A Snowball in Hell

I'm a little late in discovering the brainy geek-rock of They Might Be Giants. It's doubly troubling because I have a two-year-old daughter, and the group known for its surreal lyrics and stick-in-the-brain hooks now has two albums that are the hippest thing in kid's music. It was just a matter of time before someone connected the band's bouncy tunes with visual art. Garde Rail's satisfying group show "A Snowball in Hell" contains sculpture and painting inspired by TMBG, and was curated by gallery artist Kevin Titzer (his contribution is a whip-wielding manager inspired by the song Minimum Wage). It's an inspired idea, since Garde Rail's focus on "outsider" art includes stuff that's both smart and childlike. Most of the pieces approach the loopy music indirectly: Rik Catlow's Depression (Dr. Worm) is a little collage of a hesitant, floating parasite ("I can handle criticism," says the ambitious little worm), while Brazilian artist Eduardo Recife's Are U Together is an intricate twist of knots and tangled hearts. One of the most effective pairings, based on one of TMBG's more affecting songs, is They'll Need a Crane, by Brooklyn-based artist Andy Kehoe. Sitting alone in a clear-cut forest, a little bird-masked figure considers what it'll take to rebuild his life after a relationship has gone through the mill. "Love sees love's happiness, but happiness can't see that love is sad" is emblematic of the group's simple but potent lyrics. And all those kiddies raised on the albums No! and Here Come the ABCs will be mesmerized by Tom Haney's James K. Polk, a wind-up sculpture with a dancing marionette of our 11th president. Polk may have been austere and severe, but Mr. Manifest Destiny apparently also had a lighter side. Garde Rail Gallery, 110 Third Ave. S., 206-621-1055. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat. Ends Sat., Aug. 27. ANDREW ENGELSON

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