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The new DeCordova 'Annual,' plus the BCA's studio artists
By GREG COOK  |  January 26, 2010

MONSTER Rebecca Rose Greene’s mannequins haunt the BCA’s Mills Gallery like creepy kids in horror movies.

Images from "Amalgam" and "A Different Kind of Monster" at the Boston Center for the Arts and the 2010 Biennial at the DeCordova.

“2010 DeCordova Biennial” | DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln | Through April 11

“Amalgam” + “Different Kind of Monster” | Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St, Boston | Through March 7

Portland artist Randy Regier's work is just beginning to be known, but he may be one of the best sculptors in the country. In the 2010 DeCordova Biennial at the DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum, Regier has installed Honorable Mention: H. Maxwell Fisher and the Space Race, a "life-size" spacecraft, spacesuit, and related ephemera. Your senses tell you this wondrous, crackpot 1950s Buck Rogers dream machine is real. And you — particularly if you're a certain kind of boy — may want to believe it's real. But your mind insists that it's fake. The result of this contradiction is a pleasurable mental short circuit.

The Fisher Fire Fly spacecraft is a ball-shaped capsule atop a cone-shaped thruster with three landing-gear legs. It's painted Wizard of Oz emerald green. The top of the capsule is scuffed and blistered, as if scorched during passage through the earth's atmosphere. Peer inside the open hatch and you find a metal-frame seat, wires, hoses, switches, and dials. Everything appears authentically old, right down to the musty industrial smell.

A vitrine displays an astronaut doll in a bell jar. "A Chance of a Lifetime!" a label explains. "Train at home for some of today's most spectacular opportunities." A vintage-looking magazine shows the rocket on the cover of 100 Projects of Steel. Postcards advertise the American Dream Technical Institute of Portland, Maine. The clues suggest a story of a man sending away to some correspondence school and building his own rocket ship in his garage.

Drawing on his background in auto-body work, Regier offers the amazing craftsmanship of a master Hollywood propmaker. Then the backstories he invents propose an alternative history of the past century, in which the future we were promised by sci-fi magazines and Popular Mechanics came true. And yet we still have Leave It to Beaver domestic peace and prosperity. In the end, it's a rumination on the difference between the post-WW2 American Dream and today's reality.

Regier is the star of this Biennial's strong line-up, which includes familiar names (Otto Piene, Paul Laffoley, William Pope.L, founder Mark Tribe) as well as emerging artists. Since the DeCordova Annual's creation in 1989, this round-up of New England talent had become an event more to be admired for its commitment to locally made art than to be thrilled by. Although it had a good track record for identifying major local talents — Mark Wethli, Brian Knep, John Bisbee, David Cole, Laura McPhee, Ambreen Butt, Laylah Ali, Abelardo Morell, Jungil Hong, the Institute for Infinitely Small Things — the overall mix of work had come to feel stuffy, square, half-baked. And it didn't help that the awkward layout of the building was — and still is — frequently unflattering to the art.

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Related: Séance, 2009: The year in art, The future is now, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Entertainment, Evan Garza, Randy Regier,  More more >
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