The sheer technical intricacy of Heather McGill’s wall pieces at Miller Yezerski Gallery boggles the mind. But it’s the visual punch that stays with you: the psychedelic colors, the ornate patterning that flashes from snakeskin to lace to the Art Nouveau of Tiffany lamps, and the sense that you’re gazing upon something pregnant with symbolic meaning, like a Rorschach test or a mandala.
Their construction involves computer design, laser cutting, and hand sewing. McGill digitally layers patterns from fashion, historic jewelry, maps of the night sky, and more. She airbrushes them on paper, and cuts minute designs into the airbrushed pages with a laser. She also laser-cuts acrylic sheets, which she adds to the visual sandwich, sewing acrylic squibs onto the paper like buttons.
These constructions feel like giant pieces of jewelry. Light passes through and glints off the acrylic. One round piece (they’re all untitled) has edges that jut in 10 directions, each shaped like the outer end of a butterfly’s wing. They narrow into a symmetrical wheel of opalescent, speckled colors and delicate patterns toward a center that looks like lightning in a bottle.
McGill nimbly shuffles textures, designs, and aesthetics from different eras into works that feel weird yet familiar. The three-pronged biomorphic form at the center of one orange piece might be a bee’s-eye view from above an orchid, with its sumptuous center, and its languid petals dusted with pale yellow pollen. The webbing of deep red acrylic surrounding it recalls the lead seams in Tiffany glass, or a fluid net in water.
The works crack open dreamtime with their rush of associations. The artist’s color sense — like her pattern sense — is hot and strident, aiming for contrast within her harmonies. McGill pushes her works with these tensions, and with her frothy surfeit of visual information. She risks overload, but she hasn’t gotten there yet.
Kelley, Pashko farewell works
Kim Pashko and David Kelley, an artist couple, have lived in the Boston area for decades. Now they’re moving to Houston, where Pashko, formerly registrar at the Museum of Fine Arts, will take up that job at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. They’re having a blowout goodbye exhibition at Samson.
Kelley, who is retiring from teaching at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, is a superb colorist. For years, he has played with graphic depictions of emptiness — a hole, a blank speech bubble in a comic. For his “Cartoosh” series, he edges those holes with narrow canopies of color in warm, delicate hues that create a sense of depth, like layers of curtains opening on an empty stage. They’re not about what’s inside or outside — they’re about those fertile edges.
In “Cartoosh Conversion #2,” the simple form morphs into something more. Kelley surrounds a color-fringed white bubble at the center with larger white spaces in the corners of the frame; the gray outside the bubbles, which was negative space in the simpler paintings, becomes a muscular shape of its own, rippling with colored edges. What is emptiness here, and what is form?
Kelley’s largest piece here, “Drunken Butterfly #4,” dives headlong into color. Luminous breaths of it float over a gray ground. The tones, such as neon yellow tinged with pink and green, shock the eye. Rough brushwork has the colors scrape into one another and vanish beneath the gray, yet they sparkle like halos.
Pashko makes delicate, location-specific paintings in ink and gouache. Angling planes of color give each piece a spare structure as black ink marks jitter around them. “Sublow Lysaker” features a jutting pier of limey greens and connected blocks of pink and red, as the ink marks make their way in fevered clusters up the vertical canvas, accumulating at the top. The colors feel like cool architecture; the ink like the frenetic movements of the populace.
Lang, Sealine shows
David Lang, sculptor, maker of whirligigs and doohickeys, has re-created his studio, or shop, in a playful installation at Boston Sculptors Gallery. With his father’s lathe, a 1956 Parilla motorbike, and other old treasures, Lang effectively conveys where his aesthetic comes from: a family love of tinkering and a passion for the symbolic potential of found objects.
He includes some of his art, such as the stirring “Discord,” a set of old organ pipes that moan and whisper at you as you walk by, and the cheeky “Coulda had a V8,” a little buggy with Campbell’s soup can pistons. Some of the works are one-note jokes, but the ones freighted with history can be both haunting and funny.
In the second gallery at Boston Sculptors, Eric Sealine continues his uncanny practice of parsing perspective. Sealine’s painting constructions create the illusion of depth with angles and edges that protrude slightly from the picture plane. In “The Studio at 4:00 A.M.” he has us gazing from an attic room down a steep stairwell. The moonlit scene is cut this way and that with dormers, rails, window frames, and banisters jutting toward the viewer. They stir the conviction of reality, and the dizzy heights of a lonely attic at night.
In other gallery news, LaMontagne Gallery, one of the most cutting-edge galleries in Boston, will close its doors on Aug. 1, according to owner Russell LaMontagne. The gallery has been in its South Boston location for six years, and LaMontagne says it has been a challenge to get visitors to venture to the neighborhood. He says he’s looking for a new location in Boston.
KIM PASHKO & DAVID KELLEY: It’s hard to say au revoir, so let’s just say hors d’oeuvre
At: Samson, 450 Harrison Ave., through April 12. 617-357-7177, www.samsonprojects.com
DAVID A. LANG: The Shop: Where the Wheels Turn
ERIC SEALINE: Short Stories: 2012-2014
At: Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., through April 13. 617-482-7781, www.bostonsculptors.com