Albany Times Union (Sunday)
See the rainbow
Show at the Arts Center plunges audiences into technicolor brilliance
Kaleidoscopic show at the Arts Center of Capital Region a salve for the soul.
You want a salve for dark times? Try the big, bright, colorful show of paintings on cut and sewn fabric by Gina Occhiogrosso at the Art Center for the Capital Region. Rounded shapes and detached edges float and overlap like bubbles and lollipops in nearly every piece, all with apparent ease but without turning saccharine or childish. Occhiogrosso’s forceful mastery of materials and design announces that this is quite serious fun, that this is high art that happens to revel in its joyous effects.
The show is aptly called “Surfacing,” the many shapes maneuvered in flat layers. They sometimes turn into edge to edge patterns, but more often they flock together as forms with merely similar intentions, trapped — mostly — in two dimensions. This isn’t psychedelic stuff. It’s more like pillow whispers, giddy daydreams. And it draws you to not only the painted elements, but to the substrate, the canvas. Here is the artist’s stylistic innovation: the canvases are not whole. Or if complete now, they once were in pieces that are now sewn together. Discover this and the complex surfaces become active players as much as the paint on them.
In a few, like the large, squarish “Never Say Never,” the canvas is deliberately left airy, or perforated, the gaps forming
their own rhythm amid the rest. In another, “Over and Under,” irregular vertical strips of painted canvas in shades of green and blue are interwoven with horizontal strands of yarn pulled taut.
Nearly every work finesses this consistent play of layer and color. Circles, their edges either sharp or diffused, are cut or obscured by lines, so other patterns and geometries appear in different, related ways from piece to piece. There are rich hues and sometimes clashing ones, but these are often intersected with a warp and weft of unpainted white canvas in thick meandering bands, softening the assault of color, building a flattened architecture.
Occhiogrosso’s work is entirely abstract, nonrepresentational. I was glad to mindlessly let my eyes work the surfaces, darting in and out to feel its effect in different ways. The titles are mostly baffling—though I confess I’ve never been able to make abstractions fit concrete ideas. One of my favorite works here shows a series of sharp circles with little lines attached that float like plump flamingos over a diffused target made of greenish rings. But it’s not called "Florida Dreams" or "Piña Colada." It’s called “False Alarm.”
Such titles do have a chipper flair that adds to the experience: “Lift Off,” “Try, Try, Again,” “Breathless,” and so on for over 30 works. But mainly, the works insist on their warm, modernist, abstracted explorations of canvas and paint, of visual effects and ineffable sensations. Palpably satisfying.
The mere sewing of cloth has another grand distinction, since it implies a love of “women’s work,” an association with handwork and fabric that is related deep down to quiltmaking and other crafts. Crafts that are proudly fine art as well. This is no accident. Occhiogrosso’s mother was a shoe designer in New York, and her mother’s mother created fine lacework on linens. The artist’s other grandmother was a seamstress. Such connections are not inevitable, but they make sense.
The whole show makes sense, and the large gallery space is brimming. The artist has a deeply satisfying feel for the spatial and physical results at hand, and while this is suggested in photos in a newspaper, it needs to be felt firsthand for all its subtle refinement.