Don’t look for stories in Sandi Haber Fifield’s photographs. In each piece in “After the Threshold,” her show at Gallery Kayafas, she sequences four disparate images in a horizontal line, building compositions around formal associations of shape and color. Images don’t repeat, but themes arise, cinching each work together.
Pink recurs in “Luck.” First, blurry pink blossoms on a tree beneath a blue sky, followed by a multiple exposure of faces of a man and a woman nearly folded into each other, layered with a hazy cityscape; then, a fog of fevered pink cut by the outlines of leaves; and finally, dead roses snipped off their stems, littering a sparse lawn.
The images ripen into meaning: birth and death, love and loss. But the tales viewers may map onto them are secondary to the moods they stir. The effect is like that of a montage in film; images without the logic of story can plunge us deep into a surreal, dreamy well. Haber Fifield ventures toward film in her video, “As if Nothing Had Happened.”
The screen looks like one of her photo pieces: several images in line, only here they all change. One sequence comprises different views of water; another focuses on light and shadow, another on greenery. As with the photographs, the images overlap and build upon one another, formally and thematically. They open doors for us to step through, and prod us on our own journeys.
Sculptor Audrey Goldstein, who also has an exhibit at Gallery Kayafas, grows more audacious with every show. She makes work concerned with our increasingly virtual world’s disconnection from the body’s perceptions. Yet the conceptual underpinnings, while rigorous, seem almost unnecessary in the face of her bollixing, clever sculptures.
The showstopper here is “Issues of Trust II #14,” a 5-foot-tall piece that rolls off the wall like a nasty burl on a giant redwood. Some of it is flat, painted to resemble a pale, humid sky. Then it bulbs out like a ginger root. The top resembles dry leaves; the side looks like carved wood. But nothing is what it seems. Goldstein uses felt, papier-mache, paint, and graphite to make trompe l’oeil allusions to other materials. The wood grain, for instance, is painted or drawn.
We rely on our senses to tell us what is real. Long before computers, though, artists were creating virtual realities. Sculptors, so concerned with tangibilities of space, volume, and material, are no less guilty of that. Goldstein seems to revel in it.
Back in time
ACME Fine Art revisits the James Gallery, an early cooperative operating in New York from 1954 to 1962, beginning at abstract expressionism’s height, with a lively show co-curated by gallery director David Cowan and one of the James’s original artists, Myrna Harrison. The James was one of a community of cooperatives around East 10th Street that sprung up in reaction to exclusionary commercial galleries.
Not all of the work withstands the test of time, but the exuberant energy of the exhibition overrides the occasional misfire. There are a few jewels, including William Freed’s “Untitled Abstraction.” The paint is so built up it’s stony, but the colors — tangerine, grapefruit pink — glimmer and melt, despite the bold forms of a pale square tilting against a dark shape edged in arcs. James Billmyer’s untitled painting is made entirely of scores of straight lines criss-crossing the canvas, creating depth and a dense, striated surface.
The second show at ACME highlights another abstract artist of that era, Panos Ghikas, who worked primarily in egg tempera, a medium only a perfectionist can love. Early works made while he was in art school at Yale in the 1940s are figurative and deeply invested in volume, such as the romantic pair in “Give Your Heart to the Hawks.”
But Ghika was a cunning modernist, and his 1957 painting “McDowell Colony 2” is a terrific piece. Its flat, interlocking puzzle-pieces of color, with their angles and tones, effectively evoke planes and space. At the same time, they hint at figures in a footrace. Both paintings are intricate, with delicate, dusky hues, but the abstract “McDowell Colony 2” conveys so much more than the allegorical “Hawks.”
Cuban artist Aneet R. Fontes decamped from Havana two years ago to live in Miami, but her street scenes at Galeria Cubana are a love letter to Havana. The acrylic paintings expertly combine aesthetics of photography and watercolor; they have a gritty realism, but they shimmer and reflect.
She breaks many right down the center with the edge of a door or building, with a scene on one side and its reflection on the other, suggesting two worlds: one concrete, the other an illusion.
In “All Terrain,” she sets us at pavement level, looking up at a man on a bike. A woman’s feet pass on one side. Yet we’re high on the canvas. A puddle with the man’s reflection fills most of the painting. The white sky above turns murky below. With works like these, Fontes weighs reality against the light and shadows it casts onto the world around it, and in our minds.
SANDI HABER FIFIELD: After the Threshold
AUDREY GOLDSTEIN: Issues of Trust II
At: Gallery Kayafas,
450 Harrison Ave., through April 12 617-482-0411, www.gallerykayafas.com
Artists of the James Gallery
PANOS GHIKAS: Equilibrium
At: ACME Fine Art,
450 Harrison Ave., through April 26. 617-585-9551, www.acmefineart.com
ANEET R. FONTES: And yet, I still love you
At: Galeria Cubana,
460 Harrison Ave., through April 27. 617-292-2822, www.lagaleriacubana.comCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.