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Boyce Cummings, Camouflage

Jonathon Shorr Gallery
109 Crosby Street, 212-334-1199
May 19 - June 16, 2007
Reception: Wednesday, May 23, 6 - 9 PM
Web Site

The concepts of versus and camouflage dominates this new series of artworks by Boyce Cummings. In the first sense at odds, in the second at peace, and foremost the disguise from itself and its surroundings. In his first major exhibition since winning the Rome Prize and returning from the American Academy in Rome, we are pleased to present this new collection of Boyce Cummings’ new work.

Man vs. animal, machine vs. nature, realism vs. abstraction, old vs. new, finished vs. unfinished, high art vs. low art and losing vs. winning. There is a combination of hard-edge abstraction, traditional representational painting combined with graffiti and cartoon elements, all pushed through a somewhat surrealist filter. In many cases this perception that certain things are at odds, can in ways be the very glue that connects them. This apparent confusion is what makes the world interesting.

Boyce Cummings is an African American man who is the product of a biracial marriage, his mother is Norwegian. Brought up as he was, he has always had an ability to see both sides of the fence. He tends to avoid using people as subject matter, and by doing so, avoids the common argument of racial politics. He grew up in Colorado and has always had a close connection to nature. By using animals and other elements as stand ins, he is able to create something that has the ability to be more universal.

That said he focuses almost entirely on his own interior world. Cummings believes that for his work to be meaningful, even if it is only meaningful to him, it must be true. One of the ways that he does this is by using a somewhat rigid system of symbols; for example, he uses the image of a trumpet as the symbol for arrival. He commonly uses the ellipse’ as a symbol for trap while blue birds were originally a symbol for oppression, appropriated from Disney’s Song of the South, end up being a release. Most symbols remain as constants while others are cycled out, changed or invented anew. This is how he tells his truth.

Truth can be a relative concept dependent upon consensus. Therefore what is true for Boyce Cummings is not necessarily true for the viewer. The viewer must rely upon they’re own personal experience to understand what these drawings, paintings, and sculpture are about. By staying away from issues that are based in fact, which is similar to truth but lacking room for interpretation, he creates an ambiguity, which has the ability to “speak ” without having to literally be spoken. In other words, Cummings applies the mantra…”If you can say it don’t paint it!” to himself.

However, he uses art as a way to talk about things that he feels are true but have no words to support their existence. His art has a way of sorting and sifting through our contemporary landscape like no other.
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