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Monday, March 11, 2019

Shows seen, not seen, and to be seen

Catskill Ledge - oil on panel by Tom Nelson
Is mid-March too late to be looking back at 2018? Well, probably, but I'm going to do it anyway.

I'm plagued by the many missed opportunities of the past year, which featured a vast array of worthy, challenging, and screwed-up art exhibitions in our region, and which I wish I had been able to see more of and write more about. So here's a bit of a recap; maybe it'll make up just a little for what didn't happen quite enough here on Get Visual during 2018.

Shows seen

Toward the end of 2018, I caught a few really strong shows in venues that don't necessarily get a lot of publicity around here. One of those was a rare treat in the form of a large collection of paintings by Tom Nelson at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, entitled From NY to LA: Landscapes of the Hudson Valley and California Desert. Nelson, who has worked full-time as an exhibit designer at the Albany Institute of History & Art for decades, has quietly maintained a strong art practice but hardly ever shows his work. This compendium of around 60 paintings and oil sketches delighted his many fans and reminded us that he is still one of the best landscape painters anywhere.

Ascent - digital photograph by George J Nicholson
Also in Troy, a fine exhibition of color photographs by George J Nicholson was hosted by the PhotoCenter, marking an impressive debut by a late-blooming artist making up for lost time. The 30-plus images in Taos Journey were all made in what Nicholson describes as "a seven-day reverie" in the high desert of New Mexico, in which he was inspired to abandon his original plan to shoot panoramic landscapes in favor of much more intimate images, all of them square. It worked. He will be one to watch.

I made an excursion to Saratoga Springs, where I checked out another intriguing photo project, this one by Jessica Mansmith, who received a Community Arts Grant to produce a body of work within the confines of a mysterious former military base called Norad Z-50. The resulting pictures, which were shown in the Saratoga Springs Train Station, are both haunting and colorfully lyrical.

Saratoga is also the home of Harrison Lobdell Gallery, which is co-owned and filled with paintings by Zack Lobdell, so I stopped there as well (for my first time) and took in the display of Lobdell's powerful abstract expressions, along with the super-high-tech furniture designs of his partner, Peter Harrison. It's a great space and Zack was a good host, making it well worth the visit.

Shows not seen

92,955,807.273mi. - lithograph by Kathryn Polk 
You know the song about regrets, and I definitely have a few about shows I missed in 2018. Top of the list is a six-person exhibition of contemporary printmakers at Skidmore College's Schick Art Gallery entitled Pressed. We have too few opportunities to see fine etchings, lithographs, etc., by current artists and I was really sad to miss this one. Speaking of printmaking, I was also dismayed to have missed the 2018 edition of the Screen Print Biennial at Sage College's Opalka Gallery - but at least there will be another one in two years - maybe I'll be less busy then.

Another deep regret is having failed to visit a two-exhibition display of work by Rockwell Kent at The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls - one of paintings and one of prints (yet more prints!). Kent is a longtime favorite of mine, and shows like this don't come along every year. Among other great museum shows, I also wish I hadn't missed Women Artists in Paris 1850-1900 at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown - but I hear there's a Berthe Morisot show on tour, currently at the Dallas Museum of Art, so there's always a chance to see the best artist from the Clark show there (or later this year in Paris - now, there's an idea!).

Rush - acrylic on linen on panel by Jenny Kemp
I was also sorry not to see what must have been a beautiful exhibition at Union College's Mandeville Gallery entitled Slow Grow of 18 recent paintings by Jenny Kemp, as she has been one of my favorite regional artists over the last several years. Meanwhile, at another first-rate college gallery, I missed three sculptors making a re-appearance at The College of Saint Rose to celebrate 10 years of the school's Esther Massry Gallery. And, at yet another outstanding academic venue, I managed to lose track of the UAlbany Art Museum's show entitled Younger Than Today: Photographs of Children (and sometimes their mothers) by Andy Warhol. The title alone recommended that one. Alas!

Shows to be seen

But all is not lost! There are some great shows out there that I (and you!) can still catch before they end. Here are a few examples:

Landmark at Albany International Airport Gallery through March 25. A ten-person show created in partnership with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, this features contest-winning essays and poems along with the visual art.

Brian Cirmo: paintings at the Lake George Arts Project's Courthouse Gallery in Lake George Village through April 13. Another favorite local painter, at a favorite venue (and it's warm enough now to go up there without fear).

Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City through April 23. Some critics are saying that this middle-aged Swedish woman invented abstract painting before all the famous boys, beginning in 1906 out of spiritualistic inspiration, and now rescued from obscurity to be called "beyond great" on ArtNet.com. I'm going to New York to see this unique show. Really!

The Sisters - oil on canvas by Berthe Morisot



Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Best Films of 2018

The ensemble cast of Hirokazu Koreeda's Shoplifters
I suddenly realized the 91st Academy Awards will run tonight, and I haven't posted my annual take on the best films of the year.

So, in haste, I give you my Top Ten picks of 2018. As usual, there are caveats. I confess that half of this year's eight Best Picture nominees have thus far escaped my viewing. This is - again, as usual - intentional: Specifically, no one who has seen The Favourite has been able to convince me I shouldn't miss it; the reports on A Star is Born, though more positive, still left me willing to leave it for later; while I do plan to see Bohemian Rhapsody one of these days, I don't expect to see it as a film worthy of serious consideration; and I actually have no idea what Vice is about, but I'm pretty sure it's not my kind of movie (and if that attitude undermines my credibility or offends anyone, I sincerely apologize).

