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‘Recto and Verso,’ very much ‘eclectic,’ on exhibit in HAP’s Fields Corner space
Though it hasn’t the artsy reputation of other Boston neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain or Fort Point, Dorchester, it turns out, is one of the few places in the city where serious young artists can display their work. The current group show “Recto and Verso” takes advantage of one such cultural oasis in Fields Corner.
Though Massachusetts College of Art and Design is the only publicly funded free-standing art school in the United States, many of its graduates and graduates of other area art schools feel underserved by places where they can receive recognition. Attempting to address this problem is the Howard Art Project (HAP), an artist-run studio and exhibition space using the whole top floor of the Howard building at 1486 Dot Ave. Founded by six members of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) community in June of 2011, HAP is a proposal-based venue, open to applications from the community at large.
HAP founders explain their goals, “We host art exhibitions, performances, educational workshops and lectures. We are particularly invested in emerging, under-represented, non-traditional, and cross- disciplinary approaches to artistic production.”
A case in point is HAP’s current hosting of “Recto and Verso” featuring the works of Charlie Crowell, Garrett Gould, Duy Hoang, Gordon Holden, Grace Jackson, Tyler Murphy, Alicia Riccio, and Sena Wataya. Many of these artists are affiliated with Mass Art or SMFA. Crowell, a former Dorchester resident, curated the show, though in many ways the curatorial decisions, he says, were a “democratic effort.”
He notes that this “highly, highly eclectic show” contains paintings, photographs, collages, small books, and installations. While there is a guide map handout, there is no wall signage or labeling to orient visitors – a choice, Crowell says, made by the exhibitors who wanted to “refrain from prescriptive interpretations so as to invite ambiguity and allow visitors to absorb the aura of the show and create their own narrative by allowing the pieces to converse with one another.”
The show title alludes to the attitude artists hope to encourage in gallery-goers. Technically “recto” can mean the front of a page or a right-sided page, and “verso,” the back of a page or a left-sided page. In this case, the title hints at looking at the flip side, seeing something from a new perspective.
Several of the artists take everyday, overlooked objects and put them together in surprising new ways. With local art schools heavily emphasizing technical proficiency, these eight artists are daring to flail or even fail. The show’s guiding motto comes from an essay widely circulated in art schools,“Frivolity & Unction,” one of a collection of essays in Air Guitar by former art and cultural critic Dave Hickey. Hickey famously/infamously suggested that instead of art aiming to be PC, ennobling, and “good for you, consider for a moment, the massive benefits that would accrue to us all, if art were considered bad, silly, and frivolous.”
Judge for yourself degrees of badness, silliness and frivolousness. You can hobnob with artists tomorrow night (Fri., Feb 28) at the free opening reception from 6 to 8. “Recto and Verso” runs through March 21. Further details at howardartproject.wordpress.com.