Rarely does furniture in a gallery space trump the art on the walls, but in Sheila Pepe’s new show at Carroll and Sons, the furniture is art.
It’s not studio furniture — the benches, tables, and more that break into the art world with exquisite craftsmanship and originality. Pepe’s installation works the other way around — her art breaks into furniture’s more mundane world. It’s sly, trenchant, and often cozy.
The title of a single wall piece in the gallery’s foyer broadcasts her concept. “Image (Stuffed),” is a crocheted sculpture with concentric ovals on the face framing a mint-green zip down the middle. This is not a throw pillow; it’s an image, an artwork. On the wall it’s easy to see it in that light.
Enter Pepe’s installation, and you’ll find more “images” on the floor. Artists have for decades appropriated domestic mediums and elevated them to high art. Pepe herself has been making ambitious needlework installations for years. Here she circles back to the home, inviting viewers to sit on her art, to play with her art, to rearrange it. It feels strangely illicit, and thrillingly democratic.
This is not a living room, of course. It’s a gallery, and the exhibition, “Sheila Pepe: A Place for Looking, With Paola Ferrario, Fabiola Menchelli, and Julie Ryan” is clear about its intentions. Pepe has mounted work by the three other artists on the wall, and her seating areas — a low bench, shag rugs, a delightful sling under a table, marshmallow-like hassocks — are oriented toward the art.
Ryan’s paintings, Menchelli’s photos, and Ferrario’s array of printed images make formal nods to Pepe’s work. The whole hangs together well, but what’s on the wall feels incidental. Pepe’s installation is a playroom; the toys and chairs just happen to be art.
Zink’s pieces move, with nuance
Brian Zink, in his sharp and cool new show at Miller Yezerski Gallery, continues to build patterns from plates of Plexiglas. They look like paintings — like the cool-headed, hard-edged abstraction that followed in the wake of overheated Abstract Expressionism. The Plexiglas is crisper than paint, like a commercial logo.
In this new work, Zink uses colors in a single color family — dark blue and lighter blue, say — which suggest light and shadow, and, inevitably, three-dimensionality. His forms jut and thrust. They appear to have sharp, origami-like folds.
The artist, who makes a living as a museum installer, has a keen sense of the midline, that central point where the eye makes easy contact with a painting. These works fan out from that horizon. In “Composition in 2051 Blue, 2114 Blue, and 3015 White,” the blues ricochet in acute triangles back and forth across the picture plane; the only line that is not a diagonal crosses at the midline.
Zink’s pieces pivot and move; they spin around that midline axis. But the color kinship and that 3-D illusion flick a switch that stills the movement and focuses the eye on shape and light. These are Zink’s best, most nuanced works yet.
Key to Erbacher is interactivity
Sandra Erbacher’s “Standard Deviations” at GRIN in Providence is a lighthearted critique of institutions — museums and other bureaucracies — and the systems that run them. She mines their language and artifacts as if she were an archeologist trying to make sense of them, then adds comic twists.
“Goat Rodeo” is business jargon for chaos; Erbacher puts it in neon, as if it were blithely advertising a real rodeo with goats. “Gnaw. Museum Bench” is a standard maple bench, but it looks as if a beaver has chewed one of the legs. Is it a work of art that shouldn’t be touched? Or is it OK to sit on?
You can sit on it. Interaction with some of these works is key. Pick up “Hum,” an old wall-mounted rotary phone. On the other end, the artist reads words in a drone: “gasp, smack, swish,” she says robotically. It’s ridiculous. I laughed out loud. Erbacher finds the humor in organizational monotony, and in so doing, sows tiny seeds of revolt.
Pucker, Urdang galleries moving
Two Newbury Street galleries are on the move. Pucker Gallery, which has been at 171 Newbury St. since 1967, packed up 7,000 objects this month and relocated to 240 Newbury St., moving from a basement space to an airy second floor.
“Someone came along about a year ago and said they wanted to buy the building,” says owner Bernard Pucker, who had purchased 171 Newbury in 1979. He sold it, and says he looked for rental space all over the city before settling on 240 Newbury. “I didn’t want to open someplace else,” he says of Newbury Street.
Meanwhile, Beth Urdang Gallery has announced plans to leave Newbury Street for SoWa, the gallery district in the South End. Urdang says she chose not to sign a new, 10-year lease at 129 Newbury St. The gallery closes at the end of January, and will reopen in late spring or early summer at 460 Harrison Ave. In the interim, Urdang’s satellite gallery at 16 Grove St. in Wellesley will be open full time, beginning Feb. 11.
SHEILA PEPE: A Place for Looking, With Paola Ferrario,
Fabiola Menchelli, and Julie Ryan
At: Carroll and Sons, 450 Harrison Ave., through Feb. 14. 617-482-2477, www.carrollandsons.net
BRIAN ZINK: Figure / Ground
At: Miller Yezerski Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave., through Feb. 10.
SANDRA ERBACHER: Standard Deviations
At: GRIN, 60 Valley St., Providence, through Feb. 14. 401-272-0796, www.grinprovidence.comCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.