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Unconventional beauty: Paintings by Frank Broderick are on display at GCCA.

Never Enough
By Rebecca Shepard

Works by Frank Broderick, Vincent Pomilio, Mark Briscoe and Meghan Petras
Greene County Council on the Arts, Main Street Catskill Gallery, Through June 15

Does anyone go to Catskill to see art? Well, you could.

Greene County Council for the Arts’ storefront Main Street Catskill Gallery is a little haven on a worn but lovely Main Street lined with many such storefronts, a number of them empty. The gallery is presenting two small exhibits that are more than just window dressing. Painters Frank Broderick and Vincent Pomilio, and sculptor Mark Briscoe are shown in a particularly felicitous grouping in the main gallery, and the work of sculptor Meghan Petras is on view upstairs.

Frank Broderick’s three boisterous abstract paintings are all energy and immediacy, their heavily impastoed surfaces sometimes offering up the lid of a jar or some other odd item. In the most colorfully vibrant painting, a central accumulation of marks suggests a large muddled head, with linear nests of paint interrupted by sky-blue patches, and a neon-orange scrawl accelerating across it like a fat comet. The hint of representation in the more recent paintings works well, countering the passionate involvement in texture and materials to produce a tension between the surface and enigmatic undercurrents below. It’s Philip Guston meets Anselm Keifer, channeling through Frank Broderick. They are funky, confident, solid paintings, handsome in their ugliness.

Mark Briscoe’s sculptures of rusted steel and eclectic parts—window weights, ceramic balls—evoke associations from archaic machinery to natural science and astronomy. Lines (Thought Before Sleep series) is a wall-mounted, billboard-sized lightbox of rusted steel, with light emanating through a series of punctures in uneven rows across its surface. Along the top, each hole is covered with a fragment of blue glass, the glowing indigo a smooth surprise against the corroded metal; in a center row, nuts and washers sit in the jagged holes, tidy rings silhouetted in light, while larger bits of hardware are welded on to form more rugged ranks along the bottom. It is a simple but engaging piece, a hieroglyphic landscape, or a giant, unearthed abacus.

Vincent Pomilio’s somber Between the River and the Sky was completed after Sept. 11, particularly relevant as the artist’s studio is blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once were; he returned after months of displacement, and writes of the sadness of seeing “everything gray and black” and watching an endless parade of trucks carrying debris. I found this his least successful piece, however, restrained in palette and texture, as if the gravity of trying to interpret the uninterpretable was inhibiting. His best ones are more manically upbeat, crazy quilts of irregular, multicolored shapes, collaged, stenciled and eroded, with evidence of other patterns and textures showing through. In contrast to this frenetic activity, their surfaces are smoothed and congealed into a cohesive unit, a chaotic network mysteriously held together like shatterproof glass after it has taken a blow.

They seem like amicable personalities, these three artists, sharing a sensitivity to surface as well as an energetic execution. The works engage one another, making the space buoyant and animated, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. But the gallery is small, and the works large; there are only a few pieces from each artist. It is a nice appetizer, but there is not quite enough for an entrée.

The second floor gallery is showing the work of Meghan Petras, mostly small wall sculptures reminiscent of Eva Hesse, made of hand-sewn canvas forms and beeswax and encased in simple pine frames. The forms are suggestive of seedpods, or sometimes of something slightly unclean—tampons or padded undergarments—and everything is partially submerged in beeswax, sensual in its smoothness, but hardening the pods into little embalmed oddments. There is something disturbing about the work—a sense of confinement, excessive inwardness—yet they feel a little superficial, not developed enough to realize their full potential to disturb or delight.

It’s never enough, is it? But it’s still worth the trip. Catskill is just half an hour down the Thruway from Albany, yet it seems like another, as-yet-ungentrified world.

While I was in the main gallery, two loitering teenagers wandered in and looked at the sculptures and made grudgingly appreciative comments. GCCA’s Catskill Gallery feels like a modestly lively spot in a pastoral outpost, finding a way to play host to art-seekers and local callers alike.

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