As many would have it, imagination and creativity are more at home in the art world than in any other field of human activity. Doubtful as it might be (the often boringly self-sufficient art world so easily forgets the crucial role imagination and creativity play in domains such as physics, for example), this conception makes most of us expect from artists, more than from other professionals, to constantly display outstanding imaginative abilities and unusual creativity. And some of them manage to do this kind of naturally, rewardingly fulfilling this common and partially legitimate expectation of ours. It is precisely within this context that I want to state that I have hardly ever met a young artist who would possess such a forceful, truly resourceful and vivid imagination as Mihut Boscu. Given this, I’d say that the Romanian artist in his mid – twenties was an undoubtedly inspired choice of the Sabot Gallery in Cluj for its latest show, titled A Prologue to Vanity and Self – adoration, an exhibition that is, beyond its shortcomings, a welcomed opportunity to meet a truly inquisitive artist that deploys an exuberant creativity in his artistic endeavours.
The work that visually dominated the show at Sabot was the life – size three-dimensional figure of a man, covered in paint, hysterically colourful and surrounded by empty jars of paint and plastic bottles. His bowels are pouring out of his belly as he holds them in his hands and smells them in a quite emphatic gesture. The visually arresting sculpture is a quite direct, yet forcefully metaphorical representation not just of the (contemporary) artist, but of the contemporary human being as well. It is the contemporary man that seems not to feel compelled to hide anything anymore, who is obsessed with himself more than with anything else, or who is constantly urged by advertising and stupid movies to be like this. Boscu’s character is a Narcissus of the viscera, for whom the old Socratic advice regarding knowing oneself has been replaced by the Facebook – type urge for showing oneself, regardless of whether or not there is something interesting to show or if others would be repelled by what is being shown.
Another immediately impressive work was the wall clock made out of plywood, carelessly if not plainly ugly painted, with its two pointers moving anticlockwise, but frantically fast, as they are powered by a small motor. The work has both something of a Dadaist spirit and conceptual wit and poignancy. It reveals, perhaps better and more convincingly than any other work displayed at Sabot, Boscu’s remarkable ability to conceive simple, yet strong and meaningful visual metaphors that allude to crucial aspects of the human condition, in an ironically existentialist manner. His clock is an impressive memento mori that reminds one not just of the ineluctable finitude of human existence, but also of the absurdity of the contemporary man’s contradictory desires for “living fast” and for “turning back the time”.
Other works also stand out in the show. The skull made out of thistles belongs to the same semantic area as the wall clock and it functions like an emotionally touching, slightly funny, yet charming and compelling example of vanitas. Again, the perishable condition of the human being is being alluded to, using an approach that intelligently brings together venerable and even overused symbolic items and the freshness of an unexpected use of materials. The hanging rope made out of corny coloured, artificial flowers is an excellent example of Boscu’s mastery of paradoxes and it is also a directly engaging art work. The sculpture is visually strong, eerily haunting and also possesses a strange, kind of sadistic monumentality. A rather large size, white paper relief that seems to represent a sort of space battleship in flames, while at the same time resembling the silhouette of the burning Hindenburg is the most elegant and refined work on display. Far more semantically elliptic than the other works so far mentioned, it can be equally perceived as an allusion to the childish innocence of dreamers and explorers as well as an ironical critique of the humans’ tendency to proudly and often dangerously overestimate the power and the utility of technology.
Unfortunately, the show managed to downplay the sheer value of such works, by displaying them along others which are clearly not as powerful. Also, the widespread variety of the topics approached by the works in A Prologue to Vanity and Self – adoration did not help in making the show look coherent either (or the artist, for that matter). A wish to show an experimental, suitably undecided and charmingly restless Mihut Boscu clearly circumscribed the exhibition at Sabot Gallery, but also nearly ruined it, and there are three main reasons for this. Firstly, experimental does not compulsory mean good, does not mandatory denote profoundness. One shouldn’t forget the simple fact that some of the artists’ experiments are failures: this is one of the things that make them experiments in the first place. Displaying artistic experimentation shouldn’t be fetishized: this is praisible only if the experimentation has somehow reached or neared some coherent conclusions or if it has truly opened exciting opportunities, which is not the case with some of the works in the Sabot’s show. There was no good reason visible in the exhibition for displaying lower quality results of various artistic experimentations alongside the above described impressive art works.
Secondly, although the intention might have been to build up an “artist’s studio – type” show rather than a “museum – like” exhibition, the show didn’t quite succeed in that respect. A Prologue to Vanity and Self – adoration is rather a confusing mix of both. Too staged to be cosy and to provoke emotional response, it was at the same time not coherently enough staged to be celebratory. Some works were crammed together, for example those on the artificially looking “studio table”, while others looked pointlessly exiled (the above mentioned clock was displayed in the lobby at the entrance). Rather than being an image of the artist’s physical and / or intellectual laboratory, the display appeared as the result of someone trying to transform a storage area in a neat exhibition. Just in passing, I’d say that, in my personal experience, Mihut Boscu’s studio is really interesting when you get the chance to be in it with him, talking about his art and his projects for hours, smoking cigarettes and having funny small talk, drinking Coke and maybe ordering pizza.
Finally, the show seems to have overlooked the fact that Boscu is at his best precisely when he concludes experiments, when he reaches somewhat abrupt and often spectacular conclusions of his feverish searches. His strength lies not as much in the dozens of ideas that are forged by his imagination and in the tens of projects he sketches as it resides in his ability to create coherent and uncomfortable art works out of them, art works that make eyebrows raise, that are visually impressive and intellectually challenging. The overall impression is that the show is taming Mihut Boscu and makes him look fashionably arty, while he is as good as he is wild, rough, irreducible to trends and direct.
I am perfectly aware that one might argue that all the incongruence I’ve remarked might actually represent items of consistency if related to show’s title / concept: the exhibition is supposed to be about vanity and self – adoration (presumably the artist’s), so why not show various things the artist has produced, regardless of their visual and conceptual power? Well, the point is precisely that the show is probably actually lacking vanity than possessing it in excess. Vanity that almost would have reached the level of provocative pride would have been to show just four or five compelling works in that quite big space of the Sabot Gallery and challenge the public to worship them or to stare at them in awe. Who knows, it might have even worked.
All in all, it must be said that Boscu has spent the last 10 years or so being a terrific, complex and open – minded apprentice, in the broadest sense of the term and in relation with various contexts and personalities. He has been developing his artistic abilities and production at a remarkable pace, constructing three good solo shows in a period of roughly three years. He has been developing his short, yet truly promising career carefully, proving a maturity and an understanding of the contemporary art world uncommon for people of his age. The most important thing he needs to do as soon as possible is to gather the courage, the strength or the hubris required to for him to believe that he can be an artist, in the broadest sense of the term. The most important next valid step in Boscu’s artistic path is not simply to build up a show at a decent gallery or artist run space outside Romania, as one might think and many seem to actually think. He is too gifted to think or be thought about in these empty strategic terms. Thus, that most important next step for him would be to build up a truly coherent, conceptually poignant, spectacularly bold and – why not ?– jaw dropping exhibition that would expose a forceful creator rather than a “new kid in town” with the potential to become a young art star. I hopefully expect and heartedly wish for no less from him.

For photos of the show, go to http://www.galeria-sabot.ro/index.php?/exhibitions/mihut-boscu/

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