 1998, 2001) feature leather cap and jacket clad young men exuding a macho insouciance and surly ‘tough guy’ belligerence. They might be the same person, though with the added sunglasses it is hard to tell.

A much larger black and white image of a bound man in a tight eyeless leather hood—showered in what seems to be urine—is entitled I just thought I’d ring and say thanks. Some viewers might think that caption is simply Johns being wryly funny but there is no reason to assume it is not about gratitude as opposed to humour. It is about genuine appreciation.

The show’s title of course is about meeting strangers for sex, the initial contact and ritualistic exchanging of vacuous verbal pleasantries. These necessary socialising procedures are turned into glowing neon speech bubbles resting on a double-layered glass table, juxtaposed with chunky symbolic mineral materials. The stacked-up multiple reflections emphasise the repetitious nature of each encounter.

Other neon sculptures and text paintings look at biological determinism and questions of how an individual’s traits or sexual preferences seem to result from certain (successful) spermatozoa reaching ova faster than 199,999,999 competitors carrying different behavioural patterns. These pristine and minimalist works challenge us to ponder what are the deciding pre-natal factors?

Three photographic images from Johns’ home movies of the mid-seventies have a Warholesque feel. They show two transexuals outside leaning over a balcony, chatting to the camera, or one resting in bed with make up on. The shots stress the ordinariness of their daily and domestic routines, the prosaic humdrum nature of gender-fluid middleclass life, even when seen by the wider world as ‘unorthodox’.

With its vibrant mix of old and new work, this is a rare chance to see a sample of Paul Johns projects, with usually hidden subject matters that were explored decades before they later became fashionable.

John Hurrell

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