Week two of my attempt to visit (almost) every exhibition in Boston this fall (you can read week one here) I’m off to a bit of a slow start, and I haven’t gotten that far off the beaten path (yet), as you will see. If I missed anything cool, or you have any recommendations for my next round of gallery visits, get in touch.

I missed the opening for “People Watching: Then and Now” at the Fitchburg Art Museum, but I plan on checking out the show soon. If anyone wants to ride out there and visit the show with me, let me know!

Last week I a few people reached out to let me know what they thought of my show reviews. A couple of people thought I was trashing everything, while a few others seemed to think I was going easy on everyone. I think both groups are kinda missing the point of the exercise, so let me clarify things before I go any further. The following post is just a quick reaction to everything I saw. It is meant to be fairly light reading, and to possibly start some conversations, but is definitely not a serious piece of art criticism. If you think I am an idiot, or I totally missed the point of some piece of art, feel free to reach out and give me a piece of your mind. I welcome the feedback, and the chance to dive deeper into nerdy art talk.

So here is round two, five days of art, in the order I saw it.

Day 1

Feeling Feeling

A collaborative exhibition by Emmy Bright & J.R. Uretsky

The Distillery Gallery

I visited this show for the last round of gallery visits, but kept it out of the post because I was thinking about writing a more in depth review of it. Ultimately, I am just not sure I have the vocabulary (or the time) to do this show justice, so I will just say I enjoyed it. Playful and thought provoking, what else can you ask for? That said, the show could have used a little editing. There were a few pieces that jumped out at me, not because they were bad, but because they didn’t seem to fit into the show. It’s a tall order for artists to curate their own work, but the Distillery Gallery has always been a run what you brung kinda spot.

Day 2

Luxury Waters

Pat Falco with Tory Bullock and Robin Banks

Gallery Open

Pat’s work really shines when he takes his illustrations and expands on them into a larger narrative. After seeing this, I am kinda bummed I skipped out on his Boston Campaign Headquarters installation last year.

Day 3

Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist

Mark Dion

ICA Boston

I felt a real kinship to this work, for reasons that I could not really put my finger on. Hearing the artist speak about his work solidified that feeling, and I felt myself wondering if the things he was saying hit with everyone there the same way. Is this a universal thing, or just something that really connected with me.

Day 4

Richard Yarde: Portraits

UMass University Hall Gallery

I did no research other than googling the address before walking into this show. Obviously, I was thrilled to step into a moving show of portraiture. My favorite piece was a small, oddly cropped, untitled piece, that seemed to be a bit of an afterthought. (I stole the image above from their instagram, the piece is on the far left of this pic) I left thinking about how I live in a city packed with universities and I only bother to visit their galleries when my friends are showing.

Sally Ladd Cole

Sloane Merrill Gallery

Apologies in advance to Sally Ladd Cole. I walked into the gallery and immediately got side tracked by some beautiful still life paintings by Shira Avidor. Sometimes a painters technique is so nice that you end up staring at a painting of bread for a solid 10 minutes and forget to look at the main show in the gallery.

Dysgraphia

Katina Huston

Chase Young Gallery

The contrast between the ink washed plexiglass (I think?) and the nice thick strokes of oil paint is really striking. Beyond that these pieces didn’t really do it for me.

Dmitri Cavander

Soprafina Gallery

Nicely painted Bay Area style landscapes. Two galleries in a row that seem to be celebrating thick strokes of highly pigmented oil paint. At this point, I am feeling good, even found myself enjoying a piece that turned out to be an Ipad drawing.

Abridged

Robert Richfield

Gallery Kayafas

Gallery Kayafas always finds a way to make me care about photography. I liked the man vs nature aspect of the photographs. One piece in particular, which depicted people flowing over the bridge, while water rushing below really stood out for me.

Writhe & Resolve: Aspects of Arcadia

Aristotle Forrester

Matter & Light

No idea how long this gallery has been here, because I have never even bothered to go down to this area of 450 Harrison. How lazy is that? It’s like five steps down from the other galleries.

Anyways, these paintings were an orgy of brush strokes. They look like paintings that were created by a fictional artist in a movie scene, just dancing and hacking away with the brush… except I’m not hating them. Some of the compositions are a bit off kilter, but I like the explorations of the different marks and textures that can be made with paint.

