Art in Flux at Alden Gallery
Abstraction and representation are usually seen as opposite — if not antagonistic — modes of artistic expression. According to Alden Gallery owner Howard Karren, however, something happens when works from each style are exhibited together.
“You start to see things in the abstraction you didn’t see before,” says Karren, “like shapes and colors it has in common with the representational work nearby. The works begin to have an affinity, almost a conversation.”
Call it a kind of reciprocal halo effect: abstraction can make representational work feel more ambiguous and less clearly defined, and representation lends structure and legibility to works that would read as more strictly abstract when viewed in isolation.
You can see that reciprocity in a new show opening at Alden, at 423 Commercial St. in Provincetown, on Sept. 2. Selections from Cathleen Daley’s meditative and expansive “Field Studies” series of gouaches are paired with paintings from Alice Denison’s “On the Small Side”: layered compositions made with multiple thin applications of oil paint in which the images seem to merge into the linen canvas.
Daley’s abstractions, which have become looser and more open in recent years, feature almost translucent swaths of color with the barest of formal structure to support them. Denison’s floral images, however, are dense with detail, a result of repeatedly adding and removing layers of paint in a process the artist calls “building a painting, essentially, from residue.”
Viewers may see those perspectives as less distinct when the works are viewed together. Daley’s paintings become more Rorschach-like, allowing the viewer to organize the shapes and colors into specific objects and associations, while Denison’s work can be perceived less in terms of its many finely rendered details than its overall sense of pattern, color, and light.
The affinity between the two artists isn’t just in the eye of the beholder: both were graduates of the first class of MassArt’s former MFA program at the Fine Arts Work Center, and both have been exhibiting at Alden since its inception in 2008. The new show, which runs until Sept. 15, is an opportunity to appreciate their paintings in a context that further enriches two individually absorbing bodies of work. —John D’Addario
More Assets for Cape Cod Artists
The Mass. Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams has spearheaded several initiatives to support working artists. Assets for Artists “helps artists in all disciplines strengthen their financial and business capacity to sustain a lifetime of creative excellence.”
Artists on Cape Cod and the Islands can now participate in this program through a partnership with the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (AFCC). Applications are due Sept. 15.
Ten local artists will be selected for a six-month program that will provide participants with one-on-one financial coaching; webinars on taxes, grants, and planning; access to a community cohort of creative peers; and a $1,000 working capital grant. The online workshops will be free and open to Cape artists regardless of their participation in the program.
Eastham artist Margot Stage participated in the program in 2011 when she was living in Lowell and has been attending online workshops ever since. “I can’t recommend it enough,” she says. “It shifted my attitudes and assumptions about looking at money as a tool rather than a challenge or goal. It made it seem more accessible and manageable, and less fraught with fear.”
The program is made possible via a combination of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and an investment from the Cape Cod Foundation that the AFCC received at the end of last year. Application information is available at artsfoundation.org and assetsforartists.org. —Abraham Storer
Something Fishy at Spiritus
If you think the only thing that goes with a slice of pizza at Spiritus is extra pepperoni or maybe some ice cream for dessert, you haven’t been paying attention to the rotating art on the walls of the iconic Provincetown eatery during your munchie runs. Spiritus has exhibited the work of local and visiting artists for years now, and it’s gradually established itself as an important if underappreciated venue on the P’town arts scene for both emerging artists and collectors alike.
Wellfleet artist Dean Moran will host the opening of his “Fishy Art Show” on Thursday, Sept. 1. The title doesn’t refer to the anchovies that some people leave off their fully loaded pies but to the subject of Moran’s latest body of work: whimsical and occasionally unsettling drawings of hybrid fish-mermaid creatures in the process of slipping into (and out of) their scales and occasionally turning themselves into sushi. The results are playfully surreal pin-ups that combine the style of classic tattoo art with the Japanese woodcut prints that influence Moran’s work.
Buying a piece is as easy as putting a red dot sticker on the one that whets your appetite and sending money to the artist with an app. You’ll have to wait until the show is over on Sept. 14 before you can take it home, but at least you’ll be able to visit it in the meantime. Find Moran on Instagram at @sardinetaco for more details and previews of the work. —John D’Addario
Grace Hopkins Makes You Look
Grace Hopkins’s photographs at Berta Walker Gallery (208 Bradford St., Provincetown), on view through Sept. 17, tease the viewer to figure out the source of her close-up images. We’re used to thinking of photography as a medium that conveys an objective representation of the world, even if photography never really does that. The mystery of Hopkins’s work is that we have no idea what she is photographing. Glimpses of texture and shadow provide clues, but the “real” world remains elusive.
Hopkins makes us approach photography as we would abstract painting, where an actual reference is beside the point. There is minimal depth in these pictures: Hopkins uses photography to create flat compositions that are stubbornly two-dimensional.
The photos are tightly composed, with space divided into dynamic juxtapositions between bright synthetic colors and hard-edged geometric shapes. They make us aware of the rich variety of compositions and painterly gestures that exist in the urban landscape — things that we tend to ignore because of their ubiquity, or because they’re part of something else. Perhaps there really is something objective in Hopkins’s photographs after all. —Abraham Storer
Rhythm and Tension at Off Main Gallery
A show of gritty abstractions by Steven Solomon, Amy Solomon, and Steven Seidenberg is on view at Off Main Gallery (75 Commercial St., Wellfleet) through Sept. 7.
One gallery wall is covered with a grid of Steven Solomon’s work referencing black-and-white print culture. The artist mixes snippets of text that juxtapose different fonts and sources, including advertising copy and news stories. Splashes of color, usually yellow or red, are applied sparingly to create pulsating rhythms throughout the pieces. Their off-kilter sensibility and improvisational handmade quality are suggestive of punk music.
Amy Solomon’s work shows a similar emphasis on surface and tactility. Her colors, however, are more subtle. Her most compelling work is a series of paintings on paper in which layers of material and markings create an atmosphere that feels both airy and dense.
While the Solomon siblings seem comfortable making messes, the surfaces of Seidenberg’s deftly composed photographs are slick and pristine. Seidenberg finds inspiration in the grit of the Tokyo subway system and built a series from photographs of adhesive tape he found there. He manages to transform these prosaic moments in the urban landscape into highly controlled abstract compositions exploring the tension between horizontal and vertical lines of movement. —Abraham Storer
A Folk Music Legend Comes to Payomet
Tom Rush helped shape the folk revival of the 1960s and hasn’t rested since, continually performing and building a musical legacy that has influenced artists from James Taylor and Emmylou Harris to Tom Petty and Garth Brooks. He brings his repertoire of warmly familiar and intimately expressed music to the Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Road in North Truro, on Sept. 3.
Rush’s much-loved songs convey a nostalgia for a time when popular music was more narrative-driven and conversational. He began his career playing in Boston while studying at Harvard and helped to usher in the singer-songwriter era. Later, he nurtured other musicians through the Club 47 concert series, named for the fabled Cambridge club that hosted Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. More recently, he’s found new audiences through a popular YouTube channel, where “The Remember Song” became a viral hit with more than 7 million views. He also started a regular Sunday concert series from his kitchen in Rockport during the early days of the pandemic.
Tickets for Rush’s concert at $45 and $55 are available at payomet.com. —Abraham Storer