Punchinello As Other
The Painting Center is pleased to announce the one person show in the main gallery: Punchinello As Other, paintings by Patrick Webb. This exhibition marks the fifth New York City solo exhibition of Webb’s ongoing series of paintings representing the experiences of a contemporary version of Punchinello, the Commedia dell’Arte clown (Punchinello’s City, CJG Projects, 2002; Punchinello Works Out, Cortland Jessup Gallery, 1998; Punchinello In America, 55 Mercer Gallery, 1995; Punchinello Paintings, Amos Eno Gallery, 1993). The exhibition will include several large paintings based on themes familiar to Webb’s work—street scenes, gyms, and interiors. However, new to the work is the extension of the Punchinello character into narratives derived from the Mozart/Da Ponte Operas, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan Tutte. In this new work Webb extends the Punchinello figure into a complex exploration of, among other things, gender, class, desire, and power. As always the paintings are deeply concerned with the imperatives of composition, color and surface. In the catalog essay Punchinello as Uncanny Other, the psychoanalyst Brian Kloppenberg writes:
Patrick Webb’s Punchinello is uncanny. No matter what adventure or trial he’s thrown into—parade, gym, rodeo, fire, brawl, the list goes on—Punchinello continues to surprise with his unique combination of strangeness and familiarity. People seem to vaguely recognize Punch, even identify with him, while at the same time not being able to understand fully his ongoing presence in Webb’s paintings. Why Punchinello? He seems to confound as much as he beguiles. Could it be that Punchinello belongs to that paradoxical realm that Sigmund Freud attempts to define, in his 1919 essay entitled “The Uncanny,” as “that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar”?
Delving into the uncanny occasions, as the French writer Hélène Cixous suggests, an interminable pursuit. And in just this way, the endless richness of Webb’s uncanny Punch means there will always be another load, workout, secret, around the corner. The challenge then is to remain open to the methods Webb uses to build up spaces and figures through a complex process of integrating both remembered and imagined phenomenon—a gym space patterned on the artist’s studio, for example, or human figures as hybrids of fact and fantasy. The very generation of Webb’s paintings, with their composites of real and unreal, is the uncanny in action. To remain open to his work is to remain open to a question: How am I (not) Punchinello?
Webb has exhibited widely, most recently in a 25 year retrospective at the Provincetown Art Museum. He has received numerous awards including the Thomas B. Clarke Award in Painting from the National Academy of Art, 1998; Ingram Merrill Awards in 1995 & 1989, an Art Matters Inc. Fellowship in 1992, and National Endowment Awards in 1988, 1986, & 1982. He is a member of The Painting Center, NYC, and represented by Julie Heller Galleries in Provincetown, MA.