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Galleries | Cate McQuaid

With a new show, Boston artist Clint Baclawski invites viewers closer for the full story

Clint Baclawski’s “Fringe”
Clint Baclawski’s “Fringe”Abigail Ogilvy Gallery

In “Fringe,” Clint Baclawski’s new show at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, a glowing billboard — his signature format — becomes an altar, a sacred site at the heart of the space.

To make his billboards, Baclawski slices a giant photographic transparency into slivers that he wraps around tubular light bulbs. The Boston artist places the light bulbs side by side against a mirrored ground. Stand in front, and it’s an abstraction; stand at the end, and the image coheres.

A curtain of transparent cobalt blue plastic strips surrounds this one. Baclawski’s imagery glows groggily through it in swimming-pool green. Beneath it, warm light seeps along the floor, beckoning, like sunlight mixed with white wine and honey, a yellow-gold I felt I couldn’t live without.


The curtain has three sides. The side closest to a wall — the one visitors are most likely to ignore — has a break between strips, where the light pours out in a shaft onto the wall, hinting at a glorious portal.

Inside the curtain, it’s nearly blinding at first, an assault of light, a wall of yellow smudged here and there with orange. What felt warm and inviting from the outside now felt a little sickening. Too much honeyed wine.

In time, my eyes adjusted. I walked around. The splinters of imagery began to coalesce. First, a cross in the middle. Then, two. A roofline. That helped my mind map the image: a small church, fir trees.

Baclawski photographed it five years ago near the Grand Canyon. At the airport on the way home, a TSA agent opened the film and exposed it. That’s why it’s so unrelievedly yellow, its shadows an acrid orange. There are scratches on the film. The image is not beautiful. It’s marred, glaring, and hard to read. When you do read it, it’s scruffy and humble. But the experience of it feels revelatory.


With “Fringe,” Baclawski models the enchantments and perils of desire. From afar, an object of yearning — a lover, salvation, relief from pain — floods the imagination with its perfections. When you come face to face with it, the allure may still be there. But so is reality, and its endless and fruitful complications.


At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave., through Oct. 13. 617-820-5173, www.abigailogilvy.com

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