Currently up now at Proof Gallery in South Boston is Boston Does Boston Six— a group exhibition featuring six artists either living or working in the city. The exhibition is organized around artists choosing one another, resulting, according to the curatorial statement on the gallery’s website, "…in an exciting cross section of the Boston arts community," but more on this later.
Among the six artists in this installment of Boston Does Boston is Big Red & Shiny’s first ‘Inside Out’ artist-in-residence Susan Metrican. At first glance, Metrican’s painting Dodgeball, could be a painting of a wall constructed out of Straffordshire blue brick and looks as flat as any other wall does. With time, this flatness evolves into a two-dimensional space, forcing the viewer to look beyond the surface of the brick. In Dodgeball, there's always more than meets the eye.
The last time I saw the work of Nick Sullivan was in Bricks and Mortar, a summer pop-up exhibition curated by four MassArt students. Kiddos, isn’t much of a departure from the work I saw last summer, in fact, Nick Sullivan is still playing around with the common and familiar: imagery re-appropriated from Japanese woodblock prints. Using die-cut aluminum, the two life-size figures in Kiddos resemble figures commonly found in the prints depicting the pleasures of the red light district of Edo, Japan. With vivid oil paint colors applied in textured strokes injected with speed and vigor, Kiddos is full of ambiguity and tension, two things Sullivan is clearly good at.
Jeannie Simms explores a cultural experience of a different kind. A select group of photographs from Simms’ series Ready Maids, explores the language of servitude and domestic workers. Simms spent time inside a domestic worker residence in Java, Indonesia photographing women training to become maids. As a result of the homoerotic trainings these women are subjected to, many of them become lesbians. Simms’ three photographs on the second level of the gallery attest that environmental, social and cultural forces can shape and alter a person’s identity.
Joe Joe Orangias’ piece The Last Batch, the most conceptual work in the exhibition is also the most provocative. Archival inkjet prints cut-up into small pieces, are tossed inside a fryer basket nested on top of a painted wooden pedestal. In The Last Batch, the idea prevails over the finished piece and it stands out. John Gonzalez’s and Thomas Willis’ site specific paintings blend in with the walls and floors of the gallery, and they’re easily disregarded unless one is made aware of it by other people or gallery attendant.
While Boston Does Boston Six may come across as an "exciting cross section of the Boston arts community," five of the six artists in it represent only two schools in Boston — MassArt and the Museum School. And while there’s diversity within the works exhibited in this installment, the last five versions of Boston Does Boston have been more dynamic in terms of schools and backgrounds represented. The first three versions of this exhibition have also been larger, but with more cross-pollination between artists, curators and institutions, I have no doubt that Boston Does Boston can be a much more exciting and diverse exhibition from here on.
Boston Does Boston Six is on view at Proof Gallery January 12 - February 23, 2013.