Art in America, May 1990

"Beth Galston at LeSaffre Wilstein"

by Thomas Frick

"Structure/Nonstructure," shown in LeSaffre Wilstein's basement room, was the most object-oriented work yet from this artist, whose scrim set pieces and installations have graced a number of dance and multimedia presentations. Galston works with minimal, even liminal, effects, and her previous installations have relied to a greater degree than most on the viewer's subjective apprehension. Not only is one's physical position integral to the experience of her work, but the individuality of perception is also at play. In her "Black on Black," shown at MIT in 1988, Galston used black scrim columns and panels hung in a dimly lit black chamber to demonstrate her great sensitivity to space and light. As one stepped in through the curtained entrance, the space itself seemed to alter remarkably as one's pupils gradually adjusted to the darkness.

"Structure/Nonstructure," too, was presented in dimmed, curtained light, but since the installation was largely fabricated from aluminum framing strips and wire window screening, it had more physical presence than Galston's earlier work. The well-defined boundaries of the polished reflective frames set off the less easily perceptible textures of the screening--an allusion, perhaps, to the elusive nature of art. The transient moire patterns that resulted from viewing screen through screen and the multiple shadows engendered by Galston's lighting helped set in motion the interplay of structure and nonstructure.

Galston had fun with the gallery setting, her frame-and-wire pieces slyly miming the idea of paintings hung in an exhibition. Seen in this context, her materials proved strangely graceful. Yet watching the ever-changing moire patterns, one was inevitably reminded of the way that works of art come to real existence only in the eyes of the beholder. Underscoring this notion was Galston's modification of the gray-carpeted gallery floor: completely covered with two layers of wire screen, it too, produced shifting moire patterns with every step the viewer took. The installation served as a good example of this artist's sense of the possibilities that lie in the simple interaction of light and minimal elements in a human space.

South End News, Sept 12, 1989

"Art: Limited and unlimited"

by Cate McQuaid

Space seems simple, doesn't it? Even elemental. Solid ground beneath your feet, solid walls to touch--what you see is what you get. Installation artist Beth Galston's show "Structure /NonStructure," a sculptural environment taking over the lower half of the LeSaffre Wilstein Gallery, manages to explode many essential assumptions we have about our environment.

The first shock is the darkness. LeSaffre Wilstein's lower gallery has been sealed from light, like a photographer's darkroom. After your first step, you sense something in front of you. In fact, all over the room, Galston has suspended wire screens from different heights, strips and squares and rectangles of mesh hanging at odd angles, creating boundaries and blockades. Galston has reshaped the space, and she has created a treacherous pea-soup fog rife with unexpected road blocks and sudden turns.

As it turns out, dim incandescent lights hang from the ceiling. As your eyes adjust, so does your perception of the environment. Seeing it, however, doesn't make it more familiar, and this is the delight of participatory installation art: the work confronts not only our senses, but our self-knowledge. Standing in the midst of a strange environment that plays tricks on the eyes we trust so much, we have no choice but to respond.

Galston's work is overwhelming, threatening, and quite wonderful in its ability to break apart the old, encrusted understanding we have of self-in-space.