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WOID Review: Margaret Kilgallen.

Margaret Kilgallen. To Friend and Foe. Deitch Projects. 76 Grand Street
(212-343-7300).Through Oct. 9.

You enter the gallery through a slightly claustrophobic passageway, and
Margaret Kilgallen's enormous designs weigh down on you. But then you
enter a large space, almost as high as it's wide, and like a person moving
from darkness into light it takes a little while for your vision to
adjust. Kilgallen has a fine sense of space, and she designed this
installation so that the viewer feels locked inside a calligraphic
fun-fair. Linear cartoon figures are juxtaposed against tricky signs,
takes on nineteenth-century carny lettering.

Kilgallen knows and uses all the tricks of the sign-painter's trade, and
they are tricks of seeing: letters that swell and shrink in fake
perspective; oddball frames; signs half-cut, so that their meaning is
obscured; signs so large they force you to stand at the other end of the
room - and even then you can't really make them out - or signs whose
meaning is only vaguely inferred, for instance the word "Speedball" above a
cartoon of duelling housewives.

Kilgallen is involved with mural painting in San Francisco, a city with a
glorious tradition in that area; she also works as a book conservator at
the San Francisco Public Library. What she has picked up, however, is a
deeply democratic sense of visuality. The space she creates constantly
teases and cajoles the viewer, it activates him or her like a kind of TV
in reverse.  It's an exhilarating show.

Paul Werner, New York City
     DRAGONSBLOOD AND ASHES: a project to research and teach the
techniques of the Medieval scribe and artist.
     THE ORANGE PRESS: most recent titles: "Vellum Preparation:
History and Technique," and "Dragonsblood and Ashes: the Beta
     WOID: a journal of visual language in New York, including reviews,
listings and resources.

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