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Romancing the Concept 

Wounded in love. It happens all the time. Some bear scars that don't heal, while others recover to love another day. In either case, life (usually) goes on, as people go to work, buy groceries, walk dogs. A few creative types parlay their wounds into novels or plays. Visual artists sometimes do the same in paintings, drawings or sculpture -- or even conceptual art.

If conceptual art seems an oddly clinical choice for working out one's amorous missteps, Blake Boyd uses it as a stage on which his self-described love life is writ large. He also uses it as a way to borrow from his favorite famous artists. His show's premise is summarized in a text panel that, in part, reads, "In 1995 I had a premonition that I would see a Star Wars movie in a theater with the woman I would be with forever. March 2, 2002, I met a woman who took my very breath away. June 19, 2002, we saw Star Wars: Episode II together at Elmwood Palace. This is not a show about a lover. It's a letter to my best friend."

That's the good news. The prologue is that his heart had allegedly been broken earlier by a certain ingénue celebrity, a wound so grievous that only an angel could heal it. An angel named Katherine Brennan, his obsessive subject and Elmwood Palace/Star Wars date, seen here as Snow White (or, Sneewittchen, in the original German). On the far wall of the gallery are 14 over 4-feet tall panels, each featuring a similar view of a Disneyesque Snow White. But rather than Disney pastels, they're rendered in runny crimson, and in high key relief, like so many Warhol silkscreens. Yet, unlike Warhol, Boyd works on white clay glazed to a high gloss, like oversized tiles. And that crimson pigment, so suggestive of wine or blood, turns out to be wine mixed, allegedly, with the artist's own blood, adding Andres Serrano to Disney and Warhol on the list of influences.

The theatrical tone continues in an untitled piece, a store mannequin in an elaborate velvet Snow White costume. There are also drawings such as Something, in which Snow White, surrounded by small animals, greets Pinocchio, all rendered in white clay and artist's blood. Fortunately for Boyd, who's been looking a little pale, other drawings are done in more conventional media. Bad Timing, in which Pinocchio shows Snow White his donkey tail as Dr. Doom hovers above, is rendered in graphite and crayon. In the back gallery is a replica Darth Vader mask as well as a big, 6-by-8-feet image of Darth Vader rendered in artist's blood titled I Won't Let Her Rejection Turn Me Into My Father. Presumably this refers to the earlier rejection, but with Boyd it's all a little slippery, and Pinocchio casts a long shadow here. Still, it's his most impressive show to date, a sly, if distinctly stylish and nicely realized, extravaganza of sorts.

When Mark Davis had his first show at Heriard-Cimino, his abstract minimal canvases were noteworthy for their suggestions of recognizable bits of the environment, brick walls and such. This time around there are no obvious references, yet they seem to possess an almost organic sensibility. You might not see it at first -- or maybe you will. They are elusive. All are untitled, yet all have subtitles. For instance, Untitled (Mississippi Sound) from a distance resembles a large yellowish square. Up close, it's more complex as little patches of green or ivory bleed from below in irregular banded patterns, like an old brick wall where earlier paint jobs are making their presence felt. It doesn't really say brick wall, but it has that kind of presence. Untitled (St. Francis) looks pallid at first, but it's really comprised of many horizontal bands of colors like pale, cream-of-asparagus-soup green, violet and turquoise, with tart streaks of mustard at the base.

Up close, the colors are bright, tasty; from further back they suggest a woven tapestry, while from a distance there is hardly any color, just an elusive patch of something, a kind of vibrant void. It's surprising work -- just when you think you know what you're looking at, they vibrate with subtle intrigue, the elusive aura of the chameleon.

click to enlarge Blake Boyd's Sneewittchen (German for "Snow - White") show, on display at Arthur Roger, includes - the graphite-on-crayon work, Bad Timing -- sly - and stylish.
  • Blake Boyd's Sneewittchen (German for "Snow White") show, on display at Arthur Roger, includes the graphite-on-crayon work, Bad Timing -- sly and stylish.
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