what itís all about: Thomas Gagnonís Hokey-Pokey.
Arts Center Gallery at the Saratoga County Arts Council, through
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
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
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
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
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
Her childlike game of filling in the squares turns out to
be very clever, indeed.
Boroson: outer limit
Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, through
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.