Brent Refsland and Eric Portnoy, who own Room 68 in Provincetown, and now in Wellfleet, too, are, in some ways, spur-of-the-moment people. Their Provincetown gallery started as a pop up. And they opened their new outpost this June as a summer project, struck by “an immediate connection to the space,” part of an 1880 building on Wellfleet’s Main Street.
But the Provincetown spot popped up in 2014, and it’s still going strong. And now the two are extending their Wellfleet summer into October. Or maybe 2022. It seems that alongside their readiness to follow intuition is a tendency to allow one thing to lead to another.
Refsland and Portnoy are curators who combine art and other objects — books, practical home goods, jewelry, mobiles — to set up spaces that don’t feel exactly like shopping. Portnoy, who is a Rhode Islander and longtime collector of 20th- and 21st-century design, says their goal is simply “to showcase what inspires us.” They hope people are, in turn, inspired to reimagine their own spaces.
For example, this summer, they invited the Japanese artist Yuko Nishikawa to install her mobiles, and the resulting feeling is akin to entering a museum.
Portnoy’s main interest has long been design, from furniture to lighting to objects. Refsland ran a gallery, the Hallway, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
Refsland invited Boston-based artist Katrine Hildebrandt, who has shown her work with him for close to a decade, to the Outer Cape. Her show, titled “Optimystical,” opens at Room 68 Wellfleet on Friday, Sept. 17. Hildebrandt holds an MFA in three-dimensional studies from the Mass. College of Art and Design. Her work plays with the ideas of fragility, interconnectivity, and mindfulness, and she brings them into being using volatile processes, such as burning intricate marks onto paper.
The geometric compositions in her show represent different forms of energetic movement and vibration through various frequencies, she says. “I’m using metaphors — such as weaving, pivoting, rotating, and shifting — to base the compositions off of those terms,” she says. These new pieces incorporate naturally dyed fabrics, the colors of which convey different emotions.
Tim McCool, an artist who has been showing his work with Refsland since the early days of the Hallway, will be represented by a series of colored pencil drawings at Room 68 Wellfleet starting Saturday, Sept. 18. His most recent series of these drawings, titled Parkway East, was done in his hometown of Pittsburgh over this past summer.
The drawings are a departure for McCool, who was a professor of art at Boston College and has for some time been working in acrylic paint, and abstractly. These drawings are more observational and representational. They take him back in time in both subject and form. He’s had fun, he says, exploring the place he grew up and at the same time experimenting with composition and colors. “Colored pencils,” McCool says, “are a medium I have not used since my early days of making art.”
While the emphasis in Wellfleet will be on McCool’s drawings, work by both artists will be shown in both Room 68 locations.
In the years since they joined forces in 2011, Refsland’s and Portnoy’s interests have to some degree converged. They’ve left their city spaces behind, too, closing up their galleries there in 2014.
They’re now creating a residency for artists from other places to join them in Provincetown. They’re busy there. And Wellfleet, though its gallery scene seems to be thriving with the addition of Farm Projects in 2019, AMZehnder Gallery in late 2020, and Off Main Gallery, which moved to a new, more prominent location this year, is a more relaxed place — their getaway.
“It’s a retreat for us to be here,” Portnoy says.
Keepin’ It McCool
The event: Works by Katrine Hildebrandt and Tim McCool
The time: Opening Friday, Sept. 17, 6 to 9 p.m. in Provincetown; Saturday, Sept. 18, 4 to 7 p.m. in Wellfleet; through Oct. 7
The place: Room 68 Wellfleet, 313 Main St.; Room 68 Provincetown, 377 Commercial St.
The cost: Free