Boston, MA – Venturing down the 10 or so stairs to Galatea Fine Art at 460 Harrison Ave. in Boston’s SoWa District has always held the promise of discovering a new favorite artist, whether through its monthly spotlight exhibitions of collection of members work that sometimes threatens to steal the show in its own right.
The three exhibitions on view through October 28: Philip Gerstein’s “Sometimes There Is Bliss”; Barry Margolin’s “Play of Wakefulness” and “Ronni Komarow’s “Tender Mercies” have lots to deliver, so plan on a second or third walk around the gallery space to see what revelations you missed the first time around.
The first work in Gerstein’s collection as you turn into its viewing area, “Count O’Litski,” has the immediate feel of process thanks to the sharpness of his drawn lines and the marking and filling in of space on the canvas.
In “After the Humans,” you can feel the pull of his intentionally not drawing straight lines to serve as borders for his color patterns. It feels as if he’s experimenting with the affect/effect on the viewer.
My favorite work was the “The Cool Dude,” a flesh, black, dark in places green and white acrylic and textured medium on wood panel because of its softness and Gerstein’s willingness to paint outside — and inside — the lines, traditional borders be damned.
Gerstein doesn’t hide he goes where the spirit moves him, noting in his artist statement that these works are imbued with emotions and feelings. “These colors can vibrate within us, these textures and compositions can move us physically, as our mind absorbs them deeply. Abstract painting is perfectly geared towards our emotional selves, without insisting on one specific story, a single interpretation. At its best and most persuasive, it is like music, which moves the soul without words.”
Margolin’s show (“these paintings explore the marvelous physicality and uncertainty of encaustic” comes with a booklet explaining his collection (“A Cycle of Paintings Celebrating the Sadhana of Mahāmudrā”). Its use of a Buddha statue and flowers in the center of his display place has the feel of designating it as a sacred place.
I approached looking at the work from the aspect of how it played on my senses while attempting to catch onto whatever more powerful meanings might be held within. However, when I asked Margolin about this approach, he refocused my attention on the work itself. “Why can’t we be happy basking in this explosion of warm colors as opposed to feeling a need to identify what we see?” he told me at the opening reception.
To this regard, his “to the boundless rainbow of wisdom” has color – lots of it. It holds endless sensory experiences as if someone was holding a moving petri dish containing all the universes in existence — and beyond. It’s a work you could stare at, contently, for a lifetime. In the right light, you might find it one of the most memorable paintings you’ve ever seen.
“when the precious guru approaches” might have been the most appealing work to me, at least on first impression, because of it having perhaps the show’s most “identifiable” shape – a Milky Way like patch of gold paint cutting a swoosh over its otherwise “sky” of blues and greens. Seeking clarification on his meaning, Margolin told me it wasn’t his intention to replicate the cosmos landmark but to help set his viewer’s imagination into an extended exploration of his work.
Komarow’s collection has two very unique sides. “Diary of a Bake Sale Diva,” which can be seen while passing the basement window, is one of those rare opportunities to experience something new and different. Approximately 400 dangling cupcakes are complimented by 125 sayings written by Komarow from a mother’s perspective with help from her children in a boxed off display area:
“I hope I can install these values in …”
“I’ll be so relieved when this day is over”
“I am an active school parent – I do it for my son”
I suspect many of the moms who’ve seen and will see the show will interject their own unique responses to the viewing experience; it’s a reminder of how little of the domestic experience, which we experience on a daily basis, is brought into artwork.
This is one of those memorable installations you find yourself recalling years, if not decades later, and even if you don’t remember its name, you remember how it made you feel. Komarow’s individual cupcakes are on sale for $15 sales of which will benefit a local library program.
It’s not the only part of Komarow’s “Tender Mercies” exhibition; a collection of handmade books, for which she’s best known for making as a member of “Beyond the Book,” are displayed in a variety of sizes, shapes and meanings.
“Finding Orphelia,” a circular book, is a tribute to her daughter (whose name isn’t Orphelia and whose life is documented in the work); “Moody Views (v. 1),” a multi-image large accordion-style book was inspired by “the unpredictable mood swings of my then-adolescent son.” Mind you, her children assisted her in the final set-up of Komarow’s work and while they may not admit it now, I suspect they’ll be leaving their own mark on and in the arts in the years to come.
A lot of artists ask us to cover their shows and due to these three artists’ constant requests over many years, I felt an obligation, as an editor, a writer and a human being, to check out their work. What I got in return was three new stories to follow in the years to come. Start your own adventure before these exhibitions close on October 28.
(“Philip Gerstein: Sometimes There Is Bliss,” “Barry Margolin: Play of Wakefulness” and “Ronni Komarow: Tender Mercies” continues through October 28 at Galatea Fine Art, 460 Harrison Ave. #B-6, Boston; there will be a closing reception this Saturday, October 27, from 3-5 p.m. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday from noon-5 p.m.; for more information, call (617) 542-1500.)