Paolo Arao’s sewn paintings, fabric collage, and textile constructions explore the elastic and open-ended concept of queerness, combining geometric abstraction and bold color with textile media as an alternative to depicting bodies. Made with second hand clothing, commercial fabrics and used canvas drop cloths, the works resemble flags or quilts alluding to people and places as a coded visual language is woven into them.
His ongoing series of fabric collages (Flagettes) appear to be mirror images of each other. Upon closer inspection subtle differences emerge between the pair as they question one’s perception while also addressing ideas of sameness and difference. Arao lovingly refers to them as his “same-sex” diptychs.
They’re stitched facing backwards and forwards, occasionally exposing seams and rough edges. Fabric becomes paint. Seams act as a line drawing. Paint drips and dusty footprints from drop cloths add a narrative element of lived-experience. Sometimes the pieced and sewn textiles are stretched onto wooden supports – the tension adding a level of imprecision that creates subtle distortions, and softening the geometry. Other times they hang freely, allowing the material and patchwork to dictate their form. The results are intentionally imperfect as Arao is curious about perception, intention and imprecision – perhaps seeing and doing things the “wrong way” to discover something unexpected yet deeply personal.
Paolo Arao (b. 1977, Manila, NCR, Philippines) is Brooklyn-based artist. This is his first show at Western Exhibitions. His solo shows include Jeff Bailey Gallery and Barney Savage Gallery, both in New York City and Franklin Art Works in Minneapolis. Arao has participated in residencies at the Fire Island Artist Residency, The Wassaic Artist Residency, Lower East Side Printshop, the Bronx Museum of Arts, and MASS MoCA. He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2000.