Up in Boston: Wilson, Phillips, Obuck

In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid reviews shows by Helen Miranda Wilson, Brad Phillips and John Obuck.

Helen Miranda Wilson, “Phoenix,” gouache on paper, 8 13/16″ x 10 5/16″, 2008.

On Wilson: During a chance encounter at the Frick Museum, Wilson mentioned to Munroe that she had some new work. Munroe suggested a studio visit, but when Wilson said she had the drawings with her, the two ducked into the restroom, where the light was good, to take a look….Wilson is canny and experimental with her tones, so they pop and accrete into particular moods. “Castalia” resonates with luminous blues such as aqua, dusty periwinkle, and the tone of a thunderstruck evening sky; then Wilson threads in yellows, oranges, and greens that jump against the blues. The colors are crisp; the lines are not. They smudge, without robbing the work of clarity. Indeed, the handmade quality of these works makes them all the more engaging, human amid the tonal intimations of the divine. Like a mandala, you could gaze at one for a long time, and never tire.

Brad Phillips, “Cross To Bear,” 14 x 18 inches, 2009

On Phillips: Brad Phillips is provocatively coy in his painting show at LaMontagne Gallery. His wife appears in many of the works, but we never see her face clearly. In “park and 79th”, he beautifully captures the planes and gleam of her bare back as she dresses; in “no comebacks,” we glimpse her in a mirror, climbing stairs in a sweatshirt and underwear, but we can’t see her eyes. Amid these works, Phillips throws in text paintings, such as “vancouver scene,” copied from graffiti: “Wendy I love you and I miss you Jamesy.” Add in a still life or two and an ominous interior, and the canvases coalesce into a dark, angst-ridden short story full of obfuscations and longing. The paintings work best together; individually, the mystery is diluted.

John Obuck, “Cairns,” oil on canvas, 11″x14″, 2008″

On Obuck: As with Phillips’s paintings, John Obuck’s are best served in groups. OH+T Gallery fittingly finishes out its eight-year-run with Obuck; he fits right in with the gallery’s aesthetic of smart, intimate, carefully crafted work. With Obuck, you almost have to press your nose against the canvas to see what’s going on, but it’s usually worth it (one trio of paintings focusing entirely on breasts should have been edited out). Obuck boxes most of his images within broad, painted borders. These act telescopically, creating a sense of distance and focus. Obuck’s previous work has been abstract, and he brings many abstract concerns to this work: questions of spatial illusion and surface, in particular.

Helen Miranda Wilson: Halos,” Victoria Munroe Fine Art, Boston, MA. Through June 20.
Brad Phillips: Journey Into Whatever,” LaMontagne Gallery, South Boston, MA. Through June 13.
John Obuck: Small Works,” OH+T Gallery, Boston, MA. Through June 20.

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