Joseph Adolphe

M Fine Arts

Next door to the last place, and again, never even knew this gallery was here. I wasn’t really feeling the animal paintings, but the still life pieces were interesting. At this point am getting hungry and I’m annoyed that I didn’t hate still life paintings (twice).

Raul Diaz

Adelson Galleries

This looks like the art at a really fancy hotel.

POUR. PUSH. LAYER.

Jeannie Motherwell

Rafius Fane Gallery

This gallery has been full of surprises since it opened. Their programming seems to be all over the place, but every time I walk in I see something interesting. I guess I like it here.

I have recently started come to terms with the fact that there is the way I like to paint, and then there is the way that some ideas need to be painted. Along with this realization has come a renewed interest in the different ways that paint can be spread around.

These pieces were really beautiful explorations of the properties of paint and pigments. I should have stuck around and listened to the artist speak–maybe she would have revealed some deeper meaning–but I left happy after simply taking in the lovely surfaces.

Day 5

The Paperweight That Keeps My World From Blowing Away

A Solo Exhibition by Nick Zaremba

Thomas Young Gallery

I feel like I am the only person in Boston who has not seen much of Nick’s work. The show was quirky and fun. The pieces that went beyond single characters and created more intricate scenes were particularly nice.

That’s it for this week.

Summer is over, galleries are coming out of hibernation, and haphazardly thrown together group shows are coming down to make way for more interesting fall programming. No more procrastinating, it’s officially time to re-engage with the (art)world and get to work in the studio.

In general, my inclination is to explore. I like to travel, and whenever I get to a new place, my first instinct is to walk around, say hello to strangers, and just see where luck takes me. On the other hand, when it comes to art, I have come to realize that I am stuck in an ever shrinking bubble. As I refine my own ideas, I have become increasingly interested in seeing related work – at the expense of exposing myself to a variety of ideas.

It is becoming a problem.

It’s becoming a problem because I know that if I put my preconceptions aside and open myself up to different ideas, if I approach art in the same way I would approach other explorations, I will come out the other end a better person for it.

With all that in mind I have decided to visit as many exhibitions as possible this winter. Boston has a relatively small community of galleries, museums, and other art spaces. There is no reason (other than apathy) that I can’t see 90% of what happens here. So, this winter I am going to do just that.

I can find the museums and mainstream galleries. But If you organize a pop up show, please let me know. If you are running a gallery out of your living room, please invite me over. If there is an interesting alternative space that I might not know about, please reach out. Seriously. I want to engage with as much art as I can, and to keep myself honest, I am going to write a little bit about everything I see.

To start things off, a rundown of everything I managed to see last Friday. Organized in the order that I visited.

It Can’t Rain All The Time

Solo exhibition of recent work by Anthony Palocci jr.

How’s Howard

I always make How’s Howard the first stop when I visit the galleries in the South End. This spot has been putting together great shows since day one, but when I saw the kitschy macho imagery of Anthony’s new paintings, my first reaction was negative. This is a perfect example of why I need to slow down and listen, instead of jumping to conclusions. The paintings felt incredibly honest and sensitive, despite my pre-judgements. The pieces are small, beautifully painted, and they really do a nice job of examining the burden of simple moments. Nice work, it played with my preconceptions and brought me somewhere interesting. Definitely worth a visit.

Reconfigure

Featuring work by Lavaughan Jenkins and Ariel Basson Freiberg

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery

I was pretty excited to check out Lavaughan Jenkins’ pieces in this show. I really enjoyed his paintings at Kingston Gallery last spring, and the leap to three dimensional work seems like a logical one for a painter employing so much texture. The sculptures did not disappoint, as they managed nicely translate the energy and feel of the two dimensional pieces. That said, the sculptures (3D paintings?) didn’t seem like fully realized pieces of art. Instead, it felt like this was the next step towards something greater. Looking forward to see where Lavaughan goes next with this. Very cool.

Similarly, Ariel Basson Freiberg’s paintings felt somewhat incomplete for me. Interesting explorations, but the concepts hit me with a heavy hand, and the execution did not seem fully resolved. Is my instinct to over work the shit out of every painting clouding my judgement here? Maybe the paintings would have worked at small scale, but there just wasn’t enough information to fill the large canvases. Would love to hear from anyone who had a different experience with these pieces.

