"Once called the "the Toulouse-Lautrec of Times Square" by Robert Patrick, a noted New York playwright, Patrick Angus (1953-1992) is to the gay underground of New York's 1980s as the famous French painter was to the outré Paris of a century earlier. Much as Lautrec devoted his art to the risqué world of Parisian dance hall girls and prostitutes, Patrick Angus focused his incisive eye on New York's largely neglected gay underground - the hustler bars, baths and the male burlesques at the fringes of gay life.Slave to the Rhythm: Patrick Angus and the Gay 80s (Jan. 6 – Feb. 14, 2004, at LLGAF), offers the first opportunity in more than a decade to view this largely lost world through the eyes of an exceptionally gifted painter.
Unknown to all but a small circle of collectors including artist David Hockney, Angus' fluidly expressive work remains unrecognized by the artistic establishment. The reason for this neglect is not hard to find. Angus knew that the established art world had no place for a gay painter who unsentimentally depicted gay life as he personally knew it.
A scene from Jonathan Nossiter's documentary Resident Alien, vividly confirms his concern as Robert Patrick drags a reluctant Angus to show his paintings to an East Village art dealer, who recoils in horror at their explicitly homosexual subject matter. For Angus it was just one more in a sting of rejections by dealers and galleries. He retreated to continue his work in virtual seclusion.
In full command of his talents as a painter with a gift for narrative drama, Angus expressed an empathy for the humanity of his subjects that places him in the American tradition of humanistic painting by Bellows, Sloan, Marsh and Hopper. His work captures the uninhibited reality of his subjects and their mileux in a way that Quentin Crisp once described as "deliberately shameless." His internal landscapes of conmon gay venues - where many of his subjects might prefer not to be seen but nevertheless frequented - elevate collective gay underground experieces simply by making them the subject of art. Much as Hopper painted an utterly ordinary scene in his oft immitated night diner, Angus devoted himself to documenting commonplace "institutions" where gay men gathered to enjoy themselve, without judgement or sentimentality.
"Twenty years after Stonewall, gay people still have few honest images of themselves," Angus said, "and most of those occur in our literature. Gay men long to see themselves, [but] they seldom do. Obviously, we must picture ourselves." So he set out to do just that.
Angus' pictures portrayed gay men as he found them, including hustlers and Johns, some of whom were recognizable to a former Gaiety Theater dancer years later. As James Cary Parkes wrote in his June 1992 Pink Paper obituary of the artist, "Patrick Angus...belonged in a different tradition of American Art [from the prevailing pop art and expressionism]: subtle, painterly, wholly uncomplicated by hype. Like the great American painter Richard Diebenkorn, Angus' work matched realist visual composition with emotive highly introspective qualities.... Figures in Angus' pictures were at once metaphorical as well as representative of [their subject]."
Capturing scenes of gay night life in compositions of often heroic physical dimensions approaching indoor landscapes, Angus' work is a vibrantly expressive synthesis that skates equidistant between realism and abstraction. Frequently including a specific homage to the work of Matisse, Picasso, Beckman, Hockney and numerous other artists.
A compelling new book available at the exhibition, The L.A. Drawings, helps provide insight into Angus' early development as an incisive and often humous observer of the world around him. Co-published by The Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation and The Schwules Museum in Berlin, with an introduction by Douglas Turnbaugh, the book features Patrick Angus' Los Angeles drawings, mostly dating from 1979, before he left the West Coast for New York.
In his prepublication review of the book, James M. Saslow, author of Pictures and Passions: A history of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts and Professor of Art History, says that "Patrick Angus treats pencil like the old master' difficult silverpoint drawing, creating a mood of deadpan whimsy reminiscent of Hockney and the great cartoonist Saul Steinberg....[Angus provides] rare glimpses in to the private and public life of a young gay man in the heady post-Stonewall years - both his enigmatic individual fantasies, and the collective rituals of sunbathing, cruising, and kissing in the surreal landscape of southern California."
It was the huge 1980 Picasso Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art that brought Angus and his incisive eye to New York. Working at MOMA by day, first as a museum guard and then in the museum's gift shop, he often spent his evenings at the Gaiety Theater and other similar gay locales where he found the scenes and the men featured in his paintings.
That Angus was an attractive man can be readily gleaned from his photographs, but his low self-esteem led him to believe that he was grotesquely unattractive. "When focus could be deflected from his low self-estimation, Patrick could be the most delightful of conversational companions," writes Robert Patrick, a close friend for whom he designed and painted scenery. "No one I ever knew had such objective aesthetic judgment nor was so eager for the aesthetic insights of others....but when the topic would return to his work, again the cloud of self-loathing would muddy and poison talk....He saw everything so clearly, so freshly, except himself."
In the last year of life, as he struggled with AIDS with little medical treatment while telling his fiends that he was seeing doctors and following their orders, Angus was astonished by a burst of good fortune. In a matter of months, he had three one-person exhibitions (one at the University of California in Santa Barbara and the Leslie-Lohman and Ganymede galleries in New York City) and sold six pieces to painter David Hockney. The New York exhibitions and a book about his work were the result of the tireless diligence of his friend Douglas Turnbaugh in promoting him in his final months.
He had not been so afraid of dying, Angus told Turnbaugh, as that his work would end up in a dumpster. On his deathbed at St. Vincent's hospital, looking at the proof sheets of Strip Show, a soon-to-be-published book of his paintings, he whispered, "This is the happiest day of my life.""
Christian Bain, extraido de la web de Leslie-Lohman Gallery