By Lasse Antonsen
New Bedford, MA – David B. Boyce, who was a New York art world insider in the 1970s, died December 15 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was 65.
Born in 1949 in Washington DC, Mr. Boyce began to visit New York City while an undergraduate student a UMASS Amherst. In 1970 he eventually dropped out of college and moved to Manhattan. At different times, depending on projects, Mr. Boyce worked for the Sidney Janis Gallery and Pace Gallery, and eventually as assistant director of the Holly Solomon Gallery, guiding Holly Solomon from 1975-77 in establishing a roster of artists. Among the artists represented in the new gallery was Robert Mapplethorpe. For a short time Mr. Boyce and Mr. Mapplethorpe were lovers.
Mr. Boyce moved in a circle of artists that included John Cage and Marcel Duchamp’s widow, Teeny Duchamp. Mr. Boyce worked as Jasper John’s studio assistant for two years, much of that time on a catalog being prepared for an exhibition of Mr. Johns’ prints at the Museum of Modern Art.
Mr. Boyce was also the last assistant for Joseph Cornell, working in his house on Utopia Parkway in New Jersey to register all of Cornell’s work in preparation for the creation of a foundation. Mr. Boyce found that it was difficult to get much work done, since Joseph Cornell preferred to talk to him instead. As Mr. Boyce once stated, “I believe he was terribly lonely.”
Among Mr. Boyce’s other artist friends were Duane Michals, Claes Oldenburg and George Segal. When Mr. Segal was asked to design the Gay Liberation Monument in 1979, Mr. Segal asked Mr. Boyce to be cast as one of the models, and further asked him to find three more individuals to be cast. Only requirement was that they be gay and lesbian. The monument consists of two seated lesbians, and two standing gay men. Mr. Boyce is the standing figure on the left.
After a serious auto accident in 1981, Mr. Boyce moved back to his parents’ house in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. He believed that leaving New York City is the reason he avoided the AIDS crisis. Eventually, Mr. Boyce finished his undergraduate studies at Goddard College in Vermont, and continued on to get his MA in Creative Writing and Gay Studies, also at Goddard. He then settled in New Bedford, Mass., where he became art critic for the Standard Times, and curator for the New Bedford Art Museum.
After his first diagnosis of cancer six years ago, Mr. Boyce was able to work intermittently. Mr. Boyce occasionally worked as a guest curator for the University Art Gallery at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The last exhibition Mr. Boyce curated for the gallery was “George Segal: Fragments and Pastels,” which displayed a unique juxtaposition of small body casts and pastels by Mr. Segal from the early Pop Art period of the 1960s.
(Editor’s note: David B. Boyce wrote for artscope magazine in 2010 and 2011.)