Chris Domenick, “Suture,” 2021-2023, ink, mat board, resin, wood, laminate, artist’s frame (stained wood, glass) Photo courtesy of Dunes

As the art season heats up, I’m attempting to miss out on less by reviewing multiple shows at once, even if they have nothing in common, like “Chris Domenick: Bone Folder” at Dunes in Portland (through May 15, but may be extended) and “Arrangements: Robert S. Neuman, Michael Mulhern, and Carla Weeks” at Moss Galleries in Falmouth (through May 13).

As I toured Dunes, I recalled an article l read years ago about art conservators who were challenged by the assemblage work of some artists; namely Robert Rauschenberg, who was given to using taxidermy animals (an eagle, a sheep) and items that easily disintegrate (an American flag) in his artworks.

For all I know, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, artist Chris Domenick’s assemblages are built to withstand a hurricane. But their humble materials – felt, cord, plywood, paper, Wite-Out correction tape – give them a scrappy, ramshackle quality that registers as ephemeral. Domenick doesn’t make preparatory sketches. Often, each work is a combination of various other pieces and frames he started building in his studio and then abandoned.

They can feel random because, in a way, they are, coming together quite spontaneously when something congeals in Domenick’s head as he surveys the flotsam and jetsam around him. This process imparts a kind of lightheartedness and sense of play that is enhanced by the titles he settles on after finishing them.

“Suture,” for instance, superimposes a cartoonish X-shaped piece of wood that seems to imply a reparative stitch over a framed composition of laminate, resin and ink. “Skittle” could refer to the familiar candy or to the English game, which resembles American bowling.

Chris Domenick, “Kite,” 2022, laminate, stained wood Photo courtesy of Dunes

There’s always a frame, but often it’s not useful in “containing” much. Forms balloon beyond it (“Kite”) or are partially obscured by overlaid shapes. What they “hold” can be an absence (in “Alphabet,” a matboard punched with holes implies pieces of the board escaped out the back way). These seem to question the idea of enshrining anything as “art.”


Constructions can be charming and also convey physical insubstantiality. There’s not a lot of apparent rigor or craft to them. Not that this is necessary. But rigor and craft do add something that imparts a sense of volume, weight, concept, substance and technical skill, which tend to stay with you long after you’ve moved to the next one. These feel feather-light and easy.

Chris Domenick, “Paintings Volume I,” silkscreen on paper, bound book Photo courtesy of Dunes

More conceptually meticulous is “Paintings Volume I,” two versions of a handmade book, each stretching probably 10 feet along one wall like unfurled Chinese scrolls. The screen-printed text is essentially a long list of thought processes, art terminology, inside jokes, comments about technique, etc. They won’t mean much to the viewer (though some may elicit a chuckle), but they don’t have to. For Domenick, they are more about visual cadence and texture.

The other sides of these pages are part of a more complex process. Domenick draws lines, squiggles, jots, etcetera on paper, then digitizes the drawings, enlarging or otherwise manipulating them. From this, he creates silkscreens with which he applies the altered drawings in various color combinations to the paper.

“Paintings Volume I” also has a randomness to it (the press release likens it to the forgotten contents of a kitchen drawer). It’s a good analogy, as well as an interesting work. One suspects the contents of Domenick’s head are similarly jumbled and freely associative.


You might be perplexed by the combination of the three artists that Cody Castle-Stack, formerly of New Systems, has put together in the ambiguously titled “Arrangements.” Michael Mulhern’s wildly gestural, colorful works don’t have much of a sense of arrangement at all, especially when paired with Carla Weeks’s strictly ordered grids. And works by Robert S. Neuman seem caught somewhere in the middle – prismatically geometric at times, exploding apart the next.


There is a recurrence of circles in some, not all, of the artists’ works. In Mulhern’s, it’s certain gestural shapes and also paintings that are actually round. Weeks is most devoted to this geometry, which repeats across and down each painted linen work in neat grids. And Neuman vacillates between ovals and circles that look tidy and clean, and others that split open and spill things out of them, or crash into each other.

Do they all work together? I’m not sure, though the fragile boundary between order and chaos does create an intriguing visual tension. But it actually doesn’t matter. Each painter is captivating in their own right.

