Hay Barn, Parish
Bill Brauer, Agape.
by Janet Rossbach
Among the renovated historic neighborhoods
in America, Boston's Newbury Street
district is a definite success story--not
least because of the art galleries that
have located there. On a beautifully crisp
and clear morning this fall I had the
chance to stroll down Newbury Street and
take a peek into several of them. This is
what I saw:
At the very end of the street away from the
Boston Common, I found the John Callahan
Gallery cluttered with several racks of
artist's prints and photographs, as well as
frame samples. I caught Callahan by
surprise that morning, as he was in the
middle of hanging a show of prints and
watercolors by the artist Sidney Hurwitz,
who is a professor at Boston University.
Reminiscent of the work of early 20th-
century American artists Charles Sheeler
and Charles Demuth, Hurwitz's paintings and
prints consist of industrial scenes that
are rendered to emphasize abstract patterns
of color and form. Also featured at the
gallery were several small photographs by
Vermont artist Christine Triebert. Her
series of black-and-white landscape images,
titled "Simple Shelters on the Land,"
reveals the wonderful textures of old
barns, unpaved roads, lonely branches and
inviting woods. Copies of the framed
photographs were available in the form of
writing cards--I bought one, because it was
charming, scenic and cheap.
Further down Newbury Street, I entered the
Chase Gallery, where the work of Bill
Brauer was on view. Originally from New
York, Brauer now makes Vermont his home.
His paintings and oil-pastel drawings focus
on the female form--as woman, dancer and
seductress. His paintings are contemporary
versions of "classical" subjects, and have
titles such as Agape or Thisbe's Fantasy.
His pastels, however, are beautiful
portraits of a female body, her sensuality
revealed through his masterful drawing. I
am sure his paintings are more popular with
their more vibrant colors and solid
compositions, but I was more attracted to
his pastels, which are more intimate.
Further down Newbury, the Pepper Gallery
was exhibiting Edith Vonnegut's "Everyday
Epiphanies." These large paintings,
portraying woman's role as a kind of
goddess of everyday activities, made me
think that Botticelli's Venus had finally
gotten off her scallop shell and now,
exhausted, had to go back home and make
dinner for her family. Bizarre compositions
of this female figure--always naked with a
piece of cloth conveniently draped about
her flanks--include vacuum cleaners and
cherubs, cats and slinky dinks, action
figures and flip flops. These paintings are
filled with momentos and symbols from
Vonnegut's own life, and through the
stories depicted, Vonnegut expresses her
own reactions to how even Venus might have
felt after a long, hard day of goddess
Finally, a trip to two well-lit, top floor
galleries across the street from each other
ended my gallery tour. At the Barbara
Krakow Gallery, Nicholas Nixon's
photographs lined the walls in several
series depicting youth, age and family
relations. One set of 20 photographs is
portraits from a nursing home in Boston--
the pain and emotion are revealed with a
fierce clarity that only photography can
capture--constrasting, for instance, the
wrinkles of the patients' faces with the
wrinkled bed sheets. Also on view in a
gallery annex are Nixon's famous portraits
of his beautiful wife and her three
sisters, here featuring 22 pictures of the
four women in the same pose taken every
year for 22 years. The works are in
chronological order, and are a fascinating
study of the expression of four very
different faces as they age year after
The highlight of the group show at Bernard
Toale Gallery are the photo weavings of
Hunter Reynolds. They are truly wonderful:
for each one Reynolds sews together 864
photographs with colored thread, which he
leaves dangling and uncut, creating a
single glossy yet textured quilt of images
which hang from the wall as a single unit.
One work concentrates on the sky of Berlin
(where Reynolds's studio is located),
another is a golden memorial to his friend
and artist Felix Gonzales-Torres, who died
of AIDS last year. Other works in the show
included a photographic diary by fellow
photographer Maxine Henryson depicting
Reynolds as his performance art alter-ego,
Patina Du Prey, and his tour through the
streets of Boston, New York, Berlin and
other cities swirling like a dervish in a
woman's white ball gown. The photographs
show the reactions of the crowds that Du
Prey passes in her international tour.
After this final gallery visit, I plunged
back into the cold day, and had a lovely
stroll through the near-frozen Boston
Common. Boston is a great and historical
city, always fascinating to revisit and
explore. My brief visit to the contemporary
art scene of Boston was a treat, and I look
forward to returning in the future.
Sidney Hurwitz and Christine Triebert at
John Callahan Gallery, 285 Newbury Street,
Boston, Mass. 02116.
Bill Brauer at Chase Gallery, Oct. 30-Nov.
25, 1996, 173 Newbury Street.
Edith Vonnegut at Pepper Gallery, Oct. 18-
Nov. 3, 1996, 38 Newbury Street.
Nicholas Nixon at Barbara Krakow Gallery,
Oct. 19-Nov. 30, 1996, 10 Newbury Street,
5th Floor. Coming up: "The Persistance of
Vision, Part I," a group show including
works by Kelly, Oldenburg, Nauman, Serra
Hunter Reynolds at Bernard Toale Gallery,
Nov. 5-Dec. 7, 1996, 11 Newbury Street.
Coming up: "Small Scale Landscapes," a
group show, Dec. 10, 1996-Jan. 18, 1997.
JANET ROSSBACH is a new-media consultant
for the arts (e-mail: email@example.com).