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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Child is Father to the Man: Thomas D'Ambrose and RADICAL! at Albany Center Gallery



A very snowy 1st Friday kept the throngs at bay, but a good turnout of devoted fans still made it to the opening of a two-person show titled Eco Primitive Eco Surreal at Albany Center Gallery.

The inspired pairing of Thomas D'Ambrose and RADICAL! makes for a somewhat mind-bending experience, as the two artists are almost diametrically opposed, psychologically speaking, and their technical approaches are also in deep contrast. Yet it works beautifully, finding lots of common ground in terms of scale, subject matter, and delivery.

D'Ambrose, well into middle age, draws and paints like a child, usually depicting happy, frolicking animals. RADICAL!, a pseudonymous graffiti-style artist just 19 years old, applies masterful technique to a panoply of grotesque characters immersed in drugs, violence, even shades of bestiality.

Still, an innocent optimism lurks beneath the surface of the Hudson Valley Community College sophomore's creepy universe, mysteriously mirroring the uncomplicated sweetness of his elder's world view. The combination is surprisingly bracing, lending a bit of gravity to D'Ambrose while picking up the lightness of RADICAL!'s nightmares.

I was already convinced of RADICAL!'s significance as an artist before this show, which demonstrates growth and strength as he adds more three-dimensional elements and new figurative aspects to his graphic style. Now, I have a greater respect for D'Ambrose, whose musical career focus and extreme modesty had led me to take his art less seriously in the past. Here, he displays a greater diversity and a more complex sense of color and texture than I had previously seen.

Altogether, a great start to the new year's exhibition calendar.

Rating: Highly Recommended

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