Paul Wackers - The Space We Take

15 May - 10 July 2021

Eleanor Harwood Gallery is thrilled to present The Space We Take, our seventh solo show with Paul Wackers. 


The body of work in “The Space We Take” was painted during the pandemic. In his previous work, Wackers has often focused on interior spaces and still lifes. Interior scenes are not a new subject matter to him. However, the paintings in this body of work do have more longing and confusion in them, and a certain compression of space that offers both a sanctuary and an accounting of objects in his domestic sphere.  


Having worked with Paul over the course of fifteen years we’ve seen shifts in color palettes and mark-making techniques. This body of work contains brighter colors than usual, more joyful and warm colors, a transformation that can be read as an artist replacing the vividness of external life, usually filled with friends and lived in-public, with adding color to his studio practice. What we have all lacked in saturation in our personal lives, he has painted in, both for himself, and for us. 


The last body of work that had a similar shift in color was in “Slow Wave’, 2016. That body of work had more heat to the colors, a visualization of spending time traveling near the equator, and being influenced by a shift in climate and the aesthetics of objects in the various countries he traveled through. Paul’s interior palette, manifested in the works from 2020 and 2021 turn out to be radiant, perhaps in contrast to how he was actually feeling during an intense lock-down in New York City. He said that he had only shared fifteen meals with other people during all of the pandemic, many of those concentrated on a small trip to upstate New York. This detail is striking, people with children or housemates may have shared up to three meals a day together, a concentrated intimacy and frequency that was both lovely and maddening, and for those people without families or significant others, the pandemic was a social vacuum. 


These paintings come from the end of the social spectrum populated with few other people. The painting “The Space We Take” has two plants growing side-by-side, situated in an alcove. They jockey for space, and somehow still thrive, not in the ground in soil, but grow in pots dependent on someone to water them. Nurture is necessary for all of us, be it water for plants, or contact for humans. The growing plants are a metaphor for the space we all need. The title of the painting and the show is active and somewhat abrasive. The “Space We Take” refers to the six feet of distance necessary for safety, the feeling of being forced to move off a sidewalk when someone maskless walks in your way, making it their space as you move aside. But it also points to the space we need to grow. 


Wackers’ continued and deepened accounting of his personal space shows us someone making a safe space for themselves, but also being reminded how that space is precious and that what we do in it or with it matters.  


About the Artist
Paul Wackers was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1978. He received his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute, and  BFA from Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. Some of Paul’s solo exhibitions include Narwhal Projects (Toronto, ON), Alice Gallery (Brussels, Belgium), Eleanor Harwood Gallery (San Francisco, CA) and Morgan Lehman Gallery (New York, NY). Paul has also been in several group and two-person shows, including exhibitions at New Image Art (Los Angeles, CA), Halsey McKay (East Hampton, NY), Frosch and Portmann (New York, NY), and Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, CA). His work is in the MIMA Museum (Brussels, BE) and many prominent private and public collections, including Chevron Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Ellie Mae Corporate Collection and Stanford Children's Hospital. He also installed a large public mural on the James Hotel in New York City.


He received the Tournesol Painting Prize in 2008 with an awarded residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts (Marin County, CA), the NKDale Residency (Sunfjord, Norway), Encore (Brussels, BE), and an artist residency at the  Byrdcliffe Colony (Woodstock, NY), and the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, (Portland, ME).


Paul Wackers has been exhibiting with Eleanor Harwood Gallery since 2006. He lives and works in New York City.