Haunting secrets of the night
Americans don’t sleep enough. We can’t sleep; we suffer sleep disorders; we take sleeping pills. Like insomniacs, Robert Knight’s camera stays awake and observant through the night, as he records his subjects tossing and turning.
In his photographs at Gallery Kayafas, light takes on a hallowed glow as it enters the darkened room and the camera lens. Everything inanimate remains still and crisp, while all that moves — the body on the bed — blurs close to oblivion. Knight prints his photos on watercolor paper. The nap (pardon the pun) is evident, imbuing these images with a painterly feel. They are lush, dark, and occasionally incandescent, hushed but ablaze with apparitions.
“Untitled (3 hours, 30 minutes, December 1, 2009)’’ depicts a child who sleeps with a red nightlight, which shines like an ember amid the fog and tumble of linens, even as the moon casts a pale blue light over the indeterminate lump. The tones mingle into purple. This is all in ephemeral motion, while the corners of pillows and bed stay steady and defined near the edges of the frame.
Knight includes smaller prints with audio of night sounds, as well as two videos, including “Untitled (Self-Portrait, 7 hours, 15 minutes, May 13-14, 2010),’’ which is projected onto a giant pillow. It’s an excerpt of a night, shot mostly in one-minute morsels from a camera directly above the artist’s pillow. At the beginning, he reads; at the end he wakes, and sounds of children calling prompt him to rise.
It’s a captivating and unnerving video, as Knight invites viewers into this intimate encounter. When he wakes, he stares into the camera and at us, as if he’s caught us watching. All of the works in this show feel close to intrusive, but because they’re so artful and haunting, and because the night seems to have secrets worth exploring, it’s somehow all right.
Goldberg’s “Falling Water Cabinet’’ is wardrobe-size. Deep blue at the bottom, it gradually brightens toward the top. Reeds and lotus blossoms float over the surface, drawn in paint and carved out of the wood. Loops and spirals carved out of the blue suggest water currents. Goldberg points to Japanese art and textiles as an inspiration, and the kinship is evident.
The patterns inside differ from those outside. In this piece, she has carved a grid pattern of laurel wreaths, which circle screen prints of birds. Her color sense and her willingness to mix up references in one piece are refreshing. “Plum Blossom and Bamboo Cabinet’’ vamps up an Asian-influenced floral design with tones (olive, orange) and flower-power interior prints that recall 1960s-era American kitchens.
Even so, Snyder has tapped three artists whose works have terrific narrative thrust. Jon Laustsen, Amy Podmore, and Charles Jones all create sculptures that make you feel as if you’ve tumbled after Alice right down the rabbit hole.
Laustsen, a mad hatter of a building contractor, takes shifts in scale as his conceit. His “Emergence’’ is a sprawling construction site, mixing regular-size items such as fencing, concrete posts, and rebar with the skeletons of small-scaled buildings. This artist has a teeny-tiny sawmill in his studio, and he mills wood to make itty-bitty 2-by-4s. Besides its scale contrasts, the site is fantastical for its gangplanks, bridges to nowhere, skewed roofs, and structures suspended within other structures.
Podmore’s dark, fairy tale figures morph into metaphors, blending human, animal, and more. “Limpet’’ is a boy at the bottom, a plaster figure on his knees in black jeans and shoes. But over his wide-open hollering mouth, his head transforms into a towering structure, drilled with holes, leaning this way and that and strapped with boxes.
Jones had a show at Boston Sculptors Gallery in 2008 with many of the same works on view here, including “Accord Group/Kyoto,’’ a magnificent and alarming leather gas mask for an elephant. The installation here, and the grouping with Laustsen and Podmore, does better by the artist, emphasizing fantasy and humor even as Jones makes forceful points about humanity’s questionable drive to conquer the planet.
Cate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org