La Cienega Area

I'll try not to gush, but it is a treat to run into a first exhibition that seems so full of promise as John Boskovich's show of painted photographs and text. A product of CalArts, he has absorbed that institution's conceptual flavor and formed his own identity with a refreshing blend of innocence, knowledge and wit. The key to this art's appeal is an ambiguity that translates into breathing space. Interpretations may vary according to one's religious, political and emotional bent, but this is not the result of the artist's confusion; it's the product of a poetic sensibility and an inquiring mind that rummages through antique shops, the Bible, Shakespeare and the Los Angeles Times.

An early work combining photographs of a wedding and a stag party (complete with grotesque nude) seems too contrived and familiar, but Boskovich quickly hits his stride in a group of self-portraits with text. "Appropriating" left, right and center, he is Dante (reproduced from an engraving), a chained monster (from a "Creature From the Black Lagoon" still), John the Baptist (on a real 18th-Century Spanish banner), a kid in a bunny suit and an airborne dreamer in striped pajamas. Borrowing a line from T.S. Eliot for text and merging two photographs, he's also an elegant artist, seated in an arm chair while dreaming of his spotted dog.

This work sends up the notion that an artist is a thing apart from his work. Elaborately produced and framed with thick, beveled mats and engraved brass plates, it also spoofs pretensions about the preciousness of art. But Boskovich spares us the cynicism that is so fashionable these days. In fact he works up such a head of steam that is seems reasonable to hope he will be around for a long time. (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 669 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Feb. 6.)

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