Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What's Happening in Boston?

Hmmm...just when I thought it was safe to return to my old stomping grounds.......

Went to the highly touted SOWA (South of Washington) arts district Friday night for the "First Friday" art crawl and open studio event which happens (you guessed it) the first Friday of every month. Well, to put things into a nutshell, I was disappointed. In this writer's/artist's opinion, the work was either forced, stilted, or just plain "boooor-ing" (to quote that famous one-liner from the 60's Odd Couple television series).

To be fair, though, I will say that we made the rounds in the Harrison/Thayer alleyway only, due to the weather being a bit on the "monsoon-ish" side (heavy rain, high winds). There are two floors of gallerys in the alley, and although we could not even see into the Bromfield Gallery it was so crowded, we looked in every one and were mostly disappointed. Suffice it to say we saw a lot more interesting things in the floors above the gallerys where the artists opened their studios to the public.

There were a two artists of note, however, that I did want to give mention to. The first being Janet Kawada, who is presently showing her a collection of new work entiltled "Talisman" at The Kingston Gallery. The Kingston is an artist run co-op that never fails to deliver. Janets new collection of sculptures are both powerful and playful. Very different from her previous work, this fiber artist was mind-weary of the serious nature of her usual wall sculptures, and decided to play for a while. The result is a series of small sculptural forms that bring to mind "fetish-toys", and several larger free standing pieces that evoke a sensualness that draws you inside and plays with your imagination. The main ingredient in Janet's work has always been handmade felt and these are no different, although this time around there is the unusual addition of tiny beads. The beading is thankfully subtle and adds to the quirkiness of the smaller pieces. I say, BRAVO !Janet. This show made our trip into Boston worthwhile.

Michael Costello is a painter whose latest creations grace the wall of Gallery XIV. What can I say about this work? Hmmm. They made me think, for sure, because I am still thinking. So I'll say the work was thought provoking. I will not pan the work, nor will I praise it, except to say that this man is a talented draftsman. His realist painting is on the mark, if a bit overdone. Forced. Loud. The drawings were another matter, however. Beautifully rendered, these gesture drawing with just a hint of color were gorgeous. Fantastic. Now, for the subject matter.

Couples at play...intercourse, intimacy, and...Elmo? (as in "Tickle Me") Oh, yes.

Largely strange. Weirdly different. Hmmm. The paintings made me giggle out loud when I first entered the space. Not a reaction I normally give while looking at art. But on closer inspection, I was bothered by them. Really bothered. Sesame street characters in bed with a couple in the throws of intimacy evoked horrific thoughts of child molestation! ICK! My first instinct to laugh was purely that...instinct. I believe now it was a gut reaction to something that made me extremely uncomfortable.

The drawings were another matter entirely. "The Queens Private Diary" was a series of intimate sketches where the man is portrayed as wearing a pig snout and a court jesters hat. Weirdly grotesque. Reminiscent of an circa 1800 circus of freaks. Putting myself in the woman's place under the man made me want to run from the gallery.

I didn't. I calmly turn and walked out, taking with me a feeling that I had been exposed to someones nightmarish fantasys. According to Colstello's biography on the work, he is "exploring the relationships between the classical figure, Pop Culture, and our cultural anthropomorphism".

Well, Michael, I guess I am one of those folks who find "ugly meanings in beautiful things".

"nuff said.


keri marion said...

I took a look at the costello's work online through Gallery XIV's website.

I actually like these pieces a lot and only wished that they were bigger (I saw many at the mid30" mark on long side).

Being a painter by nature, I think that his painting hand is really something worth talking about. His hand is articulate and sensitive. His color choices smart and effective and his textures (without seeing them in real life) read very well in photographs.

As much as I can tell online (aside from the general middle-of-the-road size) I would probably have liked these very, very much.

I especially LOVE the subject matter. I find the ridiculousness of sesame street characters mixed with nudes unbelievably funny and intersting - the gratuitous sexual tones in the drawings even more stunning and beautiful with the stupid whoredom of commercialism only slightly suggested along with so many other things...

I love the "Model and Muppet 26" where the Ernie looks like he just wants to run away, frightened, when faced with any kind of natural-ness.

The idea that naked = sex is as silly and ridiculous as sesame street itself! And we always get weirded out when we think of children or children's items or anything that has to do with children and nakedness to be something vile and foul, since humans have violated children since the dawn of humanity itself. I understand the taboo... and i think Costello has struck an interesting place to venture without ever venturing there particularly. In fact, nothing he has presented is really disturbing, only our own minds, stirred by the symbols.

I'll stop, however, at the spam cans and the fluff jars and the long-haired male model pieces. To me, those didn't speak as honestly or nearly as brutal as the others and while the handling was still very strong, they seemed a bit insincere, like he might have been on a deadline or something worse.

But still, very interesting. I hope I can get up to see them at some point, but if not, then I hope he comes down to Providence.

Janet Kawada's work, however, doesn't strike me online very much - though I realize that work like hers often MUST be viewed in person because sculpture is usually far more tactile than illustrative and so many nuances are missed online and in photographs, so I will take your word for it!

Thanks for the review!

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