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Out East: I Think They Like Us Up Here

My goal since moving from Texas to Boston in July has been to seek out as much “Texas” as possible in the Northeast. I tend to find it when I least expect it: the Texas Saloon on Time Square, the Volvo wagon in my neighborhood with the “No New Texans” bumper sticker, the disproportioned shape of Texas on the sign of the barbecue shop next door (I offered to fix its shape one day when a regular assured me that he liked their ‘salty fries, brisket, and their Texas too”). Given the opportunity, I’ll stand up for the Lone Star state. After seven months away, I am still convinced that the best art in the country is being made in Texas.

BBQ joint in Boston (note deformed shape of Texas).

The first surprise to greet me was a small pencil drawing by Aaron Parazette tucked alongside a group of Bostonians in the inaugural exhibition of the Boston Drawing Project at Bernard Toale Gallery. Here, the contours of the spills were allowed to shine in a new way. Perhaps the small scale added to the experience, but there was something more intimate about having to get up close to see the faint pencil lines on the vellum. I’ve always dealt with his paintings as explosions of paint, backing up against the wall in some cases to take in the color and the overall experience of the work. It was nice to glimpse into his process and gain a greater appreciation for the importance of the contours of his paint images. The next week, at the Post-Hypnotic exhibition at Mass Art, Parazette’s large-scale paint explosion was again carefully edged, this time with small neon lines. Together, the pencil and the neon lines offered a greater appreciation of the obsessive control over paint that Parazette offers in his paintings.

Aaron Parazette, Study for Paintinggraphite on paper, 8

In New York, Lombard-Fried Fine Art left me giddy and inspired in strange ways by the potential of art right now. The pleasure of simply seeing art is often muddled up in an idea or theoretical context. With a painter’s sensibility, Brad Tucker continues to arrange his homemade stereophonic components to “temporarily suspend overt intellectual dialogue.” The work here was akin to Drum Solos at Houston’s Inman Gallery last year, with the important addition of a small pile of cast plastic flip flops (entitled Flip Flop). Tucker’s interest in language continued in wall works referencing American signage, which were the least interesting elements in the exhibition. Nonetheless, Tucker’s color, innovation, and Denton sense of humor combine to keep me looking forward to his next exhibition.

With Jeff Elrod‘s recent paintings at Leo Koenig, I noticed few, very subtle innovations from his earlier work. Recently I read an article about an artist who has painted gray and white monochromatic panels for almost twenty years now. The subtle differences, he said, were what kept his attention. In Elrod’s new work the color choices differ a little, his titles are new, and his humor is perhaps a bit more present. For me, it is still enjoyable to look at his paintings, and perhaps that’s enough. However I can’t help but wonder how long the mouse and paint roller will hold our attention.

Brad Tucker, Flip Flop, 2002cast plastic and latex, variable dimensions

At Charles Cowles Gallery, I followed a silver-haired patron towards the back room where Mr. Cowles himself let her in but snapped a chain back into place, barring me. “I was just looking at the Vernon Fisher,” I said. “Well, that’s the password. C”mon back! We enjoy seeing Texans here!” I wondered if this rite of passage would work in other galleries as I took a look at the works by Fisher, Al Souza, and Tommy Fitzpatrick leaning against the wall.

A Jeff Elrod from Leo Koenig's gallery

It’s good to be a Texan, and humbling to consider my place in the aesthetic lineage of Texas. Michael Auping, Director of the Fort Worth Modern, once described a Texans as having a “wry, very deadpan kind of humor that has a certain sinister element.”* This reminds me of a postcard I saw in Houston’s Boot Town during Christmas. The shape of Texas had sprawled out over the American map to reach from Mexico to Canada, from the East coast to the West. In some ways, I think it’s happened: our sense of humor and aesthetic have made their way, at least, out east.

C. Sean Horton is an artist living in Allston, MA.

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