“The Animal Series,” Rine Boyer’s newest drawings on view at the Old Town Art Center, attempts to describe the contentious concept of “hipster culture,” a term that’s by turns bafflingly ambiguous, vehemently denied and utterly unmistakable. More specifically, Boyer portrays the “perennial denizens of independent show spaces, dive bars, and alternative art festivals;” while the dozen or so intimate portraits seem to be named after friends, most actually portray strangers in poses she finds striking, whom she then draws and shades with obsessively repeated animal icons rather than crosshatching.
The drawings, made with colored pen on paper, are technically skilled depictions of recognizable archetypes (often with facial hair, big plastic glasses, artistic and alcoholic accoutrements) in pensive or confrontational stances. The blurred, overlapping shapes of the animals that form the portraits are mesmerizing and poignant when they dissolve into noise, and the animals, from unicorns to bears, all seem to match the subjects in a slightly disconcerting way. But what’s most striking about the show are the way the drawings are mounted: shellacked with thick layers of clear epoxy onto wooden boards, the figures resemble artifacts or cave paintings, lifted out of any sense of environment, context or culture. Many seem to be shrinking into the bottom corners of wood panels, or trapped, or pushing against the edges of their frames, which in combination with the noisiness of the patterns and sometimes unfinished nature of the drawings make the subjects appear deeply vulnerable and the series surprisingly touching. (Monica Westin)
Through April 2 at the Old Town Art Center, 1763 N. Park Ave.