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Galleries

Changing spaces, but not goals

Three local outlets try some reinventions

At a training camp, Army Specialist Gary McCorkle role-playing a terrorist in photographer Claire Beckett’s exhibit “You Are . . . ’’ at Carroll and Sons. At a training camp, Army Specialist Gary McCorkle role-playing a terrorist in photographer Claire Beckett’s exhibit “You Are . . . ’’ at Carroll and Sons.
By Cate McQuaid
Globe Correspondent / March 9, 2011

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First: a closing, a move, and an opening. After two years on Harrison Avenue, Walker Contemporary will shut its doors in June or July, according to owner Stephanie Walker. She’s forsaking the bricks-and-mortar part of the gallery business.

“I feel that this space is too limiting. The economy the way it is has spurred a change in the way our business is done, and I need to be more flexible, more mobile, more nimble,’’ says Walker, who is currently exhibiting glass sculptures by Kazuo Kadonaga.

Alpha Gallery moved across Newbury Street last week. After five years with more than 3,000 square feet at 38 Newbury, the 44-year-old gallery has scaled down to 2,000 square feet at 37 Newbury St., mostly cutting back on storage. “We were able to decrease our square footage without decreasing our exhibition potential, and as a result we’re paying less rent,’’ says Alpha director Joanna Fink. Alpha inaugurates the venue with an exhibit of gallery artists, followed by painter Jon Imber’s solo show, opening March 19.

Finally, William Scott Gallery, a mainstay in Provincetown for nearly 16 years, has for the third time opened a Boston branch. Owner Brian Galloway says the first effort, back in the 1990s, closed because of financial pressures, and the second shut a few years back when his director moved. Galloway had been spending his own winters in Florida. “But now I’m firmly settled back in Boston,’’ he says, looking around his new Harrison Avenue space, “and now I can devote more of my time and energy to this.’’ His first show features urban landscapes by gallery mainstay John Dowd.

Roles, war, and insight From online games and virtual communities to historic reenactment, role play is more and more common. The US military employs it for training procedures, and photographer Claire Beckett has visited Marine and Army training camps in the Mojave Desert to photograph some of the participants. Her strangely disconcerting but classically beautiful color photos are on view at Carroll and Sons.

The sets, such as the plywood and plastic-looking mosque in “Jabal Village Mosque, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA 2008,’’ resemble playhouses. Military and civilian participants make up their own characters and throw together their own costumes. Many of them are pale skinned and blue-eyed, and wrapped in headscarves, which makes for a jarring collision of stereotypes.

Army Specialist Gary McCorkle, playing, according to the piece’s long, expository title, “ ‘Jibril Ihsan Hamal,’ a key member of the leading terrorist group in town,’’ wrapped himself in white and knelt in front of a plywood box, where he toyed with the wires in a fake IED. The dramatic light falling upon him, the darkened backdrop, and his stance and costume all echo Renaissance renderings of some of Christianity’s most cherished stories.

Then there’s civilian Krista Galyean, who, according to gallery owner Joseph Carroll, was born without a right arm. She’s in fatigues, playing a Marine injured in a blast. The light pours in from one side, modeling her like a Vermeer maiden. She stands before a plywood wall, gazing calmly into the camera. Yet her arm appears to have just been blown off, the stump bloody.

The earnest poses here blur the line between the subjects’ fictive roles and their real selves. The result is a brew of self and projected other, an unnerving amalgamation that may offer up more truth than we know about who these people are and how they see the world.

Looking for perception Jennifer Leigh Caine’s tremulous abstract paintings at Soprafina Gallery speak as much to visceral sensation as they do to vision. Caine builds up her canvases with paint, usually finishing off with layers of white, then she scrapes and sands and reveals what lies beneath. They have terrific motion and energy, but if you are looking for some thing to see, you will miss it, as scoops and shards of emerging color send your eye cascading over the entire canvas. It’s like searching for something in a sea of downy feathers.

“Distance Divided’’ features three discrete columns of motion, like cyclones, each filled with its own calamity of detail, seeming to coalesce out of the white sky. In her statement, Caine says her paintings explore the relationship between the physical world and its parallel in memory, thought, and emotion. They depict an internal experience: The constant shift of perception, and the veils that fall after moments of clarity.

Going room to room Ilona Anderson’s drawing installation “Dwell,’’ at Kingston Gallery, luxuriantly stretches her motif of trees and tree houses throughout most of the gallery in blocks and shards of paper on the wall, sometimes connecting, sometimes discrete. It feels capacious, like a house with a dozen extensions tacked on.

Then, as in each room of that home, Anderson fills each page with drawings in pearlescent ink, gouache, gel pens, and glitter. Against black and gray pages, black trees provide a backdrop to neon-bright women and men lounging about, knitting, or making love. The intricate drawings are fantastical — in one, a young woman is suspended by her braid from a tree — and the structures are improbable, jiggered together from planks, pipes, logs, and branches. I saw it as depicting imagination itself, rambling, unexpected and bright, but shot with shadow.

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com.

CLAIRE BECKETT: You Are . . .

At: Carroll and Sons, 450 Harrison Ave., through March 26. 617-482-2477, www.carrollandsons.net

JENNIFER LEIGH CAINE: New Paintings

At: Soprafina Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through March 26. 617-728-0770, www.soprafina.com

ILONA ANDERSON: Dwell: A Drawing Installation

At: Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through March 27. 617-423-4113, www.kingstongallery.com