We spend much of our time in rooms and buildings, in places that support the professional and social relationships that enable us to lead meaningful lives. Our relationships with those buildings themselves are subtle, yet keen observers who have looked beyond their facades have noted how the lives of structures sometimes parallel the lives of those they shelter. The Constructing Worlds expo at Octavia Art Gallery features the work of four painters who explore how buildings are situated not only on streets, but also in our minds and imaginations, where they function like opera sets for our daily dramas even as, over time, they seem to take on an inner life of their own.
The most intimate architectural spaces are our living quarters, but Belgian painter Pierre Bergian depicts elegant yet empty rooms that resonate with faded grandeur, as we see in The Blue Mirror, in which a derelict parlor with dusty paneling surrounds a massive mirror that rises to a vaulted ceiling. Bathed in soft, shimmering light, the mirror's eerie blue reflections evoke a tidal pool like a portal into lost memories. New York painter Jeff Goldenberg focuses on the rooftops of old lower Manhattan, New York buildings, mostly desolate spaces studded with wooden water towers that look like old cisterns but really are functional plumbing reservoirs. In works like Printers Rollers (pictured), they reflect the austere gothic geometry of an earlier age now lost amid the soaring architectural spectacles of our time. Maine painter Greta Van Campen applies a similarly stark style to midcentury America's homely modernity in works like Red Square, where a bleak commercial warehouse building is bisected by long shadows that lend it the surreal mystique of a latter-day deChirico plaza painting. That sense of architecture as a reflection of the inner lives of people and places is eloquently articulated in Grover Mouton's collage paintings like New Orleans, 1987, in which Gallier Hall floats in a nimbus of gestural notations, or House in Space, where a levitating old Greek Revival home recalls French philosopher Gaston Bachelard's maxim: "The house, even more than the landscape, is a psychic state." Through July 28. Octavia Art Gallery, 454 Julia St., (504) 309-4249; www.octaviaartgallery.com.