At last Friday’s opening of a new show at a South Boston art gallery, a curving 14-panel work by Humphreys Street Studios artist Franklin Marval literally and figuratively dominated the show.
“On the Line: Change, Connection, and Challenge in Boston” is a group exhibition featuring the work of Boston artists who live and/or work at any point along the MBTA’s Fairmount-Indigo commuter rail line. About half of those exhibiting in this Southie show at 110 K St., second floor, hail from Dorchester and Mattapan.
The showing represents a curatorial collaboration between Medicine Wheel Productions’ Spoke Gallery and UMass Boston’s Trotter Institute. The historic Fairmount train line ran very close to Medicine Wheel Production’s first home on A Street. The current Fairmont-Indigo line, refurbished in 2012, with another station to be added on Blue Hill Avenue, now reaches into Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park.
The Marval installation “The Cumaná Road” was inspired by memories of his boyhood in Venezuela. He explains: “Every summer we would drive along this highway to visit my grandfather and grandmother. The seven panels on one side depict the view of the mountains as glimpsed through the window of our car as we headed toward my grandparents’ home. The other seven panels depict the ocean views that flashed past on the way home.” In between the spaced-apart, easel-mounted panels are mini “roadside shops and food stands” that Marval built out of slats from recycled pallets.
He further notes: “Visitors can walk through a series of stretched canvases, side by side, like a hallway in the shape of an S. The seven-second walk through this hallway represents two hours of driving a car on a curvy road only being able to see lines flying by. It will result in a compression of colors and shapes in a very short time.”
Marval originally painted these 72 x 20 inch panels in his Uphams Corner studio in 2013, but only got a chance to exhibit them publically for six hours on one day during the 2014 Figment Boston summer event on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. When Medicine Wheel co-curator Kathleen Bitetti saw the panoramas stored in Marval’s studio, she knew she had to have “The Cumaná Road” as a centerpiece of her transportation-themed exhibition.
Other artists featured in the exhibition who hail from Dorchester and Mattapan are Kenyatta, Kalamu E. Kieta, Charlot Lucien, and A Michel, most of whom have Caribbean, Haitian, and/or Four Corners ties.
The other talented artists, who though no fault of their own lack such Dorchester affiliations, are John Crowley, Kate Gilbert, Rob Larsen, Sasja Lucas, and Brent Ridge. The art work on display ranges from installation, video, painting, and sculpture to mixed media, drawing, and photography. All of the featured artists are very active with building and sustaining the communities they are connected to.
This group exhibition forms part of the Medicine Wheel Productions’ multi-year Brooch Project “that is engaging the communities along the unfinished link of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace park system. The Brooch project is building links and dissolving barriers between communities historically separated by the boundaries of geography, race, and economics.”
“On the Line” runs through April 16 at 110 K Street, second floor. For details 617-268-6700 or mwponline.org Also visit Marval’s webpage for an impressive Spanish language video portrait of the artist shot largely in the Edward Everett Square area.