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August 19th, 2009 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Shits & Giggles At Launch Pad

Jeremy Okai Davis paints the halcyon days of summer.

     
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Jeremy Okai Davis’ Boys’ Life at Launch Pad

Every summer the Boston Symphony Orchestra plays a series of concerts, some of them in an outdoor band shell, under the moniker “The Boston Pops.” In lieu of heavy fare like Wagner and Mahler, the orchestra troops out feather-light fare by the likes of John Philip Sousa and film composer John Williams. Fun, frothy and fancy-free, this kind of music goes perfectly with picnics, lemonade and fireflies on a languid summer’s eve. And so does Jeremy Okai Davis’ Boston Pops caliber show Shits & Giggles, a group of insouciant paintings at Launch Pad that also calls to mind the breezy, psychedelia-influenced rock of the L.A. band West Indian Girl.

It’s easy to make druggy musical allusions to Davis’ floaty pastels and rhythmic dashes of neo-impressionist acrylic. His palette and technique lend themselves to the show’s subject matter, a series of vignettes depicting youth culture circa now. Many of the works are reconfigurations of snapshots posted on the Facebook pages of the artist’s friends: a prankster dumping water on a friend’s head (Pour); a bit of July 4 backyard-barbecue sparkler-twirling revelry (Well Done); a couple guys monkeying around on a tricycle (Radio Flyers). Some of the works’ titles are clever: Elowell shows a hand spelling the Internet-chat acronym “LOL” in sign language, while Modern Woman juxtaposes its self-important title against three giggly teenage girls, cracking up as they brandish faux-tattoos on their fingers.

While most of Davis’ compositions are simple and iconic, more sophistication is evident in works like Boys’ Life, its diagonal lines slashing jauntily through the picture plane as its protagonists douse one another with water hoses. Only in the kids-eating-ice-cream Soft Serve does the painter turn cloying; otherwise he errs on the acceptably ironic side of preciousness. It is Davis’ assured technique that lets him get away with a show this frivolous. The exhibit’s thoroughly enjoyable escapism is thrilling in the moment, if a little hazy in retrospect, very much like the languid, halcyon days of summer itself. This is an artist who clearly has a lot more to offer than teenagers hanging out at the mall, acting like dorks. Maybe Davis should schedule his next show for the winter.


SEE IT:Shits & Giggles at Launch Pad, 534 SE Oak St., 971-227-0072. Closes Aug. 30.
 
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