Thursday, February 18, 2016

Aaron Badham and Rita Robillard at UPS

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 18, 2016

“Somewhere between 1st and 2nd,” polychrome inflated steel by Aaron Badham, courtesy University of Puget Sound.
Aaron Badham’s playful and inventive sculptures can be seen in the main gallery space in Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, while Rita Robillard’s restful and hotly colorful Pacific Northwest landscapes grace the smaller back gallery.
I was pleasantly surprised by Badham’s sculpture after having seen photographs. They are not as monumental as I expected, which was a slight disappointment (photographs can never capture scale), but the colors, textures and forms were more interesting and more aesthetically pleasing than expected (scale is not the only thing photographs fail to adequately capture.)
Badham’s sculptures are described as soft. I did not touch them, but they are made of inflated steel, which I suspect would be hard to the touch, meaning they only look soft — a fun twist on what Claes Oldenburg did with his soft sculptures of hard objects. Badham seems to have his tongue firmly planted in cheek. He also has a great feel for abstract form.
Hard or soft, his sculptures are minimalist abstract forms based on toys and machinery. Most of them combine hard, black, machine-like clamps and other forms with the more soft-in-appearance inflated forms that are brightly colored. They also remind me of Mylar balloons. Each is a single color, some combined with the black parts and some not. The colors are yellow, blue, white, green, purple and turquoise. The forms are simple and mostly asymmetrical. Although they look like toys and machines, none are easily identified, with the possible exception of one called “Somewhere between 1st and 2nd,which looks like a plow with five circular disc blades.
His sculptures have a light-hearted pop-surrealist feel that I thoroughly enjoyed.
In addition to the sculptures — there are only seven of them — Badham is showing four nicely executed drawings and a set of three zinc plate etchings, all of mechanical forms.
"Restorations," screen print and acrylic by Rita Robillard, courtesy University of Puget Sound.
Robillard’s landscapes are traditional scenes of tall trees created by combining screen printing with acrylic painting. They stand out due to interesting textures and hot colors that verge on being gaudy. Some are mist-enshrouded scenes, and some have almost ghostly spatial depth. This is most noticeable in one called “Pastoral/Tropicalismo,” a scene with castles in the background and grazing cows in the foreground that look like they are wading in water or floating above the surface. Overall her paintings are too decorative for my taste and look as if they were created to be hung in a medical or real estate office. But I like what she does with space and color, and there is a mystical quality that I like.

Aaron Badham and Rita Robillard, Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through Feb., 27, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701.

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