There's always something missing from a Paul Richard opening reception. Sometimes it's the authorization to display, sometimes it's the artwork and sometimes it's the sense of humor of the viewers. This time, it's the artist himself.
Searching through the trademark ambiguity which surrounds the art of Brooklyn's Paul Richard, I eventually notice a sign reading 'PRIVATE, NO ADMITTANCE' a befitting mantra for this man of mystery.
I deduce that Paul cannot be too far away.
Ducking past the sign, when I'm relatively sure no one is watching, I catch sight of the shadow of a man wearing a fedora against the far, dimly lit wall. Following it to its point of origin, I can make out the slim silhouette of the man casting it. "Paul?" I inquire into the darkness. "Paul Richard?" He emerges from the corner depths, hand outstretched to greet me. It's a scene straight out of a film noir set, complete with a single, swaying light bulb, and a half-full bottle of Merlot (it is, after all an art gallery) atop a wooden packing crate. All the while I think to myself 'this guy is too much'.
The 'too much' assessment, is one that is shared with a great deal of Richard enthusiasts and dissenters alike. But more often than not, they share the same sense of amusement I felt, as I dove deeper into the enigma of this Genesco, NY native and art school dropout. Unsanctioned shows & controversial works define Paul Richard whose publicity stunts denote either a "visionary genius or a shameless self-promoter".
The question is "Can the way an artist hypes himself become the art?"
He has been called "a pre-eminent young art-world star" and has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Brooklyn Bridge. These publications spin the elusive tale of the artist whose work is readily seen, yet rarely interpreted. Keeping with this art forward notion, Mr. Richard tends to leave conceptual remnants in public view to evoke delight or dismay from the average pedestrian. The buzz created is not confined to the whitewashed walls of the art community. These expressly current displays of public relating help to signify and also convolute the artistic intent. For example, after moving to Williamsburg, Brooklyn this past year, he immediately began spreading the Paul Richard brand of Post Dada Propaganda.

Dada, which identifies Richard's attitude towards art and life, began as a group phenomenon in turn of the century Europe. Before, art concerned itself with God, nature or the interrelationships of human drama. It was not until the concepts of mechanized warfare and the industrialized society developed, that man-made objects became frequent subjects of art.

For in the most common of mass produced artifacts, crass materialism and universal continuity cohabit. Intrinsic to this re-evaluation of popularly held notions is a kind of cultural terrorism and political subversion methodology. Preeminent Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp, called Dada "a metaphysical attitude... a sort of nihilism... a way to get out of a state of mind - to avoid being influenced by one's immediate environment, or by the past; to get away from clichés - to get away free."

Seeking to be creator as well as product of his environment, Paul creates 5 by 7 inch museum style plaques, which he affixes to sidewalk paraphernalia such as fire hydrants, standpipes and street signs.

These plaques bear the artist's name, and materials of construction; such as cast iron, cement and paint. All of his works are "Untitled" and include a "Special thanks to the city of New York". Placing these upon everyday objects he adds another facet to their existence, energizing the ordinary and giving the commonplace a new identity. In this way he becomes the carnival side show of the art world, beckoning people to come one, come all and see the amazing, stupendous, incredible object that you've seen a million times before, but never noticed These newly transformed items still say whatever they said before by themselves, yet this expression is now subordinate to what they communicate as a combined form with his plaques. Through their new association and the designation of these objects throughout the city as works of art, a strong change occurs in the way one perceives them. Preconceptions related to cause and function are cleared away in favor of a new matrix, in which we see the true nature of form. This theory can then be used as a lens by which to examine the very foundation of the nature of art is and the role it plays in the community.  

Paul once held an art show opening that contained neither art nor the artist himself, but rather an invitation to the public to meet at the gallery and talk about him for an hour. The show itself being a study of the role that media hype plays in the proliferation of an artistic philosophy. Space 12 gallery owner Greg Shea said "Usually you go to an opening and nobody looks at art, and they never come back, and they never buy anything, and they leave as soon as the wine is gone.... This way it was perfect, we're not upset they didn't look at the art". Falling somewhere between artistic maniac and congenial used car salesman, Paul Richard has gained notoriety by acquiring his own non-endorsed show at the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston. He accomplished this by dressing 10 people in sports jackets adorned with his art and then parading them through the museum on free admission night. Another astonishing feat was performed when he placed huge "For Sale by Owner" signs on the SoHo New Museum of Contemporary Art and as well as the ICA of Boston. Both signs mention Paul as the owner and give his home telephone number. He manages to sidestep negative reaction to these signs by choosing not to interpret the works that bear his name. Therefore making it impossible to speculate as to the artist's thoughts concerning his own persona.  

As we hurtle towards the end of this century, it becomes apparent that deconstructing the ideas that society holds dear will be a defining theme for art historians to catalog in their journals. And while we drink in the rust tinged waters of our own concoctions amid the spires of apparent decay, it's good to know that Paul Richard is there, lurking in the shadows, plaque in hand, to save your art loving mind and of course, to take credit for it. SELECTED EXHIBITIONS WHERE YOU COULD HAVE FOUND PAUL RICHARD: 1998
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA Installation, unsactioned

Central Artery Project public Exhibit, Boston, MA Solo Show

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA Solo Show

William Scott Gallery, Boston, MA Solo Show

South Wharf Gallery,Nantucket, MA Solo

Show ARTcetera fund-raiser,Paul Richard Studio Group Show Boston, MA

Dukakis Gallery, Chicago, IL Group Show

South Wharf Gallery, Nantucket, MA Solo Show

Dukakis Gallery, Chicago, IL Solo Show

ARTcetera AIDS Action Committee Auction Invitational
Boston, MA

Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA Invitational

Kennedy Gallery, Boston, MA Solo Show

An Amerikanischer, Vergangheit Gallerie Group Show
Wiesbaden, Germany


Author : Sean O'Connor

Photo: Archives of the artist,

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