It wasn’t technically on the list for Beat Nite, but the door was open and the color palette drew me in: orange-y reds, pinkish purples and lavender, warm, welcoming blues and turquoise. The artworks in Space Heater, the group show currently on view at Harbor Gallery, match incredibly well — not usually a quality I look for in exhibitions, but not one I’ll write off either. I suppose it helps, too, that Space Heater is smart, small, and well considered.
Curated by artist Andy Cross, the exhibition showcases five women artists — Tamara Gonzales, Rachael Gorchov, Lauren Luloff, Carolyn Salas, and Letha Wilson — with one work each, except for Gorchov, who has a second piece on view just past the back office’s dividing wall. All of the pieces are abstractions, but the kind firmly rooted in the world, with all of its figuration and complications. Luloff’s sewn-together bleached bed sheets and fabric, “Folley Barn with Hydrangea” (2012), show a fragmented scene of house, roof, and plants; Wilson’s “Rock Hole Punch (Bryce Canyon)” (2014) is a C-print on concrete that features a wall from Bryce Canyon in Utah; Salas’s twisting tubes of Hydrocal look distinctly limb-like, and indeed, the piece is called “Body Sculpture” (2012); and Gonzales’s striped, spray-painted “TONDO IV” (2013) is wallpaper made fresh. Only Gorchov’s papier mâché and burlap sculptures, which protrude playfully from the wall, seem to be bright and “pure” abstractions … until you read their titles: “NJ Turnpike skies seen from Paonia, CO” (2012) and “FL-29 S” (2013), presumably indicating the highway, and from there the scenery or skies spotted along it.
Beyond colors and an approach to abstraction, what these artists share is a playful and slightly subversive embrace of materials. Wilson places her reddish C-print on a slab of concrete, leaving a hard, gray circle in the middle and hanging the whole thing on the wall: concrete made light, nature interrupted. Gorchov does the opposite, using papier mâché and burlap to shape unexpected mass and solidity — which she also then hangs on the wall. Salas turns tubes of Hydrocal, aka white gypsum cement, into looping bodily stand-ins, while Gonzales upends the macho associations of stencils and spray paint by using them to create colorful patterns of stars. Luloff is the most accommodating of her materials, less traditional though they are — her scratchy bleached patterns are appropriately spunky, but the pastoral scene and the sheet hanging as if on a laundry line make the work feel a little too cozy, not quite up to par in a show that’s much more sophisticated than its matching colors may suggest.
Space Heater continues at Harbor Gallery (17-17 Troutman St, #258, Ridgewood, Queens) through March 30. The show was spotted while wandering through Bushwick Beat Nite, which took place on February 28, 6–10pm.