The declaration "be quiet" commands attention. Perhaps it means a stern warning? Maybe it summons a peaceful invitation or mindful meditation? It could mean both, but in this context, it is the title of Paul Rouphail’s follow up to his first international solo debut last year with Stem Gallery in Brussels. With Be Quiet, the Philadelphia-based Rouphail is back with Smart Objects, Los Angeles for his third presentation with the gallery in an all-new body of work painted in the last 5 months. In concert with what has become our collective isolated reality, the artist explores "domestic spaces in which light transforms various chattel into objects of extraordinary presence."


Rouphail has long been fascinated with architecture and interiors, often recreating household items and settings into evocatory scenes by transforming common objects through the use of suggestive light. Intensified by rich color and a polished visual language, he imbues humble settings with silent drama, notably in works like Face or Evening Readers, where a simple assemblage creates an illusion of a mysterious physiognomy. "One important new aspect of current work is the suggestion of more than one person in the painted spaces," Rouphail explains about the duality of items that characterize most of the paintings."Secondly, the addition of a corona light effect emanates through each of the paintings. Here I was interested in the various depictions of divinity within the history of Catholic imagery. The difference between the shows, I feel, is much to do with temperament, as well."  

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Enticingly, three exceptions to the use of this optical magic appear in the small maelstrom paintings presented in the back room of the gallery. Depicting a whirlpool in a cup of coffee or glass of water, these smaller pieces embody his vision of powerful little gems within a domestic environment. Although surreal or even fantastical, this concept feels more relatable having experienced shelter-in-place. "A little less than half the show was produced in an ad hoc studio in my basement," the artist relates, connecting this series and the current global situation. "So yes, I feel as though the paintings reflect our current global predicament. The paintings bend with the times, so to speak."

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Rouphail has always found meaning in the stillness of domestic scenes as stage-sets for emotions triggered by the outside world. These visuals feel more visceral in light of the rapidly changing climate of coronavirus pandemic and global economic recession. Both the artist and gallerist felt compelled to start a conversation about it. "Chadwick Gibson, founder of Smart Objects, and I were in frequent conversation throughout the last few months and both felt it was necessary to put the show together. It has been quite the privilege to be able to make work during this time, as not many people have had the opportunity to do so. Overall, I am grateful."  —Sasha Bogojev