Planes upon planes: Catherine Kehoe paints images in buttery color on small blocks of wood that jut from the walls at Howard Yezerski Gallery. The blocks reinforce her paintings’ structures, built from facets of color.
In portraits, still lifes, nudes, and more, tones shift and burn. They channel light and clatter against one another like panes of sturdy glass. Kehoe’s forms are distillations: flattened, simplified, essential. She might be carving from color and light.
Dabs of gray and white and spikes of green make up the flower in “Still life with White Peony,” suspended before a sphere of luminous blue. That blue against the wine-red ground intoxicates the eye, and Kehoe induces further vertigo with her space: Where does table end and wall begin?
She samples, from Vermeer’s “Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid” a woman’s shoulder cascading with creamy sleeve and collar, and her maid’s crossed arm in “After Vermeer.” Like a prism, Kehoe breaks up light, sorting the old master’s whites, rosy beiges, and grays into shards and turning the shadowy space between the women into a chasm. It plays up abstraction, but the intimacy — and the gulf of class — remains.
Looking closely, Kehoe finds in her subjects something robust but inscrutable. In the back room at Yezerski, Keith Maddy’s forceful, meticulous collages crafted from old coloring books (and more) are enigmatic, too – for entirely different reasons. Kehoe reduces, and Maddy builds up.
With a steady hand, he slices long lines from the coloring books. They tangle, in a piece such as “Little Pink Doodle,” over layers of other ephemera, and images pop from the density: a gloved Disney hand, flung operatically; a clown’s hat, the butt of a gun. It’s a whirlwind in graphic art, whipping like a sprung coil.
Maddy’s work looks like he has taken the cartoon puff left behind by the speeding Road Runner, put it under a microscope, and found cultural history in the dust. He, too, taps the familiar and finds more than we expected.
CATHERINE KEHOE: Shape Shift
KEITH MADDY: Mono No Aware
At Howard Yezerski Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave., through July 14. 617-262-0550, www.howardyezerski.comCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.