Quivering shadows bloom and dissolve in “Intractable,” Elaine Buckholtz’s pair of video projections at VERY. They bring to mind the heart of a baby bird, its pulse more tremble than throb.
The installation prompts visceral responses: little catches at the throat, tiny knots of anticipation immediately released.
Buckholtz considers herself a light artist, not a video artist. Like James Turrell and Helen Pashgian of California’s Light and Space movement of the 1960s and ’70s, her aim is perceptual. Pashgian called one of her own bodies of work “presences in space.” Buckholtz gives us presences on the wall.
To make them, she used a shaky camera to record an image of an unnamed Post-Impressionist painting spun by a motor. The painting is so unidentifiable it’s a secret at the work’s core. For the viewer’s purposes, what matters is that Post-Impressionists attended so carefully to light, its consequences, and its ability to accelerate imagination.
Buckholtz digitally manipulated and slowed down the video, and she projects it synchronously on two still images sourced from the recording, one dominated by a grid and the other by horizontal lines. The results are animated abstractions that impose no story but the seemingly capricious play of light and low-key color. Maybe that’s why they’re such artful screens for the viewer’s own reveries.
These are contemplative works, fuzzy edged, sometimes almost still. The grid drew me in; the stripes made me uneasy. Why? The spinning creates a frequent shadow at the center, which fits into the grid like an origin point, but reads ominously against horizontal bands, like a featureless head or a black sun. The grid, meanwhile, beats open and closed as shadows fan from the center, as dusky tones warm and cool. It’s a matrix for life’s rhythms.
But don’t retreat into just one projection. Buckholtz’s title, “Intractable,” suggests something that can’t be controlled: A fragile hatchling, or a black sun. She’s inviting us to hold both ideas at once. It isn’t easy, but in challenging times perhaps it’s necessary.
ELAINE BUCKHOLTZ: INTRACTABLE
At VERY, 59 Wareham St., through May 24. 617-922-5447, www.galleryvery.comCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.