–update–
For anyone looking for another take on this show, and a more favorable look at Ariel Basson Freiberg’s work in particular;
check out this piece on Big Red & Shiny.

Thisness

Work by Angela A’Court

GalleryBOM

Still life drawings, simply rendered in pastel. I have to admit that it takes a lot to get me excited about still life painting at this point, but these images are fairly striking, and they grabbed my attention as I walked by. The bold flattened compositions and earthy tones worked together to create something that commanded a second look. On closer inspection though, the texture of the soft pastels is just too much of a turn off for me.

First Light

Paintings by Bernard Chaet

Alpha Gallery

I had the exact opposite experience here, than I had next door at GalleryBOM. These pieces were all about the texture, all about the beautiful application of paint for me. The compositions were somewhat dry from a distance, but the closer I looked the more I was pulled in by the siren song of the energetic brushwork. Strangely, when I stepped back and looked at the show as a whole, it appeared to be painted by 2 or 3 different artists (each of which was heavily influenced by some other, more famous artist). I don’t know anything about this painter, but I would guess he is probably a well-respected professor who has spent too much time with his students absorbing historic paintings.

Brian Zink

Miller Yezerski Gallery

Whenever I walk into a show of work that is super clean and minimal like this, I feel like the art is judging me. It seems to smirk, “You could never be this tasteful Nick, what are you painting Master P album covers?” I don’t know, It just isn’t my thing.

I couldn’t find any information about the show, or any current images of the work on the galleries website, so I just grabbed an image of a random piece. Maybe they are still on summer vacation?

Also at Miller Yezerski: more Ariel Basson Freiberg?

I don’t understand why two galleries within spitting distance are showing the same artist at the same time. Is this the best that Boston can do? I was a little hard on her paintings before, so I want to be clear that this shouldn’t be taken as a shot at her. But really. Seriously though. There are what… 20(?) galleries in Boston? And I am looking at the same art in two of them on the same night?

Wholly Idle

Sean Downey

Steven Zevritas Gallery

Large scale paintings. Bright colors. Exploring the role of photography, film, imagery in our society. This show has everything I normally like, but it just didn’t connect for me. Maybe I was just running out of steam after visiting a handful of other shows. I don’t know but this just didn’t do it for me. I will have to go back for a second look with fresh eyes.

Immigrancy

Samson Projects

A show about immigrants, refugees, expats. By the only gallery in town that could pull it off. I saved this show for last, because I expected a compelling experience and I wanted to finish my night on a high note. Then I walked in the door, picked up the information sheet, and was greeted by the news that this would be Samson’s final show.

I honestly had a hard time even focusing on the show. This is one of the few spaces left in Boston that is consistently putting on interesting, engaging, and challenging exhibitions. While the people behind this gallery will undoubtedly still be doing great work, the Boston art world will be worse off without this space.

In any case, it was cool to see the work of local folks hanging next to some international big name. In retrospect, this show feels like a bit of resume. This is what Samson does, don’t forget us, we will be back. I will be sure to visit one more time – before it’s too late – to give this show the attention it deserves.

Wait, did I just see another Ariel Basson Freiberg piece? I guess I can’t hate on the hat trick.

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 Moules Summet Shoot VI

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.

Cobi Moules Drug Free School Zone

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.

Cobi Moules NKOTB Trading Card

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.

Cobi Moules

New Kid: Back to the Beginning

at Carroll and Sons

August 3 – 20, 2016

These days, when I am searching for inspiration, or trying to find my way through a problem in my work, I tend to look in music.

I have written a little about this before.

The thing is, I spend so much time thinking about painting, so much time examining the structure, and so much time analyzing the techniques used, that I have reached a point where I have a hard time turning that off. It’s hard to enjoy a magic show, when you know the trick to all the illusions. As this point, when I come across a great painting, I approach it like a scientist, like an archaeologist gently uncovering the layers of paint. It’s a great way to learn how to make paintings, but a terrible way to really connect with a piece. I often find myself unable to turn this off. So I look to something that is still a little more mysterious (to me), I look to music to find my muse.

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There are still occasions when I come across work that I can’t reverse engineer. Sometimes I come across work that does something I cannot figure out, and does it incredibly well. I have been talking a lot about organizing a show of portraiture; and as I have been selecting artists for this exhibition, this is a lot of what I have been looking for.

