STACKS Matt Rich's rhythmic abstractions suggest Frank Stella in their formal design and street art in their gritty surface textures.
If street art made a baby with Frank Stella's 1960s geometric abstractions, the offspring would look something like Matt Rich's show "Ghost Muscle" at Samson (450 Harrison Ave Boston, through April 28). The Cambridge artist choreographs and weaves swatches of cut-out paper, slathered and sprayed with paint, into handsome triangles, color bars, and one curious, busted star that all float on Samson's big, open white walls.
Rich's geometric designs resemble Stella's. In Stacks, you can feel the thought going into the careful placement of each stripe to create harmonies of various blues and browns, each band angled down, one perpendicular to the next, to become a series of Vs, the pattern slightly syncopated so that it never repeats the same way twice. Rich's textures bring to mind the grit of the streets. In reproduction, the painted paper abstractions appear flat. In person, the colors have fades or are painted one atop the other in ways that bring to mind those found Rothkos you see where graffiti in underpasses has been painted over with rectangles of paint that don't quite match the original wall. And the paper in Rich's show is scuffed and ripped, dented and bent, like something you'd find wheatpasted to a wall.
One of the things that's easy to overlook about Rich's work is its delicacy. When his paintings were exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art as one of the 2010 Foster Prize finalists, the supersized galleries dwarfed his pieces, making them seem both physically and intellectually small. Back at Samson, where his 2009 show got people to stand up and take notice, Rich's works look great again. And increased painterliness gives them more juice. Scribble — which stands out because it's the one piece to eschew hard geometry — features blue, purple, white, and yellow paint scraped and scribbled atop paper strips and sheets taped and pasted together into a bumpy shape that resembles a charmingly goofball cartoon cloud.
For some years, Zoe Perry-Wood of Lexington has been photographing creative community spectacles — Provincetown's Carnival, cross-dressing in Oaxaca, Mexico, Halloween costumes — activities often overlooked by the art world, but created by artists who insist on expressing and asserting their communities nonetheless.
In "The BAGLY Prom Series" at Gallery Kayafas (450 Harrison Ave, Boston, through May 12), she documents the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth's annual prom at Boston City Hall, which is billed as the oldest (since 1981) and largest event of its kind in the country (attracting some 2000 people). The next prom is scheduled for May 19.
From 2008 to '10, Perry-Wood shot candid photos in the middle of the revelry — dancers bumping and grinding, a girl arranging her fingers into a heart on her chest. Last year, Perry-Wood set up lights and a dark photo backdrop to create more traditional, formal prom portraits. The results (which also include portraits from the BAGLY Halloween Party) are awkward and kind of detached in the way that posed prom photos often are. You feel more the people's wariness, their defenses up, than Perry-Wood connecting with who they are. But it's a tantalizing glimpse into a huge event, happening in plain sight, that often goes unnoticed by the rest of the city. Meet the leather boy in vest, short shorts and military cap; the girl with her wrists decorated by colorful bracelets and her arms striped red with cuts; the female couple, one in a gown, the other in a tuxedo; and two guys with their foreheads pressed together, intimate.
Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.