The Male Form / Patrick Webb (born 1955) Punchinello Works Out Hammer Strength 50 x 21 1/4 in. (127 x 54 cm.) (Painted in 1995-96.)
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Cortland Jessup Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, May 28, 1998.
New York, Cortland Jessup Gallery, Punchinello Works Out (PWO), May 6-30, 1998, n.p., illustrated.
The enigmatic Commedia dell'Arte character of Punchinello with his clownish figure always concealed by a phallic beak-nosed mask and tall white hat is a celebrated recurring primary actor in the narratives of Patrick Webb's paintings. Webb discovered Punchinello from the Punchinello frescoes painted by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1696-1770) in the Palazzo Rezzonico that Webb saw in 1989 in Venice, Italy. Using Punchinello as his central figure, Webb often depicts scenes from contemporary LGBTQ+ life, beginning with painting narratives of lives ended early, as Webb witnessed and experienced surviving the AIDS epidemic. In addition to narratives experienced, Webb also explores narratives he wanted to and didn't want to experience within the tragic, mundane, and joyful events as a gay man in America. When explaining his fascination with Punchinello, Webb remarked, "In Punchinello, I found an Everyman who in my paintings is Everygayman" (as quoted in N. Grimes, Punchinello Paintings, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1992, n.p.).
Webb's Hammer Strength and the following work, Now and Then, are part of a larger, highly-renowned series titled Punchinello Works Out, in which Punchinello visits the gym, a major setting of gay life in the nineties and today. Punchinello Works Out is a subtle, personal allusion to the term POW or Prisoner of War, and to PWA or Person With AIDS, and to the horror of AIDS that Webb first used Punchinello to explore. When discussing the series, Webb notes "In these paintings Punch descends into a subterranean world of the body - the work out gym. Here he struggles with the presence of mortality, age, and desire. Each painting explores different aspects of his adventure; from the expulsion of the weak, through the fractures of rebuilding, to intimate moments of assistance. His journey is one that parallels those of the outside world, but here amidst these brutal machines, in this dark cavern, his corporeality and vulnerability are heightened" (P. Webb, Punchinello Works Out (PWO), exhibition catalogue, New York, 1998, n.p.).