Boys of Summer at Monique Meloche: On View through August 2, 2008

Summer shows are hard to come by at galleries; either galleries shut down for most of the week (isn’t that nice!) or the show just a smattering of works that have yet to be sold by the artists they represent. Fortunately, the Monique Meloche Gallery is open on Saturdays during the summer AND a curatorial twist has been put on the ubiquitous survey of every artist represented by the gallery. Boys of Summer concisely navigates issues of identities in contemporary works by male artists. More specific to this exhibition than the issue of identity is the issue of identity in terms of portraiture, a motif espoused by many of the artists, Jesper Just (a personal favorite for his whimsical films), Nick Cave, Zane Lewis, Ebony Patterson, among others.

Co-inciding with the upcoming presidential election is a cut-out of dried red, white, and blue acrylic paint of the presumptive Democratic nominee, (as everyone is calling him, although we all know that he is already the nominee!) Barack Obama. Recalling Jackson Pollock, but more specifically Lynda Benglis, the concept of the mixing of paint is so self-evident, so salient in periodicals’ discussions of the candidate that this work appears as just one form of historical evidence pointing towards the significance of Obama’s candidacy, but the painting is so banal because of it.

Nick Cave and Ebony Patterson’s works are both close-up portraits of “masked” men. Cave’s S & M masks have a thrift-store quirkiness that confuses a reading of the human expression beneath. Patterson’s mixed-media portraits of Jamaican criminals, painted faces surrounded by made of delicately drawn lines and baroque patterns cut into thick paper, belie the usual grittiness associated with public portrayals of these men.

Portraits that hide, portraits that mix, and the difficulty of defining oneself through appearances: Boys of Summer is a coming of age story, or rather, a coming of identity story that could be either male, female, or both.

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