Both Mulhern and Neuman are long gone, and their art feels of a different era. Mulhern was best known for his Ash Road paintings, a series he began before the World Trade Center attacks, which, when he reoccupied his studio near the site, took on new meaning as he mixed the ash from the disaster that settled all over his studio into is paints.

Michael Mulhern, “Untitled” Courtesy of Moss Galleries

But on display here are earlier aggressively gestural paintings that ripple with color. Two 89 ½-inch square acrylics are tours de force of multilayered, nervy brushstrokes that suck you right into their perpetually shifting depths and nonstop action. Their surfaces are so alive and teeming that they can feel overpowering, but in the best of ways.

One of the three circular oil-on-paper paintings has some of that energy, but the other two seem dreamy both in their softer palette and hazy application of pigments, which blur and bleed into each other. They are quite beautiful and, though also abstract, feel calming in a way the larger works do not. All these works, rescued from a barn after the artist’s death, are wonderful.

Robert S. Neuman, “Mirage Landscape” Courtesy of Moss Galleries

Neuman’s paintings in this show are less freely expressionistic. Even at their most abstract, they cleave to form. Which is not to say they are any less impactful. When you round the corner from the front gallery into the next one, his “Mirage Landscape” of 1968 hits you like an oncoming tornado. It’s all geometry – rectangles, circles, triangles – but, except for the mountain-like forms anchoring the lower section of this oil on linen, they are constantly in motion.


Clearly, Neuman is painting a spectacular display of the heavens in the sky above a landscape. The largest form is a sphere that is so jam-packed with rectangular bands of color that they break the confines of the perimeter and spew out like solar flares. All around this form are circles within circles that indicate whole galaxies of planets, and triangles that fly through the air, fracturing the mottled field of sky. The work emanates wonder at the awesomeness of the universe.

Another “Mirage” painting from 1976 is altogether different. This mirage is urban, with building forms packed tightly into the frame. What in the former painting was sky reveals only more cityscapes. The palette is identical, but the sense of place is the polar opposite of what appears in the other painting as an open, big-sky desert. Appropriately, this manmade environment is straight-lined and orderly. It looks, in its precision and stylistic calculation, mathematically derived and, like cities themselves, so dense with concrete canyons that the sky is barely visible.

It’s a handsome, impressive work. But, for me at least, Neuman was most interesting when he juxtaposed these colorful prismatic geometries with something more freely rendered, such as “Mirage Study #6” of 1966. There’s something about the contrast that stimulates the senses with an interesting friction between the graphic and the brushy.

Carla Weeks, “Winter Grid in Blue #2” courtesy of Moss Galleries

And then there is Carla Weeks, indubitably the calm voice in the storm of color and gesture. Her blue oil-on-linen paintings were executed over a Maine winter, and they do telegraph a crisp, cold, mostly blue light we easily associate with this season. Weeks paints in her studio in Brunswick, but lives on Arrowsic Island near Bath, surrounded by woods that she sees through a many-light window, which makes its way into these works.

My first impression was that they were catalogs of the movements and qualities of the moon. They do resemble, in their composition and shaded variations, lunar charts. But they are really more like meditations. She admires the still, prayerful quality of Agnes Martin paintings, but these also seem to have an affinity to Albers in their repetitive examination of color relations. Albers’ “Homage to the Square” paintings, of course, also have a meditative quality to them, so it’s all of a piece.

These meditations have to do with place and memory. In this way, they’re not really that different from chronicling lunar light and movement, which are certainly a big part of her sense of place, inextricably linked to her experience of the stillness, illumination and natural phenomena that she moves through daily on her sparsely populated island.

They have a silence and peace to them that come as respites – as well as a stark contrast – to the work of Mulhern and Neuman. Their greatest pleasure is absorbing the immensely refined variegation of her uniform palette, especially when we realize Weeks is basically self-taught. Working in oil, as many artists will tell you, is not easy. Weeks dives into the deep end of the pool, with incredibly subtle results.

The orbs in her paintings feel luminous, like moonlight. Sometimes they have halos, other times they seem partially viewed through a mist, scrim or veil. They also have a formal discipline akin to Martin and Albers – even, perhaps, to Sol LeWitt. Their apparent simplicity and repetition are deceiving.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.