Thirty-year-old James Boulton began making a name for himself in 2001 and 2002 with audacious shows at the Everett Station Lofts. His hyperkinetic style, influenced by graphic design and popular culture, earned the attention of Portland Art Museum contemporary curator Bruce Guenther, who tapped Boulton to appear in the 2003 Oregon Biennial. Subsequently picked up by Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery, Boulton had his first blue-chip solo show in May 2004, drawing critical raves and impressive sales for his semi-abstract amalgamations. Last July, he moved to Los Angeles to study painting at Claremont Graduate University. The works in his invigorating current show, Traffication, were all painted in L.A. and, as the show title implies, are influenced by L.A.'s driving culture: fast-moving freeways, long commutes, traffic jams and road rage.
In paintings such as Utopian Architecture, Boulton lets irregular lines meander, forming triangles, shot through with paint so white it verges on the fluorescent. These white accents have the feel of grafitti and send amphetaminic jolts of rhythm throughout the entire composition. Another piece, Font, is similarly enlivened by acid-green accents that bend upward like blades of lemongrass, while green, butterfly-like elements flutter in the background atop a circus-like grid of pink, fuchsia and lavender bars. The show's best painting, Fire Season #3, toys with the intersection of regularity and irregularity, its pixellated circles yielding ever so imperceptibly to splattered dots. At what point does pattern end and randomness begin? Boulton is content to let our eyes decide—or not decide. The composition also features a well-placed purplish spiral, a jazzy palette of greens and turquoise, splotches of black and orange, and an irreverent gesture in yellow. This is Boulton at the height of his powers: exultant, rhythmic, involved. He falters only when he departs from his geometric finesse, as in Vein and Brake, which sacrifices intuitive shapes for plodding blobs of inert paint, robbing the work of electricity and forward motion. The drawing-influenced creepycrawly on the work's left feels tacked on, adding nothing to the piece except awkwardness.
As a stylist, Boulton has a knack for intuition but not organicism; he is most effective in the realm of technology and mass media, not nature. Despite these missteps, Traffication on the whole is a solid sophomore show with some bravura moments, pointing the way to an increasingly dynamic evolution.
Pulliam Deffenbaugh, 929 NW Flanders St., 228-6665. Closes July 29.