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Through December 23, 2006 at FIG, Santa Monica

by Kathy Zimmerer

Brilliantly colored, tightly knit abstractions vibrate with drama and power in Margaret Gallegos’ new paintings, titled “Life, Death, Love, War: The Works.” Gallegos has gradually developed and refined her abstractions from loosely painted figurative and still life scenes into whirling spirals of color and form. With distant echoes of Kandinsky’s lyr- ic abstractions permeating her works, she infuses her melodic images with sizzling hot or deep, cool colors. Her compositions have an internal rhythm and synchronicity that weds the images together in a robust dance.

At first glance, the painting, “The Stars at Night,” is a bewildering array of loosely painted circles and lines that rotate around the canvas in velvety blues and purples, but the composition is so deftly and instinctively structured that the viewer is drawn into the maelstrom of night lights. “In Apocalyptic Visions (World on Fire)” loosely rendered images float through a fiery world of crimson and yellow which is offset by a deep blue green half-moon. While elements seem to randomly exist in space, she pulls them together with a gray void that intersects both the warm and cool areas of the painting.

In terms of striking contrast, “Argumentum ad Nauseum (Talking Points)” the eye is drawn to a vivid royal blue corner that segues into a crimson circle. The forms support each other in a linear choreography. Improvisation is also evident in “Madama Butterfly,” where exuberant calligraphic shapes bump into each other and jostle for room. Its deep, warm colors of crimson, yellow and gold balance out the deep blue ground. She writes about her dynamic compositions, “I don’t plan the content but begin spontaneously. . .a compositional constellation begins to emerge and a connection takes place between me and the painting. Memories are jogged; meaning is suggested; and feelings surface, however nebulously. Tuning into those feelings, I attempt to more fully and forcefully embody them in the painting using all the formal means at my disposal.”

“Night Flight in a War Zone” is an imaginary aerial view of what could be Baghdad, with illuminated circles or domes glowing against the dark night. The circles become landmarks in a landscape of strong brushstrokes and a constantly changing composition. “Quagmire, Slog, Abyss” is an apt metaphor for the Iraq war in title and image, as jagged lines swirl about each other, totally out of control. In raw colors, the ragged lines symbolize the Pandora’s Box of the Iraq war, once let out, containment of these primitive forces is impossible without much grief and anguish. Most beautiful in terms of vivid hues and energetic images is “War.” Like a piece of abstract stained glass, the blues and reds resonate and glow, and become a part of an emotional landscape that is jarring. Large brush strokes overlap and conflict with each other for room, but fit together beautifully like a chaotic crazy quilt.

"Madama Butterfly,” 2005, mixed
media/paper/canvas/panel, 30 x 22”.

"Time Out of Mind," 2005, mixed media/canvas, 50 x 32".

“Apocalyptic Visions (World on Fire),"
2006, oil/wood panel, 39 x 30".

"War," 2006, mixed media/
paper/canvas/panel, 42 x 30".

By contrast, “Shout for Joy (Jubilation)” is a transitory exaltation in paint. Circles pile up upon swirls in a luminous free-for-all of color and imagery. Her colorist instincts are out in full force as shimmering greens, reds, blues, pinks and gold hold court. Success in abstraction is difficult to achieve, and Gallegos ably holds her own with these strong compositions, a masterful sense of color and dynamic brushwork.