Incommensurabilities? Paint And The Expanded Real At The Bromfield Gallery

"Painting #46" by Martin Mugar

By Lindsey Davis

Boston, MA – The works on the walls at the Bromfield Gallery exist somewhere between painting and sculpture. They’re limited to rectangles and hung the way two-dimensional works would be, but each piece is being consumed by thick paint that strikes the viewers eyes as well as a couple centimeters of their space.

Martin Mugar’s works are the first you encounter — miniature cotton candy colored paint clumps taking over boards of different shapes and sizes, exploring both the surface of paint and its impact on the viewer. “This is not a world of people and things, nor of the distinct forms of abstract rationalism,” declares the Bromfield Gallery’s artist statement for the show. “The individual units of the painting are an impulse themselves, as Mondrian’s flat units are questioned as a basis for painting.” Mugar’s colored paint clumps assume patterns of different textures, creating windows on a cotton candy field in the wind.

In the following gallery room comes the darker, yet still very thick rectangular works of Paul Pollaro — dark blacks and whites bubbling across an impossibly rocky landscape. “Pollaro’s notion of ground is mud, embodying a murky primordial earth, beneath the surface of visuality,” the show’s statement notes. “The surface of paint does not just refer to itself but is the crust where the hidden becomes visual, but almost simultaneously withdraws.”

These works pair nicely as colored and uncolored counterparts, both exploring paint almost as a form of sculpture, coming up off the canvases and boards to greet each viewer with its physicality, and for Mugar, with bright pastel colors as well.

The gallery leaves the final say to the viewer.

“But what if all this repetition of marks hints only at a grim monotony that all the color cannot belie the repetition of waves ad infinitum that reveal nothing or only serve to hide the truth.”

(“Martin Mugar & Paul Pollaro: Incommensurabilities? Paint and the Expanded Real” continues through February 23 at the Bromfield Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston. For more information, call (617) 451-3605).