Local art is just down the Hallway

November 6, 2009
By

John Ruch


Photo Courtesy of Brent Refsland A photograph from Brent Reflsand’s “B-Side Portraits” project. Refsland is a Jamaica Plain artist and owner of the Hallway Gallery.

SOUTH ST.—The Hallway, the art gallery operated by Jamaica Plain photographer Brent Refsland, has become a key piece of the increasing lively South Street business district since opening this spring.

“The gallery’s doing great,” Refsland said, expressing his excitement about “giving the community new art.”

Regularly drawing more than 100 people to its exhibit openings, the gallery at 66a South St. is hosting a group show this month that includes JP painters Dmitri Valone and Jessie Lee Klein, along with Allston artist John Biebel.

As its name suggests, the Hallway is a unique gallery in a long, narrow space—a former alleyway that was walled off and now boasts wood-paneled walls and a decorative pressed-tin ceiling. The cozy charm frequently draws passers-by off the street, as the Gazette has seen during visits.

The November show may include some of Refsland’s own work as well. His ongoing project is “B-Side Portraits,” unorthodox portrait photos of people taken from behind rather than from in front, which Refsland plans to compile into a book. The project began when Refsland encountered a man with hair dyed in a leopard-print pattern in an Orange Line station and knew it would be a great photo. The man turned out to be a JP resident, and many of the “B-Side Portraits” are taken on JP streets.

Valone’s abstract oil-on-glass paintings draw on an artistic background that includes music composition, astrophysics studies and his father’s artistic career. Valone’s artistic philosophy is based on “the unsettling idea what little we really know,” he said in an artist’s statement.

Klein’s paintings tend toward abstract expressionism, while Biebel’s include more figurative and landscape elements.

The Hallway doesn’t just exhibit art. Refsland organizes lively, well-attended opening and closing receptions, and has begun staging small-scale music shows mid-month as well. Last night’s opening reception for the November show was scheduled to include a jazz vocalist, and last month’s closing reception included two musical groups from San Francisco.

Refsland said he is considering other events suited to the space, such as showing films. “It is a gallery, but I also want to keep it as more of a creative space,” he said.

Over the summer, Refsland also organized “Last Night” events on the last night of each month. Adjacent businesses—Ferris Wheels, DAME and McCormack and Scanlan Real Estate—stayed open later than usual, while the Hallway featured entertainment. Last Night is on hold for now, but will likely return after the holidays, Refsland said.

Last Night was intended as a mutual boosting of the business district. Refsland said he is excited about the revitalization of South Street, which most recently became home to Polkadog, the dog-treat bakery.

Refsland also works at the Centre Street restaurant Vee Vee, where he curates the regular art shows, frequently bringing in artists after they show at the Hallway.

The Hallway is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 818-5996 or see www.thehallwayjp.com.

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