The work of Paul Spina is a visceral reflection of the socio-economic world in which he lived: an urban working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, dealing with World War II and the revolutionary years that followed. Paul was one of the first artist “settlers” in Soho, New York in the 1960s. For a fuller statement, click on "Statement" above this paragraph.
The work of Paul Spina is a visceral reflection of the socio-economic world in which he lived: an urban working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, dealing with World War II and the revolutionary years that followed. Paul was one of the first artist “settlers” in Soho, New York in the 1960s.
While the canvases of Paul Spina pay tribute to many artistic styles, his most obvious influences were Surrealism and Pop Art. He readily adopted the precision drawing of such masters as Salvador Dali or Georgio di Chirico, setting a mood of the real within the dream. At the same time, he was influenced by the upsurge in post-World War II advertising and incorporated products and images that dominated the popular culture, similar to his contemporary James Rosenquist. Beyond a merely aesthetic appreciation of these images, however, Paul brought a socially critical eye. He viewed commercialism as a false promise of happiness held out to exploit the middle and working classes. As a long-time fisherman, he adopted the great white shark as a surrogate for the businessman.
Paul’s signature candy paintings, which evolved later in his career, developed out of these early ideas and his childhood. Paul remembered fondly going to the movies with his father (“Pop”) in the 1940s. Their favorites were WWII movies. They would sit there gloriously eating candy (Good ‘N Plenty was a favorite), watching the world being destroyed and having a wonderful time.
From the Viet Nam era to the roaring ‘80s, Paul targeted government and big business as exploiters of the working class, who somehow bought into the message of prosperity that never quite materialized. Recognizing that even the horrific is pleasurable when candy coated, Paul continued to paint “the American dream” but covered it in candy.
Paul was highly influenced by a wide range of art movements from the Renaissance to Surrealism to Pop. His genius was in appropriating from this diverse art world to express his own vision. Besides his canvases, Paul produced many pen and ink drawings as well as assemblages. Found objects from the streets of his beloved New York City are essential components of these works.
By Esther Trepal