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Simply boys

Evos Arts show celebrates stereotypical quirks and passions of young males

LOWELL -- Harvard president Lawrence Summers's recent implication that girls might not be built for science in the same way boys are elicited a justifiable outcry; plenty of girls, after all, are built for science, and they should not be discouraged from pursuing it. When you get down to it, though, there do seem to be intrinsic generalized differences between the sexes: A 2-year-old boy will probably play with a truck before he'll dive voraciously into mom's jewelry box, the way his sister does.

Denise Markonish has put together a show celebrating the stereotypical quirks and passions of boys: tools, cars, rock 'n' roll, war play, and tinkering, to name a few. ''Boys Life" at Evos Arts is a largely lighthearted consideration of these trappings of American boyhood, with a sprinkling of irony and subversion.

Tim Bailey's works grab you more because of their material than their content: ''Established in 1937" is a replica of his dad's tool bench, outfitted with hammers and awls, all rather miraculously carved from white Styrofoam, adding a frothy twist to the metal and wood it replicates.

Samuel Rowlett draws Legos and Lego constructions on the kind of graph paper used in elementary schools, in a sweet and obsessive series. Mark Andreas brings that grade-school tinkering to full bloom in his large kinetic sculptures. ''Hanging in Balance" is an elegant, spider-like contraption made from wooden bows, steel, and bungee cords. Apparently, if you melt an ice cube at the machine's nexus, the legs invert and land on the floor. It's remarkable enough to look at, but it's a disappointment not to have the option to see it work.

Two painters celebrate the art of fishing. Andrew Mowbray makes realist canvases depicting men showing off their catch, only he blots out or cuts off the men's faces, and doesn't paint the fish at all, leaving white silhouettes that obliterate the trophies and undercut the triumph of these moments. Huck Stoddard similarly subverts the legendary fish tale. In his paintings, he sizes tiny fish up against rulers, or symbols of masculinity, such as a cigar. They always come up short.

The show moves toward puberty, as well. Joseph Wardwell blends heavy metal album-cover design elements with art historical postures, conflating the myths of metalheads with those of the Renaissance, setting everything in a frame shaped like an electric guitar. John Keefer's ''Women to Watch" drawings depict women's mud wrestling. He draws the scenes within a TV screen, suggesting with his title and his format that the images are more about the watcher than the watched.

Finally, Stephan Jacobs offers the most unsettling work in the show: photos of World War II reenactors, shot at battle reenactments in the United States. Here, the boys have grown to manhood, but are they amateur historians or toy soldiers on a grand scale, glossing over the horrors of war?

Unlike ''Girl Culture" at Tufts, ''Boys Life" doesn't make an effort to reveal the dark side of society's socialization of the sexes. It's like the old axiom about the woman who obsesses about her boyfriend's silence, analyzing what she might have said or done to provoke it, worrying that he might be hurt. Turns out he was only thinking about a football game.

''Girl Culture" is ruthlessly self-reflective; ''Boys Life," while fun, isn't about much more than a football game.

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