If you want to get a broad and fairly complete sense of the type of work Boston artists are creating at this very moment, you can: visit Newbury Street’s countless galleries, spend a First Friday night at SoWa artists’ studios (SoWa = area South of Washington St. in the South End), meander around Tremont Street, and then, if you have it in you, explore a few other Boston neighborhoods scattered with galleries.
Or you can take just one trip to Kingston Gallery in SoWa: a single destination that offers up drawing, painting, prints, sculpture, photography, mixed media and installation by both member and associate member artists (Kingston Gallery has been artist-run for 30 years).
On September 30th, the show “XXX: Kingston Gallery Annual Members’ Exhibition – Thirty Years as an Artist Run Gallery” drew to a close to make room for Mary Lang‘s new photograph show, Raising the Gaze and Ann Wessman’s Close Observation. I had the chance to visit the XXX show (appropriate for all audiences) on its opening night and came away with countless impressions from the twenty represented artists’ works – and a single sense that creativity and innovative, intelligent expression are thriving in Beantown.
The XXX show presented twenty artists – and twenty completely different genres and media. Sophia Ainslie, Susan Alport, Ilona Anderson, Joan Baldwin, Judith Brassard Brown, Linda Leslie Brown, Mary Bucci McCoy, Gail Erwin, Janet Kawada, Mary Lang, Karen Meninno, Barbara Moody, Jennifer Moses, Rose Olson, Sharon Pierce, Susan Still Scott, Elif Soyer, Hilary Tolan, Ann Wessmann, and Luanne Witkowski.
It’s impossible to do all them justice in one post, but I’d like to share a few impressions to give a sense of the diversity of Kingston’s roster.
I got the chance to speak or correspond with three of the exhibiting artists: Sophia Ainslie, Linda Leslie Brown and Janet Kawada. Three women whose works capture Kingston Gallery’s diverse artist base – and broad audience appeal.
Sophia Ainslie‘s current works – which experiment with white space, bursts of carefully selected, arresting colors, and intricate black line drawings in India ink – are studies in harmony and contrast, steeped in playful tension between the distinct visual elements that result in dynamic yet expertly balanced compositions. It’s painterly and modern and has a graphic design feel to it. The composition on display at XXX, like the one pictured, had symmetrical elements, but the finished image, like many of Ainslie’s works, left you guessing what subject Ainslie had in mind. Is it abstract? Or on its way to becoming a recognizable sketch? Ainslie’s viewer is often left guessing – and, in this way, continuously engaged.
Linda Leslie Brown‘s gorgeous sculptural works quite literally breathe life onto walls. Among the branch-like structures you find living plants which, Brown says, are easy to take care of with an occasional dip in water. What I loved about Brown’s piece in the show: it’s original and interesting and has a life of its own (not just because of the plants, but because each work drops a unique shadow that changes over the course of the day, continually altering the overall composition) – and is the type of work I can picture in a home. It would organically fit into any decor and enhance the overall space aesthetic while creating a unique focal point and inevitable talking point.
Janet Kawada‘s piece in the show – a tower of multicolored balls of yarn – made a strong visual impact at the entrance. Its mix of modern styling – the balls of yarn are encased in a tall rectangular frame – with materials that, to many, signal a sort of timeless representation of past generations, is what, in my opinion, makes the piece so intriguing. When I see yarn, I remember my great-grandmother knitting sweaters and scarves for the family in our Moscow apartment. But installations like this are decidedly modern and un-grandmotherly. Kawada’s elevation of the thread to a contemporary artistic installation beautifully fuses the past and present.
In November, Kawada will have a solo show at the gallery. I asked her what she will be exhibiting, and she replied that it was something completely different from what she has ever done before and a bit difficult to explain or predict. It is a performance rather than an exhibition, titled Shift in Time. Every Wednesday through Sunday, from 12-5, Kawada will be at Kingston Gallery, marking the passage of time by creating a ball of string. For Kawada, who has been working with yarn for years, this will be the last piece of a 15 year project. She wants people to join her “for conversation and creating”. Remember when Marina Abramovic did her live performance, Artist is Present, at MoMA? Kawada’s upcoming performance seems to flow in a similar vein, except that Kawada will be completely accessible and ready to engage. A note: there is no limit to how big a ball of yarn can get…
While preparing for her MoMA performance, Abramovic contemplated: “How can a performance be collected from a museum?” And concluded: “One thing you can leave, always, is a good idea, and I really want to have this good idea to leave after me.” I look forward to seeing the idea behind Kawada’s Shift in Time take shape over the course of November.
Kingston Gallery is located at 450 Harrison Ave. #43, Boston, MA 02118, 617.423.4113. Hours: Weds–Sun 12–5 pm and by appointment. Janet Kawada’s Shift in Time will be ongoing in the Kingston Gallery from October 31-December 2, 2012, Wednesday through Sunday from 12-5.