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Paul Calabrese: Drawing New York

Coney Island, 30 x 22
Looking back on his childhood, Paul Calabrese says, “Growing up poor in Brooklyn was tough… but as hard as things seemed back then I wouldn’t change it. We played stickball, handball, wrote graffiti, and caused a lot of mischief. The world was ours and we had no rules.” 

Born in Yonkers, New York, Calabrese moved to Brooklyn at age 7 when his parents divorced.  To help his mother, who was a waitress, Calabrese sold seashells, shined shoes, carried groceries, and sold sodas at the beach. Despite his efforts, financial difficulties led him to drop out of high school at 16 to find more regular work. After some time as a warehouse stock boy, Calabrese became an exterminator’s helper, learning a trade that would become his own.  No matter what difficulties he faced, Calabrese found a way to work around them, and art was a constant in his life, something he did to entertain himself and to document life in the city. Now he is proud to share his work with a wide audience.

Calabrese begins each piece with one character, lavishing attention on that individual and then expanding the piece, person by person. These characters, who Calabrese pulls from his daily experience in New York, span an array of nationalities, races, classes, and occupations, creating a massive crush of people familiar to anyone who has made their way through Grand Central, Coney Island, Central Park, or any of New York’s populated public spaces. Calabrese’s visual aesthetic is something of Robert Crumb meets Where’s Waldo. 

There’s no obscenity to his characters, but they tend to be goofy and larger than life, quintessential New Yorkers going about their lives. “I try to capture the diversity of my city,” Calabrese says. “I try to capture the different characters and places this beautiful city has to offer.”

Paul's work will be on display from September 16th to October 6th at Agora Gallery. They can also be seen at www.agora-gallery.com/ and www.art-mine.com/

Originally published in Gallery Guide, October 2015

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