James Boulton has never tried to hide his scattershot influences, which veer from the pixilated contours of vintage videogames to the conceptualism of Rauschenberg's combines. Certainly, there's an inherent tension in this collision between the flotsam of pop culture and the monumentality of the art historical canon. But Boolean Logic, the artist's first solo exhibition at Pulliam Deffenbaugh since 2006's excellent Traffication, presents an aesthetic sensibility that has convincingly synthesized those two extremes.
Interestingly, the paintings in Boolean Logic, comprising work completed between 2005 and 2007, nod to nearly a century's worth of art world trends. The conspicuous repetition of circles, triangles, and squares conjures Minimalism; unwieldy applications of paint point to action painting and Abstract Expressionism; spray paint scrawls hark back to early '80s graffiti art. But rather than play some stylistic tourist, Boulton uses these references as a shorthand to evoke the weight of tradition. To be sure, this is less respectful homage than it is a static-laced dial scan, picking up the 20th century's strongest signals in a single scrambled transmission.
That these paintings are spiked with the ephemera of pop culture is most evident outside of the paintings themselves, in a group of variably scaled sculptures strewn across the gallery floor and a series of complementary drawings. The plaster sculptures are brightly colored, interlocking geometric forms, which make you think Boulton is nursing an all-consuming Tetris obsession. The drawings include more direct links to mass culture: layered Trivial Pursuit cards, a kitschy image of a kitten, or the repeatedly appearing urban greeting "'sup." In both instances, it's a measure easier to decipher what Boulton's up to: an approximation of living in such information-saturated times. With the sculptures, videogame building blocks have leapt from the screen into three-dimensional form, occupying a very physical space in the world. Likewise, in the drawings, patterns, phrases, and pictures converge in an inextricable weave of imagery. Boulton's work seems to have evolved from blurring the boundaries between high art and mass culture to documenting the swift collapse of the real and the virtual.