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Corey Escoto explores the link between alarm and artifice

Corey Escoto’s “House of Cards 2,” part of “A Routine Pattern of Troubling Behaviour” at Samson.

Corey Escoto’s “House of Cards 2,” part of “A Routine Pattern of Troubling Behaviour” at Samson.

After a scary bedtime story, monsters appear under the bed. Corey Escoto vanquishes them the way many parents do: by turning on the light and revealing the dust bunnies.

Artful stories can set off fears. In sculptures that verge on paintings (or vice versa) and photographs, the artist, whose show “A Routine Pattern of Troubling Behaviour” is at Samson, plays with B-movie scare tactics and the soothing effect of nightlights. It’s about art’s mirage, but if it resonates with the anxiety in America now, that’s a handy coincidence.

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Escoto constructs his photos inside the lens of analog instant cameras, using small vinyl stencils, and taking 10 to 20 exposures. What should be “instant” becomes painstaking; what we expect to be documentary is a collage artist’s fiction.

Color photos shot with a Fuji are little, jewel-like, startlingly 3-D-looking images of visually textured geometric planes, as in “House of Cards 2.” They jump into the dialogue between painting and photography, crafted and “real.” They gleefully declare, “Don’t trust what you see.”

Corey Escoto’s “Barbie Car”

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His black-and-white Polaroids — more than a foot tall, including pull-tabs — feature text in the over-the-top graphics of film noir posters. Taken together, they offer a pulpy story line. You can tell just from the titles: “The Fool,” “The Plot Thickens,” “Barbie Car,” “Hail Marys and Our Fathers,” and “Smoke and Mirrors.”

We go to scary movies to get spooked. They’re another artist’s conjuring that we willingly buy into.

Escoto sets his “Nightlight Arrangement” sculptures on the wall like large picture frames, with softly glowing pastel resin casts plugged into them. They, too, explore the link between alarm and artifice. One reads, in separate resin casts, “Terrible Parable,” “Unreliable Narrator,” “Uncontrollable Laughter,” and “But the Band Keeps Playing On.”

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In these days of alternative facts, we question the reliability of the narratives we’re fed. Escoto’s most recent work is about politics, not art. “ACLU Nightlight” glows only dimly, but at least the light’s turned on.

Corey Escoto’s “ACLU Nightlight”

COREY ESCOTO: A Routine Pattern
of Troubling Behaviour

At Samson, 450 Harrison Ave., through April 1.
617-357-7177, www.samsonprojects.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@
gmail.com
. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.
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