Sunday, June 10, 2018

Constructing Worlds at Octavia

We spend much of our time in rooms and buildings, in places that support the professional and social relationships that enable us to lead meaningful lives. Our relationships with those buildings themselves are more subtle, yet keen observers who have looked beyond their facades have noted how the lives of structures sometimes parallel the lives of those they shelter. This Constructing Worlds expo features the work of four painters who explore how buildings are situated not just on streets, but also in our minds and imaginations where they function like opera sets for our daily dramas even as they, over time, seem to take on an inner life of their own.

The most intimate architectural spaces are our living quarters, but Belgian painter Pierre Bergian depicts elegant yet empty rooms that resonate faded grandeur, as we see in The Blue Mirror, left, a derelict parlor with dusty paneling surrounding a massive mirror that rises to a vaulted ceiling. Bathed in soft, shimmering light, the mirror's eerie blue reflections evoke a tidal pool like a portal into lost memories. New York painter Jeff Goldenberg focuses on the rooftops of old, lower Manhattan buildings, mostly desolate spaces studded with wooden water towers that look like old cisterns but are really functional plumbing reservoirs. In works like Printers Rollers, above right, they reflect the austere gothic geometry of an earlier age now lost amid the soaring architectural spectacles of our time. Maine painter Greta Van Campen applies a similarly stark style to America's homely modernity in Red Square where a bleak commercial warehouse building is bisected by long shadows that lend it the surreal mystique of a latter-day DeChirico plaza painting. Architecture as a reflection of the inner lives of people and places is elucidated in Grover Mouton's collage paintings like New Orleans, 1987, left, where Gallier Hall floats in a nimbus of gestural notations, or House in Space, where a levitating old Greek Revival home recalls French philosopher Gaston Bachelard's maxim: “The house, even more than the landscape, is a psychic state... “ ~Bookhardt / Constructing Worlds: Intersections of Art and Architecture, Through July 28, Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia Street St., 309-4249.