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Galleries | Cate McQuaid

In current shows, creations with lives of their own

Fred H.C. Liang’s “Stream.” Tony Luong

Fred H.C. Liang’s bravura cut-paper installation “Stream” curls and cascades through a third of the gallery at Carroll and Sons, suspended by nylon filaments. Made from sturdy gold, it’s delicately sliced into abstracted natural imagery. Lacy areas suggest bubbles or foam; long strips might be seaweed. Get beneath the piece, and it feels almost alive, or like something carried by currents.

The velvety blue, two-dimensional “Infinite Gesture” takes up one wall, and among the intricate sprigs and patterns, birds appear. This, too, has the easy sense of floating movement, ushered by winds or waves.

This artist’s works have always sprung from inquiries into the paradigms of East and West — Liang was born in China, and came to the United States as a boy. There’s a quality of Asian landscape to his line; his paper-cutting technique is Chinese. He found his paper for “Stream” during a residency in Oaxaca, Mexico. By now, he has achieved a level of mastery so that most of his influences are implicit.

Liang cuts his large, wildly intricate works with an X-Acto knife. Sheer virtuosity like this has its delights, but you don’t want the technical finesse to overshadow the message. His prints, such as “MSS, Untitled (Ptown Rise),” with their many layers of silkscreen, chine collé, drawing, and paper cutting, have a similar dazzle.


These run the risk of simply being stunning ornamental pieces, but two elements in this show make them more than that.

First, ceramic works, unexpected from this artist, deepen his water theme. “Passage” features a Buddha head, trailing hanks of rope from its neck. It appears submerged face-first in the floor — as if bobbing in water, with the rope snaking after on the currents.

Then, that suggestion of effortless motion, like a ribbon in a river. It’s never easy to make something appear effortless. Liang achieves it, crafting what turns out to be an essential lesson of life, and of Buddhism. Don’t resist the flow when you can let it carry you.


Climate-conscious to cosmic

Mags Harries’s “June 22, Baer Solstice.”

Mags Harries, best known as a public artist and sculptor, has a show of photographs and 3-D pieces at Gallery Kayafas that feels as if she’s cracking open a new art form, thanks to her inventive use of 3-D printing.

She builds a prototype, and then scans it from every angle. Many of the prototypes for pieces here are from her recent, climate-conscious “Rising Water” series, featuring boots and boats. On view, we have the miniature 3-D prints, and also details of 3-D triangulated scans compressed into two dimensions — oddly cosmic images.

In 3-D, “Rising Water Aqua Alta” depicts boots perched on bucket-shaped spools of blue, which empty into puddling threads of blue. That rippling puddle edge is the subject of the scan “Aqua Alta,” a delicate, twinkling grid of turquoise and blue crumpling and billowing in ways that recall the fluid undulations of Janet Echelman’s netted installation “As If It Were Already Here,” over the Rose Kennedy Greenway last year.

Harries crops tiny details such as the puddle’s edge with a photographer’s eye. Images fade into delicate grids suggesting shape, and despite the small size of these prints, they often hint at immense spaces. In another work, “Boots,” she uses a single perspective from the 3-D scan and fills a wall with kicky 2-D boots mounted on Plexiglas. The possibilities of the interplay between 2-D and 3-D seem endless.


She also has straight photographs — taken with a camera rather than a scanner — on view, of Icelandic hay bales shot up close so they swell out of the frame. For the sculptor, these are all about volume; for the photographer, they’re about light. “June 22, Baer Solstice” catches the low summer sun glinting over the horizon of three bundled bales, as if they were Stonehenge’s standing stones, waiting all year to capture the solstice light.

Reaching a new level

A detail of Debra Weisberg’s “Un(See)n Scape.”

Sculptor Debra Weisberg builds forms up from lines, coating wire in sandy pulp and torn paper; her work has long had the quality of a drawing busting into space. At the same time, her sculptures echo nature, like the papery quality of a wasp’s nest or the shapes of the hardy, scrubby plants that grow on New England beaches.

In her show at Lesley University’s VanDernoot Gallery, “Fuerza,” made with plaster over wire mesh, looks like the wasted wing of a large bird, pitted and streaked with red and brown. The mostly black “Boosh” protrudes from the wall, knobby like coral, and seems to move tenaciously, branching here and there, listing to one side.

“Un(See)n Scape,” the showpiece of the exhibition, an installation of several such pieces, fills a large portion of the space. It feels like a forsaken beach with rocky outcroppings, and seaweed and detritus washed ashore. Thickets of tangled, coated wire poke up or hug the ground. One hangs on the wall like a dark, snarled moon, making the scene surreal and foreboding. It seems to move and open like tumbleweed, trailing strands behind.


With this work, Weisberg takes the drawing element of her work to a new level, crafting a landscape.

Fred H.C. Liang: Stream

At Carroll and Sons, 450 Harrison Ave., through April 16. 617-482-2477,

Mags Harries : Precautionary Tales

At Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave., through April 9. 617-482-0411,

Debra Weisberg : Mermeros

At VanDernoot Gallery, University Hall, Lesley University, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, through April 16. 617-349-8800,

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