Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mark Cameron Boyd at Galerie Ingrid Cooper

A little over a week ago I traveled up the Rockville Pike to see Mark Cameron Boyd's recent exhibition at Galerie Ingrid Cooper. Seldom have I ventured north into Maryland to view an exhibition, and I became a bit dumbfounded to learn the gallery was in the White Flint Shopping Mall. This would be curious, at least.

Art in a mall conjures up images of strange poster/prints replicating paintings derived from movie stills and promotional advertising for movies: stuff to hang in a dorm room. But, the idea of selling and purchasing art in a shopping mall makes perfect sense. There is a high volume of foot traffic; people are going there specifically to spend money; and there is no limit to that money to spend. Down the hall a visitor may spend several hundred or thousand dollars on furniture, commercial jewelry, shoes, literature, computer equipment, or cooking gadgets. Never mind the pop melodies of Amy Grant and Debbie Gibson in the background! If the opportunity should arise, "how much is that painting in the window?"

Ingrid Cooper has been operating her small boutique for a dozen years. Raised and educated in Germany, she mentioned that students were exposed to two hours of art education every week. "That doesn't mean it was quality; that depended on the teacher you had," she said. Students were educated about the aesthetics of composition, about classical art, and about how art evolved into and through the 20th Century. Though Ms. Cooper modestly questioned the quality of the art education as a whole in Germany, there is no question that she had it - something that a growing number of Americans cannot say they have had. For many in the States, mandatory art education stopped before the end of elementary school, if it was even offered. Keeping Ms. Cooper's education in mind, it will be certain that the "painter of light" will never make an appearance in her quiet space - painted prints of cozy cottages on canvas tend to clash with DeStijl walls and stainless steel counter displays (Galerie also displays artisan jewelry).

Mark Cameron Boyd has received his fair share of recognition lately for his chalkboard pieces: phrases or statements, written on alternating stripes of slate and tape, with tape removed, something he calls text bisections. What is revealed are half-strings of words that Boyd allows the viewer to sometimes fill in with an abandoned stick of chalk. They are ephemeral, require audience participation, involve looking and reading. The chalkboards might be too theoretical for the mall.

Created between 1998 and 2003, Boyd's work, currently on display at Galerie Ingrid Cooper, is a plausible step backward in time to what influenced the chalkboard pieces. Each composition is painting and decollage: an act of collage that involves cutting and tearing away from the compositional surface.

Decollage first came into vogue during the middle of the 20th Century when artists like Mimmo Rotella, Jacques Villegle and Raymond Hains admired the abstract nature of the vandalized posters on their respective city streets to such an extent that they pulled the posters down from the walls, carted them to their studios, and pasted them onto canvas and board.

Boyd's work does not share the vocabulary of street poster. Instead, it has newspapers from several cultures piled atop one another and stripped away. The layering of languages - Japanese, German, Spanish, French, English - is the cacophony of the DC street, the texture of sound heard passing between point A and point B, the poetics of language. Through the act of decollage, and the design of painting, the work becomes unified and whole.

Seeing the influence and execution of decollage from earlier work, the process for the chalkboards begins to make sense. Removing a strip of Japanese newspaper in the past is similar to removing a text-strewn strip of tape from a chalkboard.

Mark Cameron Boyd's exhibition at Galerie Ingrid Cooper will be on display through November 19. Galerie Ingrid Cooper is on the second floor of the White Flint Mall, 11301 Rockville Pike.

pictured: Thing in a Ringer, 2002, courtesy Mark Cameron Boyd.

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