Lindsey Henderson makes oddly familiar and familiarly odd puppet-like things that seem to bleed in and out of reality, like double visions flickering back into three dimensions. “Things” might be a pejorative term, but that’s what they are: beautifully off-kilter sculptures that sag and giggle and burp without making a sound. The way the curator Patricia Murphy installs and fashions them inside Pear Gallery (her wonderfully sparse little space in Brighton) gives Henderson’s things a dramatic edge, like Easter baskets on the verge of crying, or praying, or dreaming.
“Knotty,” an assemblage of silver, yellow, and aqua industrial materials, skulks behind a light-switch corner like a headless puppet trying to figure out what “a puppet show” is. The piece has an intelligent silliness to it, but also it’s a little ghostly, maybe even poltergeist-y, mischievously sneaking into the real world, just waiting for a chance to write some bad checks or scream into a telephone. “Lay Me Down Gently” echoes the arch-shape of “Knotty,” in triplicate, with paper and tape and cellophane. It has its own little dance to do, walking away from and into itself like the headless robot in Interstellar, clumsy and graceful and kinetic simultaneously.
Mika Smith’s accompanying paintings have the same deft sense of whimsy and precision as Henderson’s sculptures, only Smith flattens the dimensions like flowers pressed into books, leaving behind a steamrolled sense of rebirth and sweetness. “Honey Bow,” precisely painted in gold and pastels, has a cave-dweller glamor to it, as if it were painted inside someone’s mind while they are attending a really stupendous party. And “Ruby Song” is lush like James Rosenquist’s works are lush, Pop-art ridiculous but also simple enough to be pretty without losing strangeness. You could look at “Ruby Song” a long time and feel really peaceful while also getting a little unnerved.
“Peaceful and Unnerved,” in fact, might be another title for “Baby’s Back,” both suites of works cooing and resting in their own private multicolored bubble-baths, while also letting you know something odd is happening on the other side of the house. Murphy’s space is the perfect fit too. The whole situation is a little like Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse back in the day, only with the puppets and the noise miraculously transformed into a plastic-de-Chirico stillness that makes you feel like the real puppet just might be you.
The second exhibit at Pear Gallery, “Rainbow Deities: L.d. Nehls and Bill Ross,” opens April 4, 2015, with a reception 7 pm – 11 pm. More information: www.peargallery.co.