Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ladda, Estrada, Shubuck, Miracle 5

There’s a number of fun shows on Harrison Avenue that close this weekend.

Mario Diacono presents New Yorker Justen Ladda’s 2000 “Tree of Knowledge” (at left), an elaborately crafted 7-foot-tall clear glass bead tree with red bead apples and a blue and black bead serpent slithering up the trunk and eyeing you. The whole serpent in the Garden of Eden thing is lame, but the tree is wonderfully sparkly and fabulous, like a tree of ice. Using crystal petals from a chandelier as leaves is an especially nice move. It needs more of that sort of material invention. (Add white Christmas lights maybe?) But what terrific shadows.

At O·H+T Gallery, Reanne Estrada, who studied at Harvard and now lives in L.A., draws nervous psychedelic images resembling radiating suns, trees, veins of marble, and the pulses of electrocardiograms on geometric groupings of erasers. The drawings are just okay, but using erasers is an excellent idea. It’s like a kinder, gentler riff on Frank Stella’s 1960s shaped canvases. The pink, yellow, orange and blue erasers are a great, weird material – quite thick in proportion to their surface dimensions, with a smooth rubbery surface and rounded edges. Some are opaque, some are beautifully translucent.

New Yorker Simone Shubuck has an obsessive 2005 drawing “Shell Monster” (shown at cockeyed angle at left) and cycle of lithographs in the group show “Love in a Cold Climate” at Allston Skirt. There’s lots of this girly, doodley flowers-birds-Muppet-heads-floating-in-abstract-paradise stuff these days, but she does it nicely.

The talk of Harrison Avenue this month has been the Miracle 5 show at Rhys Gallery. The work by this Boston-area collective has lots of feisty aesthetic pyrotechnics, riffing on cartoons, tattoos, and religious art. It’s brighter, more playful, more badass than a lot of stuff seen hereabouts. Perhaps it has something to do with the blatant Roman Catholic influences. (Before I go on, I should note that these folks are pals of mine and I’ve shown with them.)

The collective doesn’t present collaborative works here, but rather a selection of stuff by folks with the same turn-ons. Elaine Bay assembles wild, furry, sparkly sacrilegious constructions (above). I’m especially taken by her sculpture that looks like a giant fab furry green purse. Aimée LaPorte riffs on tattoos and Mexican wrestling (left). Ken Boutet uses the iconography of comics – thought balloons, bubbles, sweat droplets – as the vocabulary of his bright, layered abstractions (below). Dave Raul Gonzalez presents cartoony robot paintings (further below) mulling fame and money. Dave Ortega has a superflat robot painting and animation cel drawings (at bottom).

Some of this stuff feels too close to its sources, not digested and reinvented enough, but you can feel the artists’ excitement. My favorite piece is LaPorte’s shrine celebrating miracles attributed to Santa Claus – part Xmas decoration, part holy reliquary, with a heart of all American consumerist plastic.

Justen Ladda “Tree of Knowledge,” Mario Diacono at Ars Libri, 500 Harrison Ave., Boston. Feb. 2 to 28, 2007; Reanne Estrada “Eraser Drawings,” O·H+T Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, Feb 2 to 24, 2007; “Love in a Cold Climate,” Allston Skirt Gallery, 65 Thayer Street, Feb. 2 to 24, 2007; “The Miracle5 Attack!” Rhys Gallery, 401 Harrison Ave., Boston, Feb. 1 to 24, 2007.


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