The American Embassy in Seoul.

I needed to get some US documents notarized so I made an appointment at the American Embassy for today.  I took no pics, while waiting outside, feeling anxious as the police watched me, thinking they might think I am casing the joint.  It was a bleak, but warm day.

The building is as drab-as-drab-could-be.  Plus ugly.  In addition to a high cement wall with concertina wire and surveillance cameras, the complex is shielded on 2 sides by giant police buses, parked bumper-to-bumper, with Korean police stationed every half-a-bus.  No suicide driver will ever get very deep here.

At 1:09 I entered early for my 1:30 appointment through a blast proof door, when prompted.  I relinquished my phone, after told to turn it off.

Inside is a drab lobby that could be a shitty hospital in Anywhere USA, with drab hospital-blue walls, and a sagging, yellowed drop ceiling, some tiles replaced with shiny white new ones.  The carpeting was hideous.  You rarely see carpeting in public spaces in Korea.   A faux colonial ceiling fan listed badly to the right.  Shitty carpentry was to be found everywhere, if you are the kind of person that looks for that sort of thing.  When my number was called and I waited in front of the blast proof teller’s window, I noticed clumsy attempts to cover up fuck-ups in the details.    I noticed similar transgressions at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station in New York.

One of my documents needed to be signed by a witness of a witness, so I asked an American serviceman waiting with his wife and child, and he signed for me.  As I was leaving I thanked him for the second time.  I was anxious to get out of there and in my haste, as I was packing my bag, I accidentally yanked out a piece of fake plastic grass that hemmed in the waiting area in  high boxes.    I picked up the plastic ‘seedling’ and replanted it in the plastic bed as the Korean guard nervously watched me, and I got the hell out of there.

It’s as if a spaceship came and transplanted a slab of Americana in East Asia, and protected it well.   The tellers behind that impenetrable glass were nice to me, and they felt familiar.   I was on the outside of their bomb proof box, looking in at my own country, inside a bomb proof building in another country.   And it felt like home.

Press Release for Inside The Box

Here is the release that I wrote for my solo painting exhibition.




September 8 to 19, 2018

6 Daeheung-ro  121 buen-gil,  Jung-gu, Daejeon, Republic of Korea

  1. +82 042-226-2588

Gallery Art And Art, a private art gallery, is pleased to present ‘Inside The Box’, a solo exhibition of paintings by American expat Paul Fortunato (b. 1962).  The exhibition will showcase 19 new works from the series ‘Fork This Side:  Inside The Box’ by the artist completed over the last 7 months.

The exhibition title is multi- layered.  Paul Fortunato has been living in South Korea since 2015.  The works combine fantasy and anecdotal narratives, with references to American and foreign films and music.  The ‘box’ refers to having created this set of mostly large scale paintings in a very small room, an implosion of sorts.  His former studio in Ossining, New York was an immense space with 23 foot ceilings.  Here in Korea he works in a room a mere fraction of that size.

The informed work combines darkness, shock, beauty, humor, sexuality, weirdness, and commentary on the state of the world.   Titles are often literal and visual puns.

‘Putto Down’ expresses feelings of disorientation, and of bearing witness to the ‘soul clipping’ in Asian society, a kind of glass box that is clear from the inside, and opaque from the outside.  ‘The Next Emperor’, a play on the title and movie poster of the 1987 Bernardo Bertolucci film ‘The Last Emperor’, further addresses the clipping, in addition to ultra consumerism and the male obsession with power.

On a formal level ‘box’ refers to six of the works having been executed on found crate panels, which have built-in, rugged, air-nailed frames, ready for hanging.

The box also refers to the artist’s feelings of isolation and culture shock associated with a new life overseas, and seeing America from a completely different perspective.  It is a box turned inside out, myopic, many of its residents only willing to look in, and yet, just another box in the world, quickly losing what it had.

The box refers to his becoming a ‘bubble expat’, who has not-so-quietly retreated to the box between his two ears, focusing his creative powers like never before.

The subject matter flows from his imagination.  There are some overt references to American cinema.  ‘Wizard of the Apes’, is a mash-up of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’ and it encapsulates the theme of the show.  The artist (Dorothy) is surrounded by mutant ape/Oz characters.  A chimp/Picasso ghost, lurking in the cape of the Wicked Witch and holding his cigarette with her green hand, looks down at Dorothy with contempt as s(he) gives him the brush-off.

‘Son of Kong’, the title from the original 1933 film by Willis O’Brien, is a haunting political statement about racism in America.  Here the white ape protagonist effortlessly mutilates and hurls KKK rally figures through space with his magic ‘ET’ finger.

‘Beggars’ Banquet’, after the Rolling Stones album title, is a visceral statement about the crisis of democracy now unfolding in the USA.

Paul is deeply passionate and troubled by the environmental degradation facing our planet, and he grapples with those concerns in the best way he can, through painting.  His love of nature finds its way into his art, no matter how dark the image.  There is no mercy in it for the fools who destroy our world and its wildlife.

Environmental statements can also be read in  ‘Revenge of the Game 2’,  inspired by the brontosaurus sequence in ‘King Kong’(1933),  ‘Revenge of the Game’ and ‘Flipper’.

‘Inside the Box’ pushes back on the encroaching ‘digital desert’  where he finds himself living,  a place with the fastest internet speed in the world, but where there is little regard for the hard copy, much less painting.

