It takes a lot to get me excited about an art show, but an internationally exhibited artist with a vivid imagination and a discerning grasp of history usually does the trick. So I was looking forward to Judith Paul’s new show in the City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre, The Handwriting on the Wall, as it promised to hit all the right marks.

Paul’s concept had a lot of scope for art that would be experimental while remaining accessible. Using enlarged images of letters and postcards from bygone eras, she pledged to comment on the expiring craft of calligraphy while including her own narrative visions as a backdrop to each missive.

Sadly, the actual show is like a Hollywood blockbuster: heavy-handed and gaudy yet undemanding, with a central idea that’s far stronger than the execution. Her choice of background colors (light purple for “On My Way Joe,” grey/black and red for “Alice”) don’t really help to bring out the narrative elements; in other pieces, Paul’s picks are too obvious. A case in point: “Hello Miss Jamie” includes a couple of stray feathers stuck to a postcard, a broken border of dangerous yellow and black checks and the word “extinct” lurking in the background. The sense of loss that the artist’s aiming for is present, alright — to make sure that we don’t miss the message, another piece is marked “lost” — in a show about the death of a delicate, subtle form of communication.

Don’t get me wrong, the show isn’t a full-on disaster. Paul obviously isn’t afraid to try different media and lets a few errant brushstrokes and glue-drips show, confidently including the viewer in her process. Just as evident is the impressive amount of thought and hard work she’s put into Handwriting, and pieces like “Tell All Hello” and “1816” are infectious in their enthusiasm for the antique writings they display. Yet this exhibition is so much less than it could have been, mainly due to the artist’s uninspiring pallet.

The same definitely can’t be said for abstract painter Patrick Pelletier, whose varied, appealing color scheme is one of his main strengths. The 32-year-old Pelletier first picked up a brush four years ago, found that he had a talent for creating art, and is currently filling the John M. Dunnan Gallery with his block-heavy oils. His work can also be seen on the windows of West Ashley’s Med Bistro and in Cintra and Squeeze.

Look out for “Answer the Phone,” a predominantly blue and yellow piece that represents Pelletier’s intense dislike for phones in general and answering machines in particular; “Blue Bayou,” packing some of his favorite, natural Lowcountry sites onto a modest, soothing canvas; and “King of the Castle,” incorporating tumbling objects into a bustling mosaic-like scene.

Pelletier is taking a newfound appreciation of his art in his laid-back stride. The California native has kept his regular job as a masseur; he continues to surf, paint, and play guitar as if there wasn’t an increasing buzz about his work, already getting snapped up for four-figure sums. All the same, he’s aware of what he can achieve if he hones his style. That shines through in the work he’s currently producing, and his continual experimentation with new forms. His best efforts can be seen in the Dunnan Gallery’s Fine Abstract Art of Patrick Pelletier, on view through Feb. 15.

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