''Not About Paint'' and ''Close Distance''

Close and far
By GREG COOK  |  August 18, 2011

“CLOSE DISTANCE” Six Latino Boston artists are featured in this show at the BCA. 

"Not About Paint" at Steven Zevitas Gallery (450 Harrison Ave, through August 20) is a bright, buoyant survey of New York abstraction today, poised at the intersection of painting and assemblage, and looking longingly back to the color bars painted by Morris Louis in the '50s and by Frank Stella in the '60s from the other side of the absurdist scatter-art assemblages of the past decade. It's one of the best local exhibits of the year.

>> SLIDESHOW''Not About Paint'' at Steven Zevitas Gallery <<

Jessica Stockholder, a scatter-art star, offers one of her trademark collections of random shit on the wall — Wiffle balls, a yellow ladder, a toy shovel, a scouring pad, a green triangle of carpet, a lamp and, on the floor, a coffee grinder and a fan (on). Scatter art has undercurrents of America's cornucopia of mass-produced, disposable plastic Walmart stuff or the Internet's glut of data, but for Stockholder the point is using the various objects for their textures and colors, like daubs of paint. It doesn't do a lot for me. Or rather, I can't help picturing a future of overflowing landfills, which leaves me sad.

Curator Evan Garza, an editor-at-large for Zevitas's publication New American Paintings and a past Phoenix contributor, seemingly includes Stockholder to mark where we're starting from. Because scatter art, which is the academy today, feels tired and, like Lewis's and Stella's paintings, is facing a backlash. In the seven works by six artists here, Garza channels the artists' sarcastic humor in reclaiming these square styles, and jazzing them up with American Apparel colors. It's akin to Quentin Tarantino's knowing wink as he casts John Travolta in Pulp Fiction and makes the declining star cool again.

Cordy Ryman's Reverse Scrap K is a spray of wood posts arrayed like a worn arrow's tail and painted alternating colors of orange and white. Stella lurks in a design enlivened by sunny hues and stumbling handcraft. Alex Da Corte's Soda Painting No. 11 (Pleasure Principle) is artificially flavored, fruity sodas puddled atop sheets of cellophane on the gallery floor. It's a parody of Louis's poured colors — and his inspiration of Jackson Pollock's drips. But the high-fructose-corn-syrup pinks, oranges, and purples are ravishing. And they spark thoughts on beauty and deliciousness and empty calories that rot your teeth.

"Close Distance," curated by Liz Munsell at the Boston Center for the Arts (539 Tremont Street, through August 28), rounds up six local Latino artists to plumb the art that has come to the fore as Boston has become a minority-majority town over the past decade.

Vela Phelan's Deviant Idols in the Black Divine is a black room decorated with well-made, but kind of cliché, gothic icons assembled from Ninja Turtles and Simpsons toys, fur, bricks, antlers, and gold paint. Ricardo De Lima arrays 50 (false) security cameras, with blinking red lights, on a wall, to eerily speak of surveillance in general and America's obsession with Mexican border security in particular. The most striking work is Raul Gonzalez III's sepia ink cartoons of roosters or a dog shot with arrows and wearing a crown of thorns. Wall texts explain that Gonzalez aims to speak of Mexican factory workers, drug war murders, and old family tales, but the drawings seem more focused on where reality meets stereotypes, from cockfighting to Gonzalez's big-lipped Speedy Gonzales knock-off. What holds us is Gonzalez's terrific draftsmanship, blending hand-painted advertising, faux antiquing, and gorgeous calligraphic lines.

Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.

  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Boston Center for the Arts, Boston Center for the Arts, Evan Garza,  More more >
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