Paul Fortunato was born in Flushing, New York. He received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1994.  He taught drawing and painting at SVA for 23 years before taking a professorship at Hanbat National University in Korea, teaching drawing.  He has exhibited in numerous group shows in the States and abroad, and has had three solo exhibitions.  This latest one is his first overseas solo painting exhibition.  He is the recipient of several significant awards, including The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, MacDowell Colony, and the National Academy of Design.

For more information, please visit to see all the new works in the show, and to see the best of what he has painted from 1993 to 2014.





press-release-INSIDE-THE-BOX fine tuned




2018 Paintings

I have been living in South Korea since 2015, after living in New York my whole life.  It took me 3 years to get my creative footing back and to be painting like I should be.  These 27 works, completed within the last 6 months represent my return to the game.    All images Copyright © 2018 Paul Fortunato.  All rights reserved.  Unauthorized use, copying or reproduction prohibited.


PUTTI DOWN, acrylic on crate panel, 131.5 X 77.5 cm, 52 X 31 inches




ANOTHER PUTTI DOWN,  acrylic on wood, 120 X 152 cm, 47 X 60 inches




CUPID’S LAST ARROW,  acrylic on wood, 120 X 203.5 cm, 47.25 X 80 inches




“VICTORIA EDWARDS, MEAT THE DUNG BEATLES”, acrylic on wood, 120 X 203.5 cm, 47.25 X 80 inches


Gone with the wind 123 x 88.4cm

GONE WITH THE GUST,  acrylic on wood, 123 X 88.4 cm, 47.5 X 88.4 inches



WIZARD OF THE APES acrylic on crate panel 80 x 129

WIZARD OF THE APES,  acrylic on crate panel, 80 X 129 cm, 31.5 X 51 inches



WHAT IS IT 116 X 137

“WHAT IS IT?”   acrylic on wood, 116 X 137 cm, 45.7 X 54 inches



THE DEATH OF SHITTY-VACUUM SWINGER acrylic on crate panel 119 X 118.5

THE DEATH OF SHITTY-VACUUM SWINGER, acrylic on wood, 119 X 118.5 cm, 47.25 x 46.5 inches



ATTACK OF THE DOG-EATING MUREX acrylic on crate panel 109 X 94.5ATTACK OF THE DOG-EATING MUREX, acrylic on crate panel, 109 x 94.5 cm, 43 X 37 inches




BLUE CHRIST PAINTS HIMSELF WITH HIS TONGUE,  acrylic on masonite, 55X 36.5 cm, 21.6 X 14 inches



Santa Claws 120 x203cm

SANTA CLAWS 2, acrylic on wood, 120 X 203 cm, 47.25 X 80 inches




PLESIOSAUR FREE STYLING  IT,  acrylic on wood, 203 X 120 cm, 80 X 47.25 inches



YIJING 80 x 129

GIRL AT NIGHT,  acrylic on crate panel, 80 X 129 cm, 31.5 X 51 inches



HEAD (Formerly GANESHAS ARE WILD) 132 X 97

HEAD,  acrylic on wood, 132 X 97 cm, 52 X 38 inches



Walking Tall 209.7 x 89.5

WALKING TALL,  acrylic on wood, 209.7 X 89.5 cm, 83 X 35.5 inches




ARCTIC LACEWING CAT,  acrylic on wood, 61 X 62 cm, 24 X 24.4 inches



FLIPPER acrylic on pink foam insulation board 182 X 70 X 8

FLIPPER,   acrylic on pink foam insulation board, 182 X 70 X 8 cm, 71.7 X 27.5 X 3 inches




CYCLOPEAN CAT MAMMOTH,   acrylic on wood, 79 X 132 cm, 31 x 52 inches



THE NEXT EMPEROR acrylic on panel with car logos attached 94 X 74

THE NEXT EMPEROR,   acrylic and  auto wheel caps on crate panel, 94 X 74 cm, 37 X 29 inches




BEGGARS’ BANQUET,   acrylic on masonite, 40 x 56 cm,  15.7 X 22 inches




LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE,  acrylic on wood,  51.5 X 80 cm, 20 X 31.5 inches




SON OF KONG,   acrylic on wood,  54 X 78 cm,  25 X 31 inches



RINGED OCTOPUS acrylic on panel with painted frame 42 X 63

RINGED OCTOPUS,  acrylic on framed masonite panel,  42 X 63 cm,  16.5 X 25 inches





REVENGE OF THE GAME 2,  acrylic on wood,  203 X 120 cm, 80 X 47.25 inches





REVENGE OF THE GAME,  acrylic on crate panel,  165 X 153.5 cm,  65 X 60.4 inches



NOTHING IF NOT DIGITAL acrylic on panel with painted frame 87 x 46DIGITAL FUTURE,  acrylic on framed, mounted Korean calligraphy on mulberry paper,  62 X 43 cm, 24.4 X 17 inches

The concept of “INSIDE THE BOX” is multi-dimensional and layered.  It is about working on found crate panels, on living abroad as an expat for the first time in my life, and the confinement of culture shock.  I created all of these works in a room roughly 19 feet X 9 feet X 7 feet.  The creative challenge of engineering the room (with 5 cats no less) to make all this happen became part of the theme.  It is also about finding the space to create within the box between my ears.   I will be including many of these works in an upcoming solo painting exhibition this September here in the ROK, my first overseas solo painting show.  I will be posting updates on that.