PATRICK DECOSTE at Spin Gallery (1100 Queen West, second floor), to September 24, reception September 15, 7 pm. 416-530-7656. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Painter does the unexpected with images of male bonding patrick decoste has a reputation. He is bold, sometimes brash and often unpredictable. If art did imitate life, you'd expect his paintings to be insane masses of psychedelic colour.
But - and this is an aspect of his capriciousness - his latest series, Below The Belt, at Spin Gallery consists of handsome paintings of male bonding that dip into homoeroticism and seem inspired by 17th-century classicism.
His controlled, anatomically nuanced figures with subtle muscle tone and frozen gestures show his knowledge of art history and painterly craft.
His earth-toned palette of moss green, chocolate brown and creamy white has a meditative quality, and the surfaces seem shockingly opulent for acrylic paint.
Dandies, boxers, runners and wrestlers pose before decorative fabric backgrounds. The vintage patterns sometimes seep through the figures, while other paintings' backgrounds look like urban chain-link fences.
In The Boxer, the show's signature piece, two slight men sporting boxing gloves seem prepared to fight.
However, their smirks suggest they're either too gentlemanly to punch each other's lights out or they're hot for each other.
In the wrestler series, Two Wrestlers projects a raw physicality that lacks the pugilists' delicacy. The chubby, beer-bellied wrestlers maul each other and lock heads like rams, their flesh colliding and skin sagging under the gripping weight of the other.
Appealing to the fag in all of us is Marquis March, in which two elaborately dressed 19th-century aristocrats stroll together in an open field, their swords jutting out of their sheaths like enormous erections.
DeCoste's classic paintings subvert archetypal homoeroticism with surprising subtlety and humour.