Pearl Blauvelt lived alone in a remote village in north-east Pennsylvania in the 1940s and 1950s. Half a century later, in her abandoned house, a box was found containing hundreds of drawings which are now held by a gallery in New York and have been shown at MoMA. She drew in pencil. Often she made densely worked copies of goods for sale in mail order catalogues, but she also drew houses and streets. Walls were often transparent, revealing rooms, furniture and occasionally people within, and perspectives collapsed on to one another. We know nothing about what she intended, but she drew an ordered, comfortable, domestic world.
Pearl Blauvelt & Aleana Egan, Mary Mary, Glasgow ****
Mark Handforth, Modern Institute, Glasgow ***
Steven Berkoff: Gorbals, 1966, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow ****
Mary Mary – bringing her work to the UK for the first time – have found a sensitive, creative context in which to show it, placing her drawings next to the sculptures of Dublin-based Aleana Egan. These are also domestic in scale and in allusion, creating vignettes which suggest absence or presence. The show includes a remaking of a large piece of “little surface pictures”, based on a portable living space designed by Jean Prouve in 1939, a metal frame into which Egan places colours, shapes and garments. Her quietly suggestive works, inspired by the past, provide the perfect foil to Blauvelt’s poignant drawings.
Mark Handforth’s sculptures at the Modern Institute are in a conversation with the domestic, too, having been inspired, in part, by his Miami garden. But pieces such as Jade Garden and Asphalt Snake are not representational, although the forms are suggestive. They are more about materials – sections of piping folded or crumpled into shapes – and about colour, one pale, the other vivid green and red.
And they are about balance, and how form occupies space. Looking heavy and monumental, they seem to balance according to their own equilibrium. And they, in turn, are paired with two light, twisted forms in brass, suspended from the roof trusses. These hang elegantly, counterparts to the heavier, more substantial forms.
Steven Berkoff worked as an actor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow in 1966 and spent his time off wandering the streets of the old Gorbals with his camera. His pictures, being exhibited at Street Level Photoworks for the first time, have some similarities to the work of photographers such as Bert Hardy and Oscar Marzaroli, but they also have a spontaneity, a rawness, about them – the sense of a newcomer drawn to this world and appalled by it at the same time.
From vistas of tenements awaiting the wrecker’s ball and boarded-up shops, Berkoff moves on to framing vignettes: solitary drinkers in a
bar, neighbours gossiping at an open window. Then there are close-ups: an old man at a window, boys grinning through park railings. In these we see his eye for the theatrical moment, making these photographs a valuable addition to the body of work that feeds Glasgow’s endless appetite for images of its own colourful, poverty-striken past.
Pearl Blauvelt & Aleana Egan until 4 August; Mark Handforth until 25 August; Steven Berkoff until 16 September