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SANDRA GALLEGOS

July 2 - 25, 2009 at Project_210 Gallery, Pasadena

by Elenore Welles




“Big D,” 2009, acrylic
on canvas, 48" x 50".









“Cutie Pie,” 2009, acrylic
on canvas, 36" x 40".










“I Wish,” 2009, unfinished,
acrylic on canvas, 36" x 40".

Art movements and trends may come and go, but the impulse toward pattern and design spans time and cultures. When au courant aesthetics are eclipsed by more dominant themes, it’s up to the artists to take possession of their authentic sensibilities. We now live in a multi-cultural era in which horizons are broader and artists are freer than ever to draw from a plethora of models.

Sandra Gallegos’ paintings at first blush fall in with the Pattern and Decoration movement whose heyday was thirty years ago, but her decorative impulses are rooted in a structural framework that stems from working with collage and assemblage. Her vibrant colorations and imaginative forms are reminders that definitive vision stems from a conglomeration of influences and instincts.

Gallegos is one of those people who have obsessive collector’s disorder. It’s an impulse that works in her favor artistically, since her ideas derive from a life-long collection of objects, books, fabrics, Japanese kimono designs and organic materials. They contribute to a compilation of narratives that are personal and ambiguous, obscured pretty much by the precedence of pictorial considerations.

Her shapes exhibit elements of Cubism, as well as the curvilinear forms of Art Nouveau, but they are filtered through her own deliberate schematics. Combining literal objects with fragmented forms, she attempts to convey complex ideas suggested by the objects in her collections. However, intellectual and emotional substance tends to get lost in the abstractions.

Recurrent themes are vases, bowls, flora, tendrils, organic forms and what appear to be rabbit heads, all bathed in opaque color tonalities. In “Fish Out of Water,” undersea creatures and plant-life drift with man-made flotsam and Matisse-like patterns. Vivid magentas, blues and yellows add a Disney-like aura, evoking more of a dreamscape than a seascape.

Certain elements, like the bubble gum pink flora in “Cutie Pie,” manage to hold a degree of importance, although it shares space with a bowl and non-identifiable organic forms. Slender tendrils float and do a sinuous dance in a space that evokes an undersea environment. The interplay between representative and invented forms gives rise to a surreal space.

For the most part, her works are full of restless rhythms, but in “I Wish,” the design is simpler, more elegant. A background of subdued shapes and tonalities intensifies the solidity of vases and allows deep reds and oranges to become more prominent. Nevertheless, her collector’s instincts come into play when she tosses a small house into the mix. The relevance of its quirky presence is left to the viewer.

In “Big D,” however, where multiple patterns, planes and shapes cover a 4 x 5 foot canvas, the horror vacuui is noticeable. This tumultuous symphony of design and color is crammed with picturesque forms and literal references. That she manages to hold the spatial dynamism in check is testament to her finely tuned color orchestrations and deft formal structure. Although the bold composition does tend to make the retinas spin, it is imbued with a quality of joyousness, which in the final analysis, appears to represent what Gallegos is all about: an expression of a collector’s  paradise in art.