Friday, July 19, 2024

A dazzling mask sculpture by Colette Bresilla at Somerville’s Armory. Blank wall at the left of the image was added in a retouching process. (Photo: Claire Ogden)

Se Refléter Dans (“Reflected”) opened Saturday at the Somerville Arts Council’s pop-up Bipoc Space at the Armory. A lively and lovely survey of work by artist Colette Bresilla, the show pairs multimedia sculptures with paintings large and small, spanning 30 years of the artist’s career.

Bresilla was born in Haiti and got her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1992. Despite this traditional art education, she gave up on paintbrushes a long time ago to use . exclusively palette knives, oil sticks and wax paste – a technique she was attracted to for its painstaking, difficult nature. She’s also influenced by appliqué, a technique from Benin, West Africa, in which many small pieces of fabric are sewn onto a larger one. These parts of Bresilla’s practice might seem wildly different, but they’re two sides of the same coin; intricate layering unites her work across media, resulting in a sense of multidimensionality and depth in every piece.

A tableau to contemplate Bresilla’s work at The Armory. (Photo: Claire Ogden)

The gallery’s main room is its strongest. The sculpture “Erzulie Fréda-La Coquette” (2022) is the anchor, a glittering spectacle saturated with wire, yarns and sequins. Its white hues echo in paintings around the room; earth tones are balanced with bright colors and intricate polka dot patterning. The resulting space is grounded and calming. With the natural light and wood floors of the Armory, the gallery feels intimate, almost like someone’s home.

Works by Bresilla are juxtaposed in her Armory show, up through Sept. 30. (Photo: Tina Cabral)

A highlight is “Forbidden Love,” in mixed media on canvas. A woman with an abstract green face stares at the viewer. Abstract forms flow in and out of each other, their bounds seeming to push up against each other, moving, flirting with the idea of merging. It’s Picasso-esque, but the undertones are more loving and light than that macho Spaniard’s work.

The exhibition was curated by Tina Cabral, a longtime Cantabrigian who met Bresilla through a mutual friend five years ago and has championed her work ever since. She has a Bresilla in her home – and said a few pieces in the show are dangerously close to being added. It’s easy to see why.

Se Refléter Dans” at Bipoc Space @ the Armory, 191 Highland Ave., Somerville, through Sept. 30. The gallery does not have regular hours; visitors can email Iaritza Menjivar to schedule an appointment.


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