Moyer’s work fits into a national sculpture trend that’s little seen here: scatter art (or, if you’re snarky: scatter trash), which draws on seemingly random assemblages of found objects. Other examples in the show include a white blob standing on steel rods and a wood plank by Miles Huston (grew up in Boston, now studying at Yale) and a bent-steel-and-Plexiglas thingamajig from Hyde Parkers Alexi Antonadis and Nico Stone.
The show also taps into Boston’s illustrationy painting scene, whose sole local outlet tends to be Space 242 (thank you, curator Ami Bennitt). Derek Aylward of Dedham offers catchy portraits of a cigar-puffing Red Auerbach and the mid-1980s Celtics line-up. His style is flat, loose, a bit painterly, with inspirations from mid-century modern and (it seems) Dana Schutz. Jonas Wood, who grew up in Boston but now lives in LA, contributes a similarly styled pencil drawing of Larry Bird.
Bostonian Cristi Rinklin impresses with a dreamy blue painting of sharply outlined smoke curls floating atop blurry water or clouds. Andrew Mowbray of Boston (Rinklin’s husband), whose work fits into Boston’s installation style, contributes a snazzy, typically well-crafted star quilt patched together from Tyvek sheeting.
Leading the rock side of things is Bostonian Joe Wardwell, whose painting You’ll Change floats the lyrics “And this bird you’ll never change” (from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ultimate rock anthem, “Free Bird,” of course) in front of rosy mountains and green fields. From a series of rock-lyrics-floating-above-landscapes paintings he’s been doing in the past couple of years, it’s very close to Ed Ruscha’s text paintings, but Wardwell replaces Ruscha’s cool non sequiturs with cozy, schmaltzy Hudson River School–ish landscapes and the macho power chords of rock and roll (note the psychedelic lettering). It’s sexy and silly, and probably the best work he’s done.
Rebecca Gordon is a Boston native who ran Second Gallery here but now toils in art school in Chicago (please come back). Her installation Rock, Pop, Classic features a pair of black pennants (made from pieced-together black sweatshirts) hung above a black stereo system (turned on, but silent) flanked by four black poles. The stereo rests on rolled-up black T-shirts. It feels like a powerful and vaguely eerie shrine to the music you listened to in your room at night as a teen.
Julia Hechtman, who arrived here from Chicago a bit over a year ago and now, with Kara Braciale, runs Proof Gallery in Second Gallery’s old space, contributes a grid of 16 head shots of dudes playing air guitar in her studio. Their eyes are closed and their mouths are open in a hum or howl, as if they were in holy rock-and-roll ecstasy.
What makes “This Is Boston” so satisfying is the taste of owner Russell LaMontagne and director Emily Isenberg, their knack for snagging artists’ best work, for providing just enough of a theme to hold the disparate pieces together (but not batter you over the head), and for play. Rather than early ’80s hardcore, the show’s mix of attitude, chops, and fun reminds me of the late-’80s Boston band the Pixies. Which is not a bad band to use as the lodestar for a movement.