Aithan Shapira

"Beacon Street, Magnolia Branch," 2015, oil on canvas, 19 1/4" x 24"

A Worldly Voice With a Local Flavor

Art and travel are often woven together. Travel informs art and process; art prompts and guides exploration. But the results aren’t always as stunning as they are for Aithan Shapira.

“Painting was my compass, always,” he confesses. And a peripatetic compass it was, guiding Shapira from Boston to Gloucester, and on to England, Mexico, Israel and an aboriginal community in Australia. How lucky we are that the same compass led Shapira back to Boston as an artist and educator.

Shapira’s first solo show at Adelson Gallery is a joyful feast of architecture, light and nature. His finely developed voice rings crisply through paint and concrete; it nods to the abstract natural landscapes of mentor John Walker, it’s infused with the palette of the Australian aboriginal artists (Rembrandt’s palette too, if you’re keeping track), and it’s executed with paint made using Israeli earth.

While his voice speaks in thousands of miles, his subjects retain a local flavor. Familiar landmarks are captured in large scale with enough detail to render the spaces recognizable. You’ll identify the grand stairway facing the rotunda at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the corner of the Boston Public Library courtyard feels familiar. But the work lacks the heavy-handedness that too often curses depictions of popular places. Shapira’s affection for his subjects is palpable, not pandering.

“152 Beacon Street” captures the legendary Boston domicile of the young Mrs. Isabella Stewart Gardner. The original townhouse was demolished just after the turn of the century, but Mrs. Gardner managed to mandate “her” number could not be used again. Shapira resurrects the iconic address in creamy, earthen tones.

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