An Electrified Canova Masterpiece Oozing With Homoerotic Heat

Cheekily nodding to a Neoclassical statue’s covert portrayal of same-sex desire, up-and-coming painter Paul Anagnostopoulos electrifies its heroic scene with a sea of blues and oranges, rendering a fiery twilight imbued with emotional intensity, atmospheric angst, and nostalgic humor.

“Golden Hour Faded Black” (2022) by Paul Anagnostopoulos. Photography by Emile Askey/Dinner Gallery

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Paul Anagnostopoulos, 31, New York (@paolopablopaul)

Title of work: Golden Hour Faded Black (2022). 

Where to see it: “When Heroes Fall” at Dinner Gallery (242 West 22 St, New York) until Oct. 29.

Three words to describe it: Electric, stirring fever. 

What was on your mind at the time: This was my first time painting on poly cotton, a super smooth surface, and I wanted to seriously consider its materiality. It emphasizes the slickness and control of the acrylic and oil paint, allowing for clear delineation of the forms. The combination of bold images on a sleek surface resembles the digital screen, a consistent conceptual motif within my work. 

Here the moments of flatness and depth—as seen in the juxtaposition of solid colors and blended strokes—imbue a vibrational quality. The space exists somewhere between two and three dimensions, calling to mind early electronic imagery. This dance of the graphic and more rendered forms is enhanced through the use of gradients. A hallmark of the digital environment, gradients act as both enterable spaces and barriers. The gradients here glow like a backlit screen and infuse the classical figures with modern-day magic.

Installation view of “When Heroes Fall” by Paul Anagnostopoulos at Dinner Gallery, New York

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The volcano that the figures are sitting on is an iridescent black. This section along with the figures’ blurred contour lines and glowing lava creates a dynamic surface that sparkles as viewers move around the painting. 

How it reflects your practice as a whole:  The painting captures the essence of my visual language. Beginning with color, the combinations of blues and oranges along with purples and yellows create strong contrasts that electrify the image. Moments of heat within the top figure are enhanced by the cooler surrounding sky. The palette is constructed with vibrant colors of twilight and sunsets. This time of day signifies transition and transformation. The heightened atmosphere reflects the emotive intensity of the figures’ interaction and connects to its narrative. 

The figures are based on Antonio Canova’s Theseus and the Minotaur—which in itself is based on an ancient Greek myth about heroic triumph over evil. This sculpture was created during the Neoclassical era. There was a strong cultural resurgence of humanism, classical imagery, and appreciation of the body during this time due to the increased archaeology of Pompeii and Herculaneum. 

On a more covert level, these sculptures were codified with homoeroticism and commissioned as a highbrow way for the closeted elite to ogle the male form; a sort of historical pin-up. I play with the humor of the original source’s sexuality through the erupting volcano and oozing lava symbolism. This is taken further into kitsch with the flame silhouettes that reference nostalgic hot rod imagery. The flames’ metallic paint directly connects to the metal cars and toys they originally adorned.

One song that captures its essence: Hot Stuff by Donna Summer.

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