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ART REVIEWS : The Body Becomes an Art-Making Tool

March 30, 1995|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Keith Boadwee's body pops up in each body of work he makes. In the past, it has served as a canvas for his juicy, pseudo-Expressionist paintings; as a stage on which finger-puppets frolic; and as a prop in do-it-yourself photographs of modern masterpieces. This time around, Boadwee turns himself into a human spray-gun, squirting colorful streams of paint out of his derriere.

At Ace Contemporary Exhibitions, the largest gallery contains the result: 50 abstract canvases, ranging in size from 2-by-3-feet to 6-feet-square, saturated with gallons of paint in a rainbow of colors and an impressive variety of splatters, stains, stripes and runs. Four giant photos and two videos show the artist hard at work in his studio.

Before you discover how these paintings were made, they appear to be a competent homage to a slew of minor Modernists. Boadwee's abstractions recall Sam Francis' joyous bubbles of color, Morris Louis' snappy peninsulas of pigment and Yves Klein's luxurious monochromes.

Only after you learn that every drop of paint and gestural flourish on Boadwee's canvases was applied via his backside does his art's kick begin to be felt. It's difficult to reconcile the decorative appeal of these tasteful compositions with their source. Each viewer is invited to participate in a psychological drama of simultaneous attraction and repulsion.

The Protestant work ethic also plays an important role in Boadwee's show. As if to demonstrate that the human anus is not only a location where waste is eliminated, the gallery is stuffed to overflowing. In the photos and videos, Boadwee soberly goes about his business: Neither pleasure nor humor is evident in his demeanor as he matter-of-factly covers canvas after canvas with his intimate, hands-off signatures.

His paintings celebrate productivity's flip-side, turning conventional ideas about the virtues of work on end. The Freudian notion of the anal phase, as a time characterized by obsessive control, retention and stinginess, is also turned upside-down. With Boadwee's over-the-top art, an abundance of creativity pours forth, constantly, naturally and freely.

* Ace Contemporary Exhibitions, 5514 Wilshire Blvd., 2nd floor, (213) 935-4411, through April 20. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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Balancing Acts: Richard Rezac makes unobtrusive sculptures whose quirky intimacy belies their architectural presence. At Marc Foxx gallery, the strength of the Chicago-based artist's body-scaled works dawns on you slowly, well after you've become comfortable being around them.

The taut formality of Rezac's impeccably crafted abstract art is softened by its casual approachability. One of the three wall pieces angles outward, offering a bit of awning-like shelter. The other two have the presence of streamlined wainscoting and molding, simultaneously evoking the solidity of grand old homes and the abbreviated luxury of passenger ships.

All of Rezac's works, in soft shades of pastel or hand-buffed iron, seem to be carefully calibrated balancing acts in which efficiency and purposelessness perfectly offset each other. Although none are functional, they are so well-made they seem as if they'd hold up very well, even under the strain of daily use.

The three floor pieces resemble hand-railings, stairways and an upside-down roof. Each also recalls an irregular balustrade, the pointed heels of a woman's shoe or a race car's fin--objects whose uses are so specialized that the things themselves seem to be stylistic excesses rather than necessities.

Compressing multiple associations into his unassuming constructions, Rezac downplays utility without eliminating its memory. His sculptures take up little space but fill the room with poetry that continues to echo in your recollections long after you leave.

* Marc Foxx, 3026 Nebraska Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 315-2841, through April 15. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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Abstract Contradictions: The two largest and newest paintings in Tom Savage's exhibition at Cirrus Gallery are the best he has made. They're raw, incoherent, precarious and daring. At the same time, they're confident and desperate, riddled with deep doubts but also profoundly self-assured.

Both "Oasis" and "Accepting an Arrival Crushed Otherwise" give you the impression that the artist needed a lot of elbow room to make them, yet constantly had his back against the wall. The physical space registered in these brutally scrawled abstractions is contradictory: It feels wide-open and claustrophobic, menaced by some inarticulate but palpable threat.

Each mark and blot in these two paintings bears almost no connection to those around it. Savage's crude smears, thick lines of paint and faint traceries in pencil seem to be abandoned on the bare canvas rather than applied with the hope that they might add up to a harmonious whole.

Artful composition is out of the question in these elemental works. They make Savage's smaller canvases look almost decorative, as if they're guided by some overall design or intention. His best paintings, on the contrary, are driven by primal energy, an unthinking source more basic than the unconscious, which, by contrast seems mannered and refined.

* Cirrus Gallery, 542 S. Alameda St., (213) 680-3473, through May 6. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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