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Bodies of art and art for bodies at Piano Craft Gallery

New show by Pell Lucy, an international collective of 31 artists, is ‘a playground for the senses’

Paula Overbay, "Wing," acrylic on panel.Paul Takauchi

Sometimes we get lost trying to discern the meaning of an artwork when all that matters is what our senses perceive. Thickly applied charcoal lush as suede. A singing blue. A voluptuous curve.

Form can bypass reason and meaning and speak directly to the body. Pell Lucy, a collective founded in 2019 by Brookline painter Deborah Barlow, takes this as a credo. The 31 members of the international group are abstract artists who spurn the notion that art must be tethered to identity, or comment on society. They return instead to the mystical bent of early abstract painters such as Hilma af Klint and Vasily Kandinsky.


Pell Lucy’s show, “In Praise of Form,” is on view at Piano Craft Gallery. The exhibition is a playground for the senses, which can be a route to the divine.

“Pell Lucy’s pivotal belief is that form, like the body, possesses an intelligence of its own,” writes one of the artists, Taney Roniger, in the show’s catalog essay, “one far more capacious than conscious, discursive thought.”

Taney Roniger, "Blossfeldt 3," charcoal on paper.Taney Roniger

Roniger draws with charcoal on big sheets of paper. In “Blossfeldt 3,” a sinuous vine drops through bars of light against a dense black background. She doesn’t fix her medium to the paper; the finely crumbled charcoal is magnetically tactile. Roniger explores the sweep of tones between black and white; the vine is hushed gray, immanent with light.

Other works lean into color, such as the mottled cobalt backdrop in Paula Overbay’s acrylic painting “Wing” — the high-frequency blue ravishes the eye as white and red dots swirl and gather like a murmuration of starlings across its surface. Or form: Like ripples in a pond, the concentric circles in Sarah Slavick’s oil painting, “Elegy to the Underground 4″ suggest both depth and breadth. Slavick’s red circles fill a root system that branches downward over yellow and blue backing, recalling the deeply connected organic communities of a forest.


Sarah Slavick, "Elegy to the Underground 4," oil on canvas.Jake Belcher

Pell Lucy’s name is a play on “pellucid.” The frontispiece of the catalog breaks down the etymology: “pell” means parchment, which is made of animal skin; “lucy” refers to light. These artworks, channeled through the bodies of their makers, can shed light on and awaken our own.


At Piano Craft Gallery, 793 Tremont St., through April 24. www.pianocraftgallery.com/pell_lucy_in_praise_of_form/

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.