David Hilliard at Carroll and Sons

Plus Japanese and European works at the MFA
By EVAN J. GARZA  |  January 26, 2009

David Hilliard, Rock Bottom (2008, triptych of C-prints)

It's not every day that a guy like me gets to enjoy a photographic investigation of daddy-boy relationships. . . . well, outside of a naughty format, at least.Opening February 18 at Carroll and Sons is "DAVID HILLIARD: BEING LIKE," a show of several multi-panel photographic works that examine autobiographical experiences, relationships between men, and what Hilliard refers to as "the masculine condition." Through a collection of photographic triptychs and polyptychs, Hilliard's environments are split among multiple panels, separated into "chapters" of imagery, with male subjects seemingly estranged from one another — they're linked through a visually unified but physically disconnected plane. Hilliard's work touches on a multitude of themes — sexuality, longing, coming of age, mortality — through images of men and boys in often haunting and serene natural surroundings. This is not the artist's first stint in Boston; he has enjoyed many shows at Bernard Toale (seven, to be exact), and he's returning to the same gallery space, which is now Joseph Carroll's new digs.

Across town, the Museum of Fine Arts is presenting 17 recently acquired large-scale Japanese paintings in "SHOWA SOPHISTICATION: JAPAN IN THE 1930S," which opens February 11. Produced in Tokyo in the 1930s, or the early Showa era (what the MFA describes as an "overlooked period in the history of the arts in Japan"), the paintings show Westernized Japanese men and women donning skis, decorating Christmas trees, and sipping tea in French designs amid Art Deco environments. (It might sound incredibly dull, but try to imagine Tokyo before pachinko and karaoke bars.) According to an MFA press release, these paintings were "exhibited at the leading Tokyo annual exhibitions" — which you can take however you like. What the show acknowledges, however, is the period of Japanese painting before the onslaught of World War II, and the identity of wealthy Japanese elitism that would soon disappear in the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Also opening at the MFA February 11 is "SPLENDOR AND ELEGANCE: EUROPEAN DECORATIVE ARTS AND DRAWINGS FROM THE HORACE WOOD BRICK COLLECTION," a fitting partner to images of culturally specific bourgeois affectation. On view are 75 decorative drawings and paintings and "important" examples of English, French, German, and Flemish design. (Think rococo mahogany vase stands as opposed to, say, an Eames chair.) These works and objects, which include bronze clocks and several different kinds of cabinets, range from the mid 16th to the early 19th century.

"DAVID HILLIARD: BEING LIKE" at Carroll and Sons Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave, Boston | February 18–March 28 | 617.482.2477 orwww.carrollandsons.net | "SHOWA SOPHISTICATION: JAPAN IN THE 1930S" at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | February 11–November 9 | 617.267.9300 orwww.mfa.org | "SPLENDOR AND ELEGANCE: EUROPEAN DECORATIVE ARTS AND DRAWINGS FROM THE HORACE WOOD BROCK COLLECTION" at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | February 11–May 17 | 617.267.9300 orwww.mfa.org

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