Rising Art: Blake Boyd’s homage in Prospect 1.75
A few weeks ago I went to Gallery Bienvenu on Julia Street thinking I might write an article about Blake Boyd’s show, My Pinocchio Syndrome for Abigail…Ten Years Later. This Ain’t Disney Jeff. I was overwhelmed by both the breadth of work (references to Andy Warhol, Disney, personal trauma, Renaissance painting and sculpture) and the confusing concept (My Pinocchio Syndrome for Abigail was a show of Boyd’s work ten years ago at Galerie Simonne Stern, formerly in the Gallery Bienvenu location; this month’s was re-created with old and new work). I decided to hold off.
I’m so glad I waited, because I discovered at Coup d’Oeil on Magazine Street Friday that despite all there is to see at Gallery Bienvenu, it comprises less than half of Boyd’s current exhibition pursuits, seen altogether as a performance. The artist has appropriated Prospect New Orleans’ branding and graphic design for a Prospect.1.75 he calls “Slidell’s oldest biennale,” situated in the mid-2011 lull between Prospect.1.5 and Prospect.2.
Boyd’s title partially references the confusion around U.S. Biennial’s Prospect.2 curated by Dan Cameron, the international biennial delayed last year. Prospect New Orleans was originally planned as a biennial, but P.1 occurred in 2008, P.1.5 in 2010, and P.2 is slated for October 2011. While Boyd’s shows are in no way connected to P.2, Prospect New Orleans made their artist and venue list public on Wednesday. The announcement has cropped up everywhere from artforum.com to email forwarding, with an impressive local-to-international artist list star-studded with names like French conceptual artist Sophie Calle and American photographer William Eggleston.
Tonight at Coup d’Oeil, Boyd will open“The Batman Years.” as part of P.1.75. The gallery will have maps for attendees mimicking Prospect New Orleans’ guide, showing all of Boyd’sP.1.75 offerings, including the Bienvenu and Coup d’Oeil shows, an October 1 show at Nadine Blake on Royal Street, and an upcoming CD release of Supagroup’s latest album, for which Boyd designed the cover, at Eiffel Society on St. Charles.
Homage, parody’s cousin, is one of Boyd’s themes. The curator of “The Batman Years.” is supposedly Holly Woodlawn, a celebrity performance artist in Warhol's vibrant Factory scene. Boyd names members of The Factory as having a big influence on his work when he got to meet them in his twenties. In new acrylic paintings on aged paper created for Coup d’Oeil, Bruce Wayne (who symbolizes Warhol for Boyd) and Supergirl are having a pillow fight. The album cover Boyd designed for Supagroup parodies the soundtrack to Heavy Metal. The many particularities of Boyd’s artworks are better detailed here, and the full scope of his artistic plans is outlined here.
Boyd further plays with celebrity by self-referencing; as mentioned, the Bienvenu show is a re-interpretation of his show 10 years previous; the untitled Batman paintings in clay in Coup d’Oeil were shown at Arthur Roger in 2005; the first of Boyd’s untitled Batman, Bunny and Warrior sculptures were created in 1996 and more were created and shown at Barrister’s Gallery in 2000. P.1.75’s guide describes “The Batman Years.” as a re-interpretation of Icons, Boyd’s first solo show eighteen years ago at Hall Barnett Gallery.Homage and celebrity fascinated Warhol, and also like Warhol, Boyd exploits pop culture as fodder and source material; his method is somewhere between Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Warhol’s use of multiples of images that were already mass-produced, and the internet’s possibilities for infinite duplication.
There is an egalitarian quality to Boyd’s round-ups, a sort of every-man-as-artist mentality, as he quotes his presenter, celebrity actress Jennifer Coolidge as having said of the Bienvenu show, “I really don’t get this stuff… .” In effect, through all his references, Boyd is curating. His choices reflect a devotion also echoed in his materials. His extremely heavy clay paintings are commanding and austere, and his use of gold leaf and a clay tradition dating to Medieval sculpture are precious and labor intensive, showing seriousness. Yet, his use of celebrity cameos and Prospect New Orleans’ branding carry a lightness to the by-the-books procedures of art politics. These qualities combined form a reminder that art is a sacred space where any combination of things can occur and all things need not be explained.
[Writer’s note: When I was having a crisis in art school about whether or not to continue pursuing art as an adult, a mentor assuaged me by reminding me that there are things one can get away with as an artist in the public sphere that, in any other profession would have one either arrested or publicly ridiculed, but as an artist, has one celebrated.]
Blake Boyd’s “The Batman Years.” opens at Coup d’Oeil, 2033 Magazine St. Saturday, June 25 6-9 p.m. and runs through July 23.