When I decided to start writing these short reviews of shows, I intended to primarily write negative reviews. In general, I am a pretty positive guy; but I can’t remember the last time I read a review of any local show that could be classified as anything worse than middling, and I think that is a problem. In practice, this has proven to be a little more difficult than I expected. The thing is, when I see a piece that is poorly executed, I don’t get upset. If I think a piece lacks depth, I just move on. Even art that strikes me as just plain bad doesn’t make me feel like speaking out, it usually doesn’t really make me feel anything. I still think the Boston art world needs more bad reviews (feel free to come out and shit on my next show, really), but I am just not sure I can find the motivation to be the one that writes them.
So this time I set out to see a show that I was fairly certain I would like, to accept defeat once again, and just keep talking about the shows that I am excited about. For anyone that needs a recap, the kind of work that I am generally excited about is the kind that makes me think, and is also beautifully crafted. The kind that has something interesting to say, but does not lose sight of the fact that the act of creating (or performing) a piece is an equal partner to what is being said.
Cobi Moules makes that kind of work.
So despite the fact that a lot of the local galleries are hanging summer shows made up of last season’s left overs, and some are not even bothering to open at all, I was excited to make my way through the August heat to Carroll and Sons so I could check out Cobi’s work.
Cobi is a transgender guy, and this show is all about his struggles to fit in, and find his way through some confusing childhood desires. The paintings are very carefully rendered copies of New Kids on the Block posters, magazine clipping, and trading cards, with the artist inserting himself into the role of Danny Wood (perfect, because really, nobody really liked Danny all that much anyways). The paintings are all small scale pieces that invite you to really bury your nose in them and examine every detail. When you do this, what is revealed is really amazing. The paintings are very simple. No painterly embellishments, or subtle layering here; because really, it wouldn’t make any sense. The paintings are true to the spirit of the references, feeling very much like a 1990’s Teen Beat print quality level detail, except for the portraits of Cobi. I have no idea if this is intentional, or just a byproduct of his familiarity with his own face, but he stands out in the paintings. In each piece, Cobi is just slightly sharper, and more detailed than the New Kids that surround him, making him the star of the show here. It really gives a wonderful feeling of fitting in, while standing out.
The subject matter being explored is obviously significant, but the imagery is so playful and engaging that the pieces are easily approachable. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was smiling so hard in an art gallery. While his experience may seem to be far from what the average person may have gone through, these paintings find a brilliant way of revealing that we all have a lot more in common than what is seen at first glance.
I have no idea why Carroll and Sons sent it to summer show purgatory, but this show is definitely worth visiting before it comes down at the end of the week.
New Kid: Back to the Beginning
August 3 – 20, 2016