Book Review

Wish You Were Here

Sign Language: A Painter's Notebook  (Three Rooms Press, 2014)  pays homage to the lost art of urban outdoor sign painting, in photos, drawings and words. A mashup of angular skylines, unusual people and unique pockets of the world’s greatest city, woven with poems detailing the danger, fear, and freedom in soaring heights. The author/photographer creates an immersion into a rarified world of danger and beauty, that raises the sense of the importance of moments, and blurs the boundary between public and private space

Although John Paul's new book, Sign Language is largely a collection of poems, it is important to keep in mind from the outset that John Paul is primarily a painter. A painter of lush narrative canvases, portrait sketches, and genre scenes, as well as a painter of billboards and movie scenery, and with language, he is a limner of a life lived in New York City. Few painters have the range that Paul has, and fewer still possess the economy of language combined with the rich visual textures that give his poetry the feel of a documentary. One is tempted to compare his work to Dos Passos, or maybe Ferlinghetti, while at the same time the cinematic drama and pathos of Hertzog comes to mind.