Heart of the Matter 

Works by Roy Tamboli and Bobby Spillman.

Bronze mountains, figures, and worlds explode in Perry Nicole's "Roy Tamboli: Madrugada," an exhibition that pays homage to sexual, mental, mythic, and cosmic energies.

What could be the body of a dragon arcs and twists, Art Nouveau-like, through space near the top of Fuerzas (Sprung). The dragon's gnarled face spews flames that ripple into angel wings. In the midst of these baroque flourishes, Tamboli adds sex and satire to the mythic and the sublime. Tiny patchworks of bronze that look like Adam and Eve just created engage in gymnastic sex on the back of a motorcycle.

Tamboli's bronzes range from iconic to meditative to chaotic in this body of work. Several gracefully abstracted pelvises stand side-by-side, tilted forward slightly, in Hejira. This is Tamboli's powerful evocation of a family whose members bolster one another while still being able to move fluidly, en masse, as they celebrate, work together, or seek a better life, as they do here in an artwork whose title means "migration" in Arabic.

A stylized figure with almond eyes and triangular torso stands on his head in Sirasana. A couple makes love. A man shovels earth and buries a tiny body. These episodes from Tamboli's life, played out on a high narrow ledge, precariously tilted, evoke the tenuous quality of memory and existence.

There are no discreet categories, no moral judgments in this wildly imaginative work in which sex flows into a kicking bull, cannon fire, the molecular makeup of carbon, windblown trees, a hurricane, and human figures hoisted up by angels. Mind, myth, and material world roil into one seething cosmos that Tamboli describes in interviews and artist statements as "madrugada": "King energy — the power of nature manifested in all things constantly changing."

Through March 29th

L Ross Gallery's current exhibition, "Greetings from Spillmanville," finds another artist/storyteller working at the top of his form. With techniques learned from Looney Tunes, tattoo artists, and 19th-century Japanese printmakers, Bobby Spillman transforms coffee grinds, ink, and dollops of gouache into powerful, poignant works of art that are softly nuanced as well as rich with detail.

A whiskered catfish as big as Moby Dick threatens to swallow a ship in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Pegasus. The subject of Sourdly Lion attempts to devour a lemon tree. A baby duck is swept along by a stream of water through a forest in Carry One and past telephone poles in Field Trip. Its eyes are wide with wonder, reminding us that every life is a grand adventure.

Spillman combines Greek myth with Aesop's Fables to create stories that transform tragedy into exercises of the imagination. A giant squid in We're Going To Need a Bigger Boat pulls free from a rope tied to an anchor moored on a hillock at the bottom of the ocean. Its tentacles threaten to capsize a ship on the surface. Instead of drowning at sea like Sinbad's comrades or being doomed by a fatal character flaw in Greek drama, the work's title suggests a sequel in which protagonists learn from their experiences and build a boat big enough to encompass their new ideas.

click to enlarge Bobby Spillman's We're Going to Need a Bigger Boat
  • Bobby Spillman's We're Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Fearless depicts life lived with wisdom as well as courage. Two adventurers, who know their strengths and their limitations, fly at the edge but still within sight of their flock. Golden-brown sun warms the birds' bodies. Their wings' soft and flexible feathers, spread out at different angles, are buoyed by air currents over the tops of tall pines swaying in the wind.

This visionary, bittersweet, deeply felt art is inspired perhaps in part by the 485 students, ages 5 to 12, Spillman teaches at Bruce Elementary School. Many of the students, like their mentor, tote a handmade sketchbook everywhere they go. Some of them spend the last hour of their school day with Spillman doing "art time" as they explore feelings, hopes, and frustrations in their sketchbooks.

"Spillmanville" isn't a place, an exhibition, or a fantasy. It's a state of mind and Spillman's reminder to the child in each of us to jump back into life with eyes, heart, mind, and imagination wide-open.

Through March 31st

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