|“Swan and Serpent,’’ by Varujan Boghosian, at Victoria Munroe Fine Art.|
Tableaux created in harmony with chaos
At: Victoria Munroe Fine Art, 161 Newbury St., through Oct. 29. 617-523-0661, www.victoriamunroefineart.com
CANDY COLORS, BUT NOT JUST FOR FUN
At: “Listed,”” Studio No. 1, 1140 Washington St., Oct. 13-15. 617-875-7380.
ELLEN BANKS: Musical Manifestations: Compositions in Wax, Paper, and Yarn
At: Sherman Gallery, Boston University, 775 Commonwealth Ave., through Oct. 30. 617-358-0295, www.bu.edu/cfa/visual-arts
A century ago, cubists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso were the first to captivate the art world with collage. It was an art of fragments in collision, disrupted surfaces, and bizarre juxtapositions that rattled the brain. Art has come a long way since then, but the insistently chaotic collage remains a prototype.
Varujan Boghosian, 85, has been making collages and their 3-D counterparts, assemblages, for decades. He has a show, mostly of collages, full of grace and harmony, at Victoria Munroe Fine Art. Although he employs visibly torn fragments, the rips and tears don’t feel aggressive. Rather, his fluid compositions add up to sly and surprising narratives.
Boghosian taught at Dartmouth College, where he came upon a volume of Audubon’s “The Birds of America’’ in the rare book library, and was struck by the swans. Many collages here feature prints of those images, which play up the extraordinary sinuous curve of the swans’ necks.
A hand-drawn head is the focus in “Self-Portrait With Swan.’’ It’s a generic drawing, but the artist has opened the cranium to release a galactic map that billows beyond the borders of the collage. The swan, a voluptuous lily, and a parade of beetles are the backdrop, suggesting the natural world, and a human tendency (such as Audubon’s) to put order to it.
The S-curve of the swan’s neck and the plump ballast of its body have a delicious sensuality. In “Swan and Serpent’’ the bird paddles and feeds along the surface of a strip of paper reverberating with curves. From between the seams of the backdrop, a grid of pale fabric, a muscular snake’s tail and head coil out right above the ignorant swan. It’s a picture stoked with threat, yet the echoes in the seductive curves of bird and reptile suggest kinship between predator and prey.
Boghosian’s works are resonant with poetic references, and they play with the imagination in the same way, opening portals with their dynamic, unexpected associations.
Art by pop-up
Since the economic slowdown, artist Conley Harris, a stalwart in the Boston art scene with a successful painting career, has been watching the dwindling traffic in local galleries with concern. This fall, he’s decided to lend a hand. Harris is staging pop-up shows once a month in his South End studio at 1140 Washington St. So far, his slates of artists have been smart, ranging from emerging artists to some of the best Boston has to offer.
He calls the program “Listed,’’ and each show has a theme. Tomorrow, “Candy Colors, But Not Just for Fun’’ opens with a reception from 6-8 p.m., and the studio will be open to the public on Friday and Saturday from 1-6 p.m. For Harris, it’s purely an act of good will. The artists contribute $25 to provide a doorman and refreshments for the opening. If the work sells, Harris takes no cut.
“I know a lot of artists. We talk. We e-mail, and I have a sense that so many artists are feeling invisible and underserved,’’ Harris says as he sorts through the “Candy Colors’’ pieces that have come into his studio to be installed. “I want to create evenings and shows where people are having a really good time.’’
That’s hard to resist with “Candy Colors,’’ a spirited show with occasional dark undertones. Ellen Rich’s “Pink Pile’’ is a funky triangle made of stacked Styrofoam teardrop shapes painted pink, both humorous and sad. John Guthrie’s painting “Vega’’ is a lean, sharply crafted layering of star shapes in flat color and weaving lines. Judy Riola’s paintings, such as “Getaway Plan,’’ wheel with eye-popping color, layered patterns, and playful biomorphic shapes. Then there’s photographer Lisa Kessler’s stark “Tent City,’’ of an outdoor jail with a prisoner whose striped uniform is weirdly set off by the pink sleeves of the T-shirt he wears beneath it. Pink isn’t always pretty.
Talking through textures
Ellen Banks makes art entirely inspired by musical notation for her show “Musical Manifestations: Compositions in Wax, Paper, and Yarn’’ at the Sherman Gallery at Boston University. Her “Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag’’ indicates best how the concept works; in it she simply translates the notes on the staff to colored squares on a grid. An A note is red, an E note is blue, and a half note fills half a square, making a triangle. The result is a spritely visual parade.
Yet “Scott Joplin’’ is an anomaly in this show, which isn’t about simply making one code into another. Banks is driven by the materials she works with. Her paper pieces, such as “Troubled Waters,’’ are luxuriant in hue and texture. Each leaf in the grid of pulpy sheets of paper appears to have a hieroglyph embedded in it, a suggestion of language and architectonic form.
Her wax paintings, such as “Chaconne in F,’’ are also built around maze-like shapes recalling blueprints or pictograms. They assert themselves as solid, yet shimmer on a surface that is creased, mottled, and translucent. That’s how it is with music, and language - built from complex structures, yet ephemeral.
Cate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.