Touch in art weaves a spell. Body memory. Intimacy.
Many of the seven artists in “shape_shifting_support_systems” at Praise Shadows Art Gallery are trained painters who turned to weaving, their hands directly on materials, unmediated by a brush.
Paintings play out on supports, often canvases on stretchers. Weaving, co-curators Leah Triplett Harrington and Mallory Ruymann write in their curatorial statement, “is its own support system.” The strength of interleaving and connecting parts holds a piece together.
It’s a medium of care that, the curators suggest in a catalog essay, helps artists sidestep art world expectations and surrender to the creative process; instead they “rely on embodied knowledge to let their artworks” come into being.
These weavings still have thrilling resonances with painting. They hang on the wall, brilliantly colored and formally inventive; their grids invoke Modernism. Emily Auchincloss’s work recalls the lush geometries of weaver Anni Albers and painter Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie Woogie.”
Courtney Stock weaves paintings on paper. The undulant “Euphotic Zone,” has a warp of coppery vertical streaks and a deep blue black weft — sunlight penetrating water, echoing the title. The piece, mounted to stand out inches from the wall, feels untethered yet welcoming, at once a thought and an embrace.
Embodied practices often lead to performance. Filipino artist Bhen Alan will be at the gallery on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 2 p.m. to perform “Pagbawi | Reclaiming,” a dance with a woven artwork, called a baníg.
Alan’s banígs consider identity and code-switching in a discriminatory society. They are show-stoppers. In “Three Hundred Thirty Three,” he weaves materials with personal and cultural resonance such as bamboo leaves, coconut leaves, and a rice sack. It’s a party on the wall, a chorus of ancestors conjured into the material realm.
Natiana Alexandra Fonseca honors their oppressed ancestors. In “Introducing Manuel Carreira Dos Santos Fonseca,” a fragile white weaving hangs over one smudged bloody red. The title lists members of the artist’s mother’s family in Angola who endured a war for independence followed by civil war in the latter half of the 20th century. There’s no figure imprinted on Fonseca’s work, but it recalls the Shroud of Turin, said to be wrapped around Jesus after his crucifixion.
That’s what touch in art does. These weavings are works to behold, but they are also works to be held and to hold us — if only in our imagination.
At Praise Shadows Art Gallery, 313A Harvard St., Brookline, through Aug. 27. www.praiseshadows.com
Cate McQuaid can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.