Kansas Gallery // January 4-February 9
Modern Painters, April 2013
Bourque-LaFrance’s first solo exhibition at the gallery delivers perceptual sleights of hand with a sentimental Pop twist. The show’s title, “In The The Spring,” hints at this operational logic. It makes reference to the textbook perceptual illusion “Paris in the the springtime.” Most readers’ semantic processing leads them to overlook the superfluous the. Bourque-LaFrance’s constructions, by comparison, stress the parsing of the awkward double, the hidden life of things, and by extension, closeted desire and memory.
Materials masquerade and signifiers recirculate to induce misreadings. Design objects mix with minimal forms; silk roses adorn cast sculpture. The artist willfully scrambles high and low forms, swathing the space in white pile carpet. This suburban aspirational touch provides a perfect backdrop for works such as All Ways Us Living Love, 2012, a Haim Steinbach–like shelf holding a cast turd, a found corkboard, an abstract clay finger painting, and a ceramic bust of an embracing couple on which the artist painted scores of scarlet lips and button eyes. What at first appears to be a joke about bad taste, however, is redeemed through its role as part of a visual rhyme. The found corkboard provides inspiration for the adjacent painting, The Getting Ready Room, 2012, whose upper two-thirds are treated with an even enamel application resembling a popcorn ceiling. In Bourque-LaFrance’s universe, domestic kitsch lies far from the easy butt of the joke.
Then again, the artist does not shy away from classic one-liners. Happiness, 2012, gathers a marble wishbone, a brass magic wand, a book, and a tiny piece of fool’s gold. Glory, 2012, a cheerful yellow scrap of vinyl with two oblong holes presumably for anonymous sex acts, faces Retrospective, 2012, a pictorial field of tiny glory holes. In the center of each circle, Bourque-LaFrance has pasted suggestive scraps of photos from pornography and other media sources that refer to genitalia. Happy: Alone, 2013, strikes a more somber note, as a plaster-cast decomposing banana (one of many penis surrogates throughout the show) lies discarded in an open minimal cube. All these pay homage to the visceral legacy of Pop imagery observed in Jasper Johns’s plaster casts of sex organs, Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures’ lumpy sensuality, and Andy Warhol’s erotically charged films.
A Rauschenbergian work titled /…,, 2012, provides the grammatological key to the exhibition: A slash, an ellipsis, and a comma painted on a lightly soiled navy blue–striped bed sheet. Evoking a musical staff and a clef, the punctuation marks encourage plurality and open-ended interpretations of jazzy improvisation. Although Bourque-LaFrance’s efforts may not have yet hit their high notes, his associative sincerity sounds an encouraging tone. —Wendy Vogel