Christian Haub’s “Floats” hang on the wall like paintings, although they seem to hover softly over it. They glow like stained glass, but more delicately, with some areas hushed, and some solid. Built with lean planes, they take an architectural approach to space, only within narrow confines. In short, they’re hard to define, but magical to see, in an exhibition at Miller Yezerski Gallery.
Haub works with store-bought cast acrylic sheets in several hues. They come transparent, frosted, and opaque. Some are fluorescent, and they channel the light to their edges, luminous as neon. He lays flat panels over shelves, creating rows and grids of interacting tones, which become more nuanced as light bounces off them and casts color-filled shadows.
Many of the works are named for musicians. That’s fitting; there’s something musical about these pieces, each color a note and each combination a chord, with rhythm pulsing in the repeated lines.
Christian Haub: Floats
“Roy Orbison Float” features three sections, stacked. In the middle one, Haub has set a blue panel, crossed on the front by two glossy black bars, over shelves of fluorescent pink and green. Their edges shine crisply through the twilight blue, which mingles in the rosy and green shadows they cast; it’s moody, romantic. And that’s just the middle. Paler sections, with sharp lines zipping through them, make up the top and bottom.
In the sprightly “Float for Pete Seeger,” black horizontal bars seem to hold the whole thing in, as pinks and yellows slide beneath, riffing against blue and white vertical passages. “Float for Whistler” nods to the great painter, whose compositions also referenced music.
Here, Haub sets a forceful pink, black, and blue section thrumming over a much quieter passage of misty white over blue, green, and more white.
Because these works make such terrific use of the spaces between, with reflections and shadows dancing through them, they seem capacious and inviting — less solid, despite their hard edges, and more ethereal than something as discrete and opaque as a painting ever could be.
From deadly to delicate
Andy Moerlein’s take on the grim reaper is about as monstrous as they come. His massive sculpture, “Demise,” fills the large front room at Boston Sculptors Gallery: a harrowing birdman with spiky talons for feet and an oversize, empty-eyed bird’s skull for a head.
But he’s not just threatening. He’s threatened, as he creeps along a stone wall filled with gaps and held precariously over the ground by dark branches. The feral power evident in the lines of the creature combined with his uncertain stance make for a profoundly unsettling image. Too bad Moerlein chose to deprive this clearly male figure of genitals; it neuters his message a bit.
If he wants anyone to see “Demise,” the artist obviously has to show it in a gallery, but the piece looks like it belongs in the middle of the woods, something to come upon unawares, and not just for the spooky factor. It feels like the evocation of a deity from an ancient culture that lived in or near a forest, and knew nothing of art galleries.
Elizabeth Alexander has a lovely companion show to Moerlein’s, much more delicate and precise. Alexander is a collage artist, and for this show, she has sliced hundreds of flowers out of photographs, photogravure prints, wallpaper, and porcelain. Her handout sheet for this exhibit is a great lesson in how removing something from its context and placing it elsewhere ignites the imagination of artist and viewer.
“Wrought I & II” is a large installation piece. First, she creates a kind of overgrown ivy, running along the floor, up a beam and on the ceiling, out of pale wallpaper from which she has excised the pattern. Then all that colorful, zingy, robust patterning explodes from one side of a black, furniture-like form made of drywall and roofing tar. Alexander dances from interior to exterior in this work, deconstructing her materials and putting them back together into something more chaotic and haunting, even as they cling to their homey intent.
Handling the curves
A simple gesture guides all of the pieces in sculptor Doug Bosch’s show “Catenaria,” at the VanDernoot Gallery at Lesley University College of Art and Design. It’s a catenary, the lazy arc of a chain or rope supported at both ends.
In “Nest With Yellow,” white fiberglass curves (and a couple of yellow steel ones) spring from a yellow steel brace on the wall with the buoyancy of fireworks. Ah, I thought to myself: So this is the lovely essence of an arc. But “Snagged Catenaries” is in more trouble: These sharper arcs spill onto the floor in a tangle. They look like skeletal gulls’ wings.
The gothic “Chandelier #041713” hangs from the ceiling, with dozens of nested pale plaster curves jamming into one another like clothes in an overstuffed closet. Bosch has dipped many of these in pollen, and they feel weighed down at their ocher centers — a reference to gravity’s effect on any catenary. In the end, a curve can be used, like any line, to convey a number of moods and effects. It all depends upon how it’s manipulated.
Christian Haub: Floats
At: Miller Yezerski Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave., through March 11. 617-262-0550, www.milleryezerskigallery.com
Andy Moerlein: Demise
Elizabeth Alexander:Treacle Well
At: Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., through March 9.
Doug Bosch: Catenaria
At: VanDernoot Gallery, Lesley University College of Art and Design, University Hall, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, through March 14. 617-585-6656, www.lesley.edu
Cate McQuaid can be reached at email@example.com.