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OnlineMay 21, 2024

New Gallery No Call No Show Gives Artists a Space to Test-Run Big Ideas

The Distillery is Boston-based artist Andy Li’s imaginative new gallery, where artists can connect with one another, workshop new pieces, and explore unorthodox installation methods.

Feature by Emma Breitman

An installation features gold hangings suspended from the ceiling.

Installation view, "You Are a Circle Expanding," No Call No Show, South Boston, 2024. Photo by J-M Leach. Courtesy of No Call No Show.

Amid Southie’s conglomeration of industrial buildings, luxury apartments, and Victorian row houses comes the scrappy and imaginative new gallery No Call No Show. Located inside the Distillery Gallery and open by appointment, No Call No Show is the brainchild of Boston-based artist Andy Li. Through vibrant banners embroidered with frank and funny mantras and a photo practice that documents quotidian moments, inspirations, and observations, Li’s work speaks to the power of positive thinking and excavates moments of beauty within the mundane. This same philosophy suffuses his new gallery. 

Li hopes No Call No Show can serve as a launchpad for Boston artists. He envisions a space with a fluid and adaptable exhibition schedule where artists can connect with one another, workshop new pieces, and explore unorthodox installation methods. “I’ve always wanted to have a gallery space,” Li said. “It started in school—my parents ran a kung fu school downtown, and I was like ‘Can I run a space in the kung fu school while they aren’t there?’ It was all mirrors, so I thought, ‘How do I install everything on mirrors? Do I use suction cups?’”

Unusual installation processes and a commitment to work in conversation with the confines of a space were also central to Li’s process in 2021, when he was commissioned by the Rose Kennedy Greenway to create an installation titled The Herd in Boston’s Chin Park. “I had never thought of my work not being on a wall. It completely blew my mind in a way. So how do you make your work part of the space—to collaborate with the space?”

Li’s creations transform and are transformed by the space that holds his work. His relationship to space feels deeply intertwined with his trust in positive thinking. He views each space as a source of opportunity where surfaces like the floor, ceiling, or even uneven corners with unique moldings become part of the creative process. 

Portrait of Andy Li by J-M Leach. Courtesy of No Call No Show.

This sense of spatial collaboration and interaction was front and center in the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, which featured work by Monika Plioplyte and was on view April 20–May 19. “You Are a Circle Expanding” is an installation connecting  Baltic pagan folklore, gender identity, and Plioplyte’s experience as an immigrant from Lithuania. It’s her latest years long exploration of form, body, personal history and craft as a performance. 

In line with Li’s mission, Plioplyte played with the space, using magnets to hang paper weavings of small nude figures from pipes. Some jutted out from the wall, allowing viewers to approach the work from both sides. Others adorned closet doors. Each vertical piece was linked to the next by painted streamers that wove in between Plioplyte’s bodies. They were geometric, often forming a checkered pattern in which Plioplyte’s body inhabited the positive space. The paper weavings were complemented by wall-mounted, geometric risograph prints positioned to mimic the weavings’ checkered patterns. The earth tones of the prints mirrored those of the paper pieces and wrapped around the room, forming a hut-like structure. Together, these works magnified the charm of No Call No Show’s space, working with the building’s architecture to create an entire environment for viewers to enter and interact with. Monika describes the work as “risograph printed self-figures that are hand cut to form flowing tapestries referencing traditional Lithuanian weaving designs. On the walls behind them are multi-layered monoprints that are extreme close ups of what I imagine it would feel like to zoom into the world of these patterns and textiles.” 

Li sees a gallery as more than just a wall to hang work, but rather as a space where work can grow and expand. Plioplyte’s second irritation of “You Are a Circle Expanding Part II” will be shown in Glass Curtain Gallery at Columbia College Chicago this upcoming November. The sheer mass of delicate paper chains and streamers that Plioplyte weaves together presents logistical challenges for packing and transportation. However, the opportunity to show this body of work in No Call No Show granted her a space to test out inventive packing and installation methods. 

Installation view, “You Are a Circle Expanding,” No Call No Show, South Boston, 2024. Photo by J-M Leach. Courtesy of No Call No Show.

Installation view, “You Are a Circle Expanding,” No Call No Show, South Boston, 2024. Photo by J-M Leach. Courtesy of No Call No Show.

Li hopes that No Call No Show will help artists of all experience levels and mediums to similarly fine-tune and showcase their craft. To that end, he aims to put out an open call at the end of May for No Call No Show’s second exhibition, titled “Open Call Big Show.” This exhibition will give anyone who submits the opportunity to display their work in a group show format. 

“I really want to encourage people who make work but may be shy to submit,” Li says. “Everyone deserves to be shown and seen. You can say you were in a show and meet other people, and maybe from there you can collaborate and, as a duo, submit work to a gallery.” 

The generosity, warmth, and ingenuity that Li brings to his own work naturally extends to his vision for No Call No Show and will certainly help launch Boston artists in fresh and surprising directions. Through art, Li has explained, history is made new again, while traces from the past are still discernible in the eye of the viewer.

Emma Breitman


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