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Thatís what itís all about: Thomas Gagnonís Hokey-Pokey.

Bring the Family
By David Brickman


The Arts Center Gallery at the Saratoga County Arts Council, through May 28

In a fun nod to boomer nostalgia, the current show at the Arts Center Gallery in Saratoga Springs is titled colorFORMS; there, three exuberantly painterly artists have been brought together by curator Judy Hugentobler in a show thatís likely to delight the middle-aged and their children (or grandchildren) in equal measure.

The most kid-friendly, and at the same time the most professionally acknowledged of the three, is Victoria Palermo, whose sculptural installation at the Williams College Museum of Art was reviewed in this space about a year ago, and whom we named as the regionís best artist last July. She is joined by relative newcomers Thomas Gagnon and K.C. Mathers, both of whom share Palermoís unbridled color sense and apply it to deftly accomplished two-dimensional works.

Not to be confused with the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, this is the gallery of the Saratoga County Arts Council. Set on Broadway in a former library, the big, airy main space has lots of natural light and a corner entrance that makes for an interesting flow to the L-shaped room. I find that the shows here always make good use of this arrangement, often grouping two to five artists and intermingling their works throughout, which makes for a very relaxed viewing experience.

Gagnonís work is larger and more easily seen from a distance than Mathersí, so it provides an orienting guide to move the visitorís eye around the perimeter of the room. Conversely, Mathersí densely patterned pieces in colored pencil are small (10 inches or less in both dimensions) and demand close scrutiny to be appreciated.

Meanwhile, Palermoís vertical rubber sculptures are rhythmically grouped and placed through the floor areaóextremely rich and bright in hue, and rather shiny, too, they command attention in the way circus clowns do, by being irresistibly friendly. One of them, the centerpiece of a group of seven placed on a big, cloud-shaped mirror, reaches right up to the ceiling, where it docks like some kind of Jetsons-era accessory. Titled Starship, its columnar series of geometric shapes is colored in a blend from lime-green to yellow to orange, with jaunty little balloon shapes flying off from stalks at the middle.

Palermoís other 2004 pieces share the smooth surfaces and vivid color relationships of Starship, and some have seductive frozen drips that donít always conform to gravity. Her 2005 pieces enter new territory, adding other materials to build up different kinds of structure to the works, which are far more free-form. Goopy, globby and drippy Wen not Wu is a monochromatic, marbleized blue; Color of a Dream I Had is all red; and an untitled taller piece is mainly yellow.

These later works are not as easy to like as Palermoís other work, but itís good to see her branch out and try to be expressive in a less happy-go-lucky mode.

A fun-loving attitude also pervades the 11 oils on masonite in the show by Gagnon, all of which date from 2004, are exactly 2 by 3 feet and have silly names like Shimmy-Shammy and Hokey-Pokey. In these paintings, biomorphic shapes in bright, solid colors compete with undulating lines and hard geometric backgrounds for our attention.

In a given piece, the palette may reside within limits of tone and temperature or may range widely. For example, Whipper-Snapper is almost designer-friendly with its tastefully cool greens, mauves and oranges, while Wiggle-Waggle is energized by a hot acid-yellow. The overheated palette of Twiddle-Twaddle plays on all the classic contrasts: orange/blue, pink/green and yellow/purple.

One of Gagnonís stronger pieces, Topsy-Turvy, has a distinct figurative reference; it also breaks up some of the shapes with dimensional contour lines, making them float a bit off the surfaceóbut then theyíre anchored by two stiff, black bars. Other, smaller pieces on paper by Gagnon in pencil, crayon and/or marker have the same playfulness while tending toward the minimalistic. These drawings make a nice counterpoint to the paintings, but fall well into their brilliant shadow.

Mathers works entirely in colored pencil, and her 22 pieces from 2002 to 2005 have all been created through a grid system that she employs to great advantage. With those grids, she plays a terrific game of theme and variation, allowing a surprising amount of freedom within a tight structure.

Whether in pastel colors or primaries, the symmetrical designs Mathers creates radiate outward, both using and transforming the grid to morph into a great variety of rhythmic patterns. Like a Moorish mosaic or woven fabric, her images have no meaning to impart; rather, they are a sophisticated form of eye candy that tickles you more the more you study it.

The most curious aspect of Mathersí work is how much it changes depending on the viewing distanceóup close, you see all the little lines that divide the little squares and are filled with many different colors; but, as you move back, the bigger patterns are gradually revealed, so eventually you donít see the grid at all, or the individual shapes within it, but a balanced overall picture instead. It can be a powerfully meditative experience.

Her childlike game of filling in the squares turns out to be very clever, indeed.


Lee Boroson: outer limit

The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, through June 5

Few artists are as ambitious as Lee Boroson, whose large, complex inflatable pieces require a museum-scale space, and a lot of time and help, to be displayed. Fortunately, he has a friend in Ian Berry, curator of Skidmoreís Tang, who commissioned a Boroson piece for the museum last year. That has been joined by seven others, some of which are site-specific; all of them work very well with the space.

óDavid Brickman

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