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When they want to stop people in their tracks, to grab attention and pull people in, painters go big. It’s relatively easy to make an impression with the largest piece in the gallery, we know this. Getting the same response from a six inch tall piece is something different. Catherine Kehoe makes small paintings that command attention from across the room. Pieces that look great from a distance, and then get even better as you move in for a closer look. Years ago, I stumbled upon an exhibition of Catherine’s portraits at what is now Miller Yezersky Gallery (just Howard Yezerski Gallery back then), and I have been borderline obsessed with her work ever since. As I am typing this, I am staring at the tiny icons of the files that contain images of her work. Incredibly, the pieces still draw me in at this tiny scale. This is the magic of her work, not a single stroke of the brush (or knife) is wasted. The paintings walk a fine line, where the careful planning of each crisp mark is clearly evident, but somehow they still feel effortlessly spontaneous.

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I am writing this after a long day in the studio so, this is going to be short and sweet. I plan on diving deeper into her work soon, but Catherine’s current solo show at Miller Yezersky Gallery closes next week. On the off chance anyone out there is not familiar with her work, I wanted to make sure I did my part to encourage you to go pay it a visit. Obviously, my favorites are the portraits, but she even manages to find a way to make me love still life painting.

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She will be at the gallery this Saturday from 1-4pm (and has promised chocolate snacks) so that is an ideal time to stop in and experience the show before it’s too late.

There is something about photography, something missing. I have had a hard time identifying exactly why, but I just can’t convince myself to give photography the same attention that I would pay to other visual art forms. When I see a beautifully composed photograph, or one with exceptional subject matter, I will stand in front of it, and I will try. I will try to get pulled into the image. I will try to stay focused, and really consider the piece. I will try, but I will usually fail.

Obviously, creating a great photograph takes a lot of planning and precision. I am not trying to claim that photography is easy, or that it is not a useful and potentially powerful form of art. Maybe it is because I spend so much time using photography as a tool to create prints or paintings. Maybe it is because I spend too much time on the internet, burning hundreds of throwaway images into my eyes each day. I don’t quite know the answer, but I default to treating photography (even the really good stuff) the same way I treat my Instagram feed. Quickly stopping in front of the ones that catch my eye, then moving on about my day without ever slowing down to collect more than an immediate impression.

Last Friday, I set out to check out the Jacob Collins show opening at Adelson Galleries here in Boston. Now, landscape and still life paintings… are not exactly my thing. This is not the kind of subject matter that would normally motivate me to get up off my couch and across town on a Friday night. In this case, I hoped to find something in Jacob’s process. By all accounts, he is a talented realist painter, and while I am not generally concerned with following traditional methods, I still know enough to see that there is a lot I can learn from them. So I headed to the show in hopes of finding some technique that really spoke to me. I wanted to be dazzled, not by his imagery, but by his process.

I left that show after not much more than a quick lap around the gallery.

Instead, I found what I was looking for in Dell Hamilton’s photographs at SubSamson. As I walked into her space (she is the current resident artist at SubSamson), Dell was describing her work to another visitor, and I was immediately pulled in. She was describing exactly the problem I had been having with so much photography. Creating a great photograph takes planning. It takes technical precision. It is not an easy process to get right, but most of the work is done before the act of actually hitting the button. A lot of what I respond to in a work of art, has to do with the process. There is a lot of magic that can happen, after the plan has been established, but before the final product is presented. The act of creating, of working through problems, of making mistakes, and then finding a way to use them to your advantage; this human touch lends an air of importance to art work, and it is missing in a most photography. In the case of the photographs Dell was showing, composing and taking the photograph was just the beginning.

She described using the initial photographs as the basis for improvisation, experimenting with traditional analog, as well as digital techniques to introduce distortions and allowing each process to leave its mark along the way. Some of the marks are identifiable, key codes from old film, dust or fingerprints collected along the way; others are harder to pin down, distortions introduced by older scanners, glitches from editing software. The resulting images combine that nostalgia for old analog mediums, with the visual ques that may one day arouse similar feelings (future nostalgia?), in a way that really sings.

The work, and Dell, really speak better for themselves, so I will simply say that I left inspired, and recommend that you pay her a visit.

DH