Three South African artists have a show, “Then and Now” at Spoke Gallery (which is at Michael Dowling’s Medicine Wheel Productions in South Boston, worth a visit on its own just to sit in the meditation room). Some of the work, particularly that of the estimable Paul Stopforth, addresses apartheid. All of it has to do with themes of place and displacement. Stopforth’s “Building Empire,” pictured above, portrays a fort erected by the British during the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. Stopforth adds the mirror image of the fort’s top to its bottom, turning the imposing, closed-off building into an endless, M.C. Escher-like loop. Stopforth excels at distilling monuments and metaphors from small details. The other two artists, Sophia Ainslie and Ilona Anderson, make complementary works that spill and creep over nearby walls. Ainslie conflates mother and motherland in her abstract mural “Fragment-wall 2″ and Anderson seeks placement above ground in her “Dwell: A Drawing Installation.”
Also in this week’s galleries, Peter Lipsitt’s humble, endearing sculptures at Boston Sculptors Gallery make even the outsides about the inside. Many are cast from found boxes that he inks up on the inside — tattooing the faces of the sculptures. There’s always more inside. And George Sherwood takes the ribbons of stainless steel left over from the lathing he does to make his big, kinetic sculptures, and turns them into kinky, frothy, steel-wool structures. Finally, Caitlin Berrigan’s “Secondary Sex Characteristics” drawings at Proof Gallery, which depict chest hair but none of the fleshly contours beneath it, have the nakedness of nudity without any of the formal tropes, and one or two of them wryly raise questions about gender. There’s something quite sweet about them.