Boys’ life

By GREG COOK  |  October 15, 2008
GALLERIES_TOP_FROST_Trap.jpg
TRAP: Chris Frost’s playful sculptures make you
think about what we’re playing at.
Somerville sculptor Chris Frost installed his own riff on the clubhouse at Boston Sculptors Gallery (a show that closed last weekend). Fort (2008) is a jury-rigged plywood tree rising to the gallery ceiling. Aluminum “planks” form a ladder up the trunk to aluminum “boards” that create a shelf fort between branches. On the floor nearby is Trap (2008), which resembles one of those traps seen in old cartoons. A boulder is held up by a stick, which can be yanked away by a rope when someone takes the bait — in this case a sandwich, the perfect lure for hungry guys or Yogi Bear. There’s a jaunty playful charm to these pieces, but Frost gets serious with his craftsmanship and materials, which often masquerade as something else. 

In Trap, the stone is actually stone, but everything else is bronze. The effect is to give boyhood dreams and pranks an adult twist — the more sophisticated materials make us think about what we’re really playing at. And I think what we’re playing at is war.

America and war have been the subjects of Providence sculptor Dave Cole’s work for several years now. And you have to say he’s had good timing — curators and art writers are finding it more and more irresistible.

His show “All American” at Judi Rotenberg Gallery presents American flags made of bullets, finely crafted baby clothes made from recycled Kevlar military flak vests, and an M60 machine gun mounted on a child’s wagon towed by a tricycle (all painted desert tan). There seems to be a critique here about raising our kids in a war culture, but it’s a one-liner. Cole doesn’t much go in for complexity or subtlety. He leaves you little room to ponder after you get his joke/statement.

More intellectually interesting is his Flags of the World (Study #1, 1:4 scale) (1997). He cut up a set of 192 flags of member nations of the United Nations and used the bits and pieces to sew a patchwork American flag. Although it’s only mildly compelling to look at, it does start you seesawing between the US as melting pot and the US as gobbling imperialist.

But Cole’s bluster keeps getting in the way. In this show, it peaks with a wall-filling blanket of woolly bronze wire knit on a pair of loaded shotguns — Cole knitted while the safeties were off. Of course. At first glance, it seems he might be subverting machismo via cute jokes and the third-wave feminist art technique of guys adopting women’s work (here sewing and knitting). But he’s actually got a hard-on for boyish bad-ass. What’s more hardcore cool than a bulletproof onesie? Or a machine gun mounted on a kid’s wagon? Or knitting with loaded shotguns? If these were real critiques, they’d make you feel revolted. Instead he makes it all seem wicked cool.

Argentine photographer Esteban Pastorino Díaz rigs cameras to kites and model planes and helicopters to create DIY bird’s-eye views that make the world look like boys’ plastic-model-train sets. His show at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Grossman Gallery includes shots of houses along a Boston street, shacks and boats along a muddy river, two orange propeller planes parked on a grass runway, and a series documenting a bloody bullfight. There’s something riveting about stepping back to see the grand patterns of people and communities.

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