Spatial illusion is one of the most intoxicating tropes in art, and artists are not the only ones who use its ability to seduce. Today, we can spend all day in virtual worlds engineered to captivate, and never look out the window.
Cristi Rinklin’s terrific new paintings at Steven Zevitas Gallery continue her exploration of the power of space, cleverly shuffling ways in which it has been depicted through the centuries. She draws on sources that include Baroque paintings, Japanese landscapes, photographs, wallpaper, and images found online. She mashes them together in digital collages, which she then paints. Her colors are hyper; she jams deep space up against impenetrable flatness.
“Displaced” centers on a forest of fir trees along a glassy lake. The trees cast blurry reflections on the water’s surface — an electric blue, at once hot and cold. Similar blue areas waver along the edges of the painting. These might be clouds, but they are so unarticulated — just flat blue — that they snap us to the painting’s surface, and it’s as if we’re peering through cut glass down at wintry woods.
A third element plays between the trees and the clouds, in passages that shimmer with color and shadow, like crumpled silk. If the woods prompt a drop into landscape, these passages suggest a woozier descent into the unconscious. Rinklin’s varied expressions of space overlap and interrupt each other; what might be a cloud here is more an island there. She makes the magic of spatial illusion yet more mystifying.
The “Specter” series, a suite of three paintings, hangs against patterned wallpaper of mountains and clouds unfurling like ribbons, drawn with cartoony swagger. The paintings depict an attenuated red landscape, craggy rock faces, trees, and meandering paths, like Japanese landscapes. They entwine with the same flat electric blue and distant, romantic passages of color in “Displaced.”
It took me a while before I recognized that “Specter 1” and “Specter 3” are, like the wallpaper, patterned, with the same trees and rocks cycling through. This offers yet another layer to Rinklin’s intoxicating, elusive world: Experience repeats, maybe endlessly. It’s the gauzy hint of nightmare, lurking in dreamland.
Alchemy in a mix of mediums
“Visual Alchemy: Tangible Evidence of Experimentation, Discovery, and Transformation,” a juried show at Fountain Street Fine Art, suffers the curse of most juried shows. The topic is too wide open, and in this case could represent all art, so it’s hard to build a show that has any conceptual meat.
Still, juror Elizabeth Devlin, an art blogger and independent curator, has a fresh eye. The photography-based work is the strongest. Lisa Sibley’s moody color photo “Reflective” depicts a black-and-white projection of a child on a swing onto a white house at dusk, and hints at loss and nostalgia.
Nina Earley, for “The Errand and the Epiphany,” altered a paper negative, scratching a white line several times over a dark grid, from bottom to top. It’s the repeated pathway of a remembered journey, with qualities of obsession and fondness. Marie Craig’s photo “Refraction (Beijing)” captures the scrawling reflection of an autumn-yellow tree; the reach and thrust of the branches has more momentum than on any tree in real life.
Hilary Zelson’s piece “Fox Fur Nebula” is one I keep turning over in my mind, not sure whether I love it or hate it. Depicting a fox in a whirl of glitter, it’s sweet, gaudy, and playful — a Devlin trademark. The glitter is magnificent, but the fox is too broad-faced and cheekily cartoonish. If you’re going to “paint” in glitter, balance the over-the-top material with understated imagery.
Forrester revisits themes
Marlon Forrester’s exhibition “The Ecstasy of Flight” at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center doesn’t have the conceptual force of his 2012 show at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists. He explores the same themes: basketball, athletes as commodities, and society’s projections on black male athletes in particular.
He ventures, here, into a more abstract lexicon coded with meaning that’s hard to read — as in the black-and-white vinyl mural “Final Ascension II.” It begins with a reproduction of his painting “Balled-up Head,” which is more Rorschach blot than image, and proceeds with a meandering path of box and tunnel forms. Are they prisons? Basketball backboards?
Forrester’s smaller mixed-media pieces pack more punch. In these, he imbeds collaged images of athletes, or fragments of them, amid loose grids and patches of bright color. The backgrounds become a kind of medium that grows and also imprisons the figures.
Larger paintings and drawings feel less cohesive, and more like studies, as if the artist is exploring a new form with sprawling, bold-lined forms similar to those in “Final Ascension II.” Maybe he’s going somewhere with these, but he’s not there yet.
CRISTI RINKLIN: Displaced
At: Steven Zevitas Gallery,
450 Harrison Ave., through Jan. 31. 617-778-5265, www.stevenzevitasgallery.com
VISUAL ALCHEMY: Tangible Evidence of Experimentation, Discovery, and Transformation
At: Fountain Street Fine Art, 59 Fountain St., through Jan. 25. 508-879-4200, www.fountainstreetfineart.com
MARLON FORRESTER: The Ecstasy of Flight
At: John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, 900 Boylston St., through Jan. 14. 617-954-2325, www.massconvention.com/ community/marlon-forrester