Nancy White is not a showy painter. Her abstract works at Steven Zevitas Gallery, no larger than 10½ inches tall, sport a consistent color value, which means there’s little contrast of bright and dark — rather, this group of paintings is fervently dim.
That’s part of what captivates. White doesn’t romance the eye, but she draws the viewer into her small worlds of slicing shapes and tilting planes with compositions that suggest surprising space. Within the dusky tones, there may not be glamour, but there’s mystery.
These works verge toward monochromatic, with “#35” shuffling oranges, and “#40” built from wine reds with the occasional sliver of green. White’s color consistency evokes temperature, humidity, and the suggestion of stepping into a small, enclosed space with passages and obstructions that invite you to find your way by touch.
These are White’s largest paintings to date, and she introduces curves amid all her straight edges. In “#44,” which is all gray-blues and browns, the left side looks like a brown bracket, cupping a scoop of blue twilight — the deep space in this painting. The layered planes of gray and brown to the right might be a pyramid, opening at the front to spill an unlikely shadow.
The flat, opaque forms in these works build on one another to suggest volume, they scissor around each other like slotted pieces of construction paper, or they angle out as if crisply folded. The orange piece, “#35,” features that last trick, as triangles pivot one into the next, making a zigzag in which one angle nests into the next. These fractured, complex spaces confound, but, in their delicacy, they draw you in.
White’s powerfully understated paintings are effective because her formal rigor prompts the experience of night vision — groping through shadows, looking for edges — which makes you feel as if you can’t see at all. But of course you can. It’s just a different way of seeing.
“Lake Effect/Nor’easter: Part II,” a group show at LaMontagne Gallery, also takes up on the idea of obscured vision. The exhibit follows “Lake Effect/ Nor’easter: Part I” staged at Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago late last year, which spotlighted artists from LaMontagne’s roster. For this show, three Rafacz painters were invited to reflect on winter weather.
Zachary Buchner’s pieces, in which he coats his painted canvases with plaster, smartly evoke whiteout conditions, although sometimes with lurid colors. In “Untitled (Lake Effect 01),” he uses a peach-toned plaster. The powdery grain is indeed snowy. The paint beneath seeps through in blue-black contours, like the rims of snowdrifts. Buchner creates a sense of porous veils through which the elements seep.
Much the same occurs in Philip Vanderhyden’s paintings, all titled “Screen,” in which gray and blue-gray surfaces befog obsessive mark-making beneath. Here, there’s a sense of something tangible — a landscape, a map — just beneath the surface, edgy and full of clues we can’t quite perceive.
Nothing is obscured in Andreas Fischer’s exuberantly expressionistic abstractions that hint at landscape and architectural detail. “It Seemed Downright Useful in Its Application” might depict some DIY disaster. Beneath a balcony on the upper right, a bright orange form like a four-legged stool spews a slather of autumnal browns and reds, accented by limey white. Fischer’s narrative is secondary to his luscious strokes of paint, and their dark flowering beneath that flying stool.
Boston Sculptors Gallery, founded in 1992, celebrates its 20th anniversary with a cleverly installed exhibition featuring its 36 current members and 15 alumni. The gallery started in a West Newton chapel, where members mounted ambitious installations that were up for several weeks at a time. In 2003, they moved to Harrison Avenue and changed the programming to two solo shows a month. The model seems to work for this for-profit artists’ collective, which has done a mighty job promoting Boston sculpture.
The work comes across as varied and, on the whole, incisive and witty. Niho Kozuru’s “Nova,” a red rubber circle, serrated on the inside, blobby on the outside, combines the organic with the industrial. Nancy Milliken’s “Honey Wall” is fairly simple — a translucent square case filled with honey, mounted on the wall — but it deliciously conflates structure with light and taste. Roz Driscoll’s “Moult” features a ceiling-high ladder, and a strip of rawhide twines down it like the castoff skin of a snake. Dan Wills’s “Nervous Reaction,” a cartoon sculpture of a bolt shying from a voracious wrench, is a hoot.
I’m a sucker for sculptures that play against monumentality, such as Hannah Verlin’s “Extinct,” a cube of paper circles, each written over with the name of a species that has become extinct. Viewers are encouraged to take a circle with them. Then there’s Andy Moerlein’s “Hanging by a Thread,” suspended over the gallery’s front door: It looks like a boulder, but it hangs from a string; it’s likely made of something much lighter than the rock it purports to be.
A fast-paced Pecha Kucha panel discussion, “Sculpture That Works With Audience: Kinetic, Interactive, Installation, and Public Art” is scheduled at Boston Sculptors Gallery for the evening of Jan. 23.
NANCY WHITE: New Work
At: Steven Zevitas Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through Jan. 26. 617-778-5265, www.stevenzevitasgallery.com
LAKE EFFECT/NOR’EASTER: Part II
At: LaMontagne Gallery,
555 East 2nd St., South Boston, through Jan. 26. 617-464-4640, www.lamontagnegallery.com
HEIGHT, WIDTH, DEPTH, TIME: Boston Sculptors Celebrates 20 Years
At: Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., through Jan. 27.
Cate McQuaid can be reached at email@example.com.