Here's one for the record. Actually, records — as in the old LP's that Paul Villinski turns into high-flying art objects. For years, he has done as much with aluminum cans, but the LPs stem from his post-Katrina visits to New Orleans, where he found many left behind by the floodwaters. At Ferrara Gallery, they appear in Diaspora (pictured), a totem of old albums with a vintage turntable on top, from which birds fashioned from vinyl LPs fan out in all directions in much the way residents were scattered. His aluminum cans emerge as butterflies, as we see in Yes, a wall sculpture where an elegant blue formation of them spells out a message of unconditional affirmation in bold flowing script. The mood is more elegiac in Vessel (For Amelia), a wall sculpture where they emerge from a pilot's flight suit, suggesting the spirit departing the body. In mythology, butterflies and birds represent the spirit. By giving new life to old objects made from substances mined from the earth, Villinski symbolically coaxes the spirit from dense, discarded matter.
In his youth, Uruguayan painter Arturo Mallmann had an epiphany as he read the passage in Tolstoy's War and Peace in which a wounded soldier gazes at the sky above the battlefield and sees his life with crystal clarity. In Mallmann's landscapes, the earth and sky become metaphors for matter and spirit, both in personal and cosmic senses. In his verdant vistas, the luminous, ethereal atmosphere seems to dwarf the human figures, which, like Tolstoy's wounded soldier, must look beyond the immediate to find their meaningful place in the world. This is Mallmann's traditional modus, but in new works such as Rompiendo Barreras, his atmosphere is roiled with scraps of newsprint featuring images evoking the passions of the flesh. And here the cosmic perspective must come back down to earth to contend with all things worldly. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Glidepath: Mixed Media Sculpture by Paul Villinski
Through May 31
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com
Caminando Sin Destino: Paintings by Arturo Mallmann
Through May 31
Gallery Bienvenu, 518 Julia street, 525-0518; www.gallerybienvenu.com