Denise Marika, who died in July, at 63, made lyrical, tough videos and more that observed suffering and resilience and found raw edges in life, society, and the environment. She and painter Luanne E Witkowski were collaborating on “Strata,” now up at Kingston Gallery, when she died.
Marika’s video projection of a Costa Rican volcanic landscape flickers across a single plywood panel positioned on the floor. Witkowski responds to the video and the panel’s grain with green pigment, crusty materials such as sand, bark, and woodchips, and burning.
Shadows creep, light darts. Steam floats by. Molten rock has its way with the earth. There is a sense, typical of Marika’s work, of breakdown, of witnessing something pushed past the brink and waiting to see what happens next.
Witkowski answers the video’s ethereality with flagrant tactility. The stuff of painting is textured, messy, and volatile, like this landscape. Yet she is restrained, attentive, taking cues from what she sees. The static painting shows off the dancing video. It adds gravity.
I only wish “Strata” were larger than just over 3 feet by 5 feet. Make it four times as big and put it in a small, darkened space, with the video the only light source. Now absorbing, it would be mesmerizing.
Individual work is also on view. In Witkowski’s paintings, each stroke converses with what the wood tells her. She burns into certain marks and embellishes others with texture and pigment, gleaning abstraction, tension, and comfort from natural pattern.
Marika’s “Gated” series of wall pieces, made of white crumpled aluminum painted black and flattened, glimmer and hiss like explosions of angels. In “Channeled,” a video of water burbles over the same material inside a black-rimmed gully, as if bathing white-hot embers. Marika’s searing work has always been more heat than balm, hard to look at but equally hard to look away from. These works, a bit softer, lean into beauty. They still sizzle.
LUANNE E WITKOWSKI & DENISE MARIKA: STRATA
At Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through Sept. 30. 617-423-4113, www.kingstongallery.com