beauty: Paintings by Frank Broderick are on display
by Frank Broderick, Vincent Pomilio, Mark Briscoe and Meghan
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
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.