Of the four remaining BP nominees, I do include two of them on my list (see below). As for the other two: We started to watch Black Panther at home, but the dialogue was so badly written I had to leave the room after 10 minutes (my wife enjoyed it, however); and BlackKklansman is a pretty good Spike Lee movie with the usual Spike Lee faults (i.e rather preachy and 15 minutes too long), but it's way overrated and, by my reckoning, only the third best film of its genre that I saw in 2018 (the genre being African American-made movies with political or social messages). Spike can do better (and has on many occasions).

So, here's my list:
  1. A tie (unprecedented in this blog): Shoplifters and Roma - I previously wrote about Roma, in the context of its brilliant cinematography and how it relates to the work of pioneering Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo. So much has already been written about this film, that I will simply say this: It deserves to win the Oscar for Best Picture and probably will. Given that both Roma and Shoplifters are among the Best Foreign Language Film nominees, I just hope the Academy will leave Roma out of that race and award the statuette to Shoplifters, which is a deeply affecting slice of Japanese life at the margins, beautifully photographed and superbly acted. And, speaking of Oscar-nominated foreign films, today I will spend three hours in the theater soaking up the German entry, Never Look Away, following my usual Oscar-day tradition to see a movie rather than watch the awards show.
  2. see above
  3. Leave No Trace - A brilliantly quiet film based on the true story of a PTSD veteran raising his young daughter in the woods near Portland, Oregon.
  4. Green Book - Again, much has been written about this one, not all of it in praise. I didn't worry about whether the film had an appropriate point of view in terms of racial stereotyping - I just enjoyed the ride, as did its main characters. The acting, cinematography, and storytelling are all first-rate, and the story it tells is fascinating.
  5. Blindspotting - The most underrated movie of the year, and I have no idea why it's been overlooked. With a strong original story, which is a neat twist on the interracial buddy drama, this film has many layers addressing criminal justice, gentrification, and race relations - along with really great music.
  6. Three Identical Strangers - Talk about fascinating stories! This documentary sucks you in and explodes right before your eyes. An absolutely compelling film.
  7. Cold War - This gorgeously photographed and scored period piece is so sad that it's pretty hard to love. But also hard to dismiss. In Polish, French, and several other languages, it's yet another Best Foreign Language Film contender.
  8. Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Many have commented on Melissa McCarthy's star turn in this quirky biopic about has-been-author-turned-criminal-forger Lee Israel. She and her co-star, Richard E. Grant, both received well-earned acting nominations for their exquisitely entertaining portrayals of an extremely unlikely pair of co-conspirators. 
  9. Juliet, Naked - Another somewhat overlooked film this year, its title misleads a bit - it's actually about a stripped-down recording of a hit rock album that helps to pull a depressed musician off the edge and back into the limelight. Ethan Hawke and Rose Byrne give this rom-com some real life.
  10. Sorry to Bother You - Noted as a strong first feature by writer-director Boots Riley, it also features an irresistible breakout performance by Tessa Thompson as an off-the-wall performance artist. Part of an intriguing current wave of Black science fiction, this film bothered rightly and well.
Update, 3/11/19: I recently caught another very good 2018 release (on video at home), and would have placed it somewhere in my Top Ten, let's say tied for 9th place, had I seen it in time for this list. It's Bo Burnham's debut feature, Eighth Grade, which offers a glimpse into the interior life of a 13-year-old girl who's trying to figure out how to grow up and find her place in a world dominated by social media. Burnham's script is astute, poignant and quite funny, and his star, Elsie Fisher is a full-on revelation.

Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster star in Leave No Trace





Monday, February 18, 2019

Joe Testa-Secca at University of Tampa

Installation view of Modernism Reimagined: Joe Testa-Secca in Full Color
On a recent visit to the Tampa Bay region of Florida, I had the pleasure of seeing a strong retrospective exhibition of the work of 90-year-old Joe Testa-Secca at the University of Tampa's Scarfone/Hartley Gallery.

Guest critic John Caputo, an adjunct professor in UT's art department, contributes the following commentary on Modernism Reimagined: Joe Testa-Secca in Full Color, which remains on view through Feb. 22:

Well into the fourth decade of the reign of Postmodernism, one might ask, “Why would an exhibition boldly proclaiming Modernism Reimagined in its title engage us?” Beyond the twofold reply that the earlier “ism” (a term coined by the great Robert Hughes) dominated the 20th century, while also providing the rich inventions that continue to reverberate today, in the case of today’s offering the answer is uniquely personal.

The context is rooted squarely in a single individual, Joe Testa-Secca. As he enters the tenth decade of his life, with over sixty years of prodigious creative endeavor behind him, this individual’s career and legacy as an artist-teacher has loomed large in the annals of the visual arts in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Split Hairs - pencil 1968-9
Now a vital and expansive part of the greater cultural life of today’s major urban center, this was hardly the case in 1950, when the same young man graduated from the small and private University of Tampa. With an art major? Hardly! There was no such degree to be found in the equally sleepy town that lacked the significant colleges and art museums that abound in this urban center today.

In fact, the entire country at that precise mid-century year was barely on the cusp of unleashing upon the world New York City’s twin towers of Modernist  art movements, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. In these, America loudly announced that it would now lead the way in visual innovation, and when I first entered the present exhibition at his alma mater, it became immediately clear that their concerns are clearly at the core of Testa-Secca’s lifelong explorations.

Winged Duo - acrylic on canvas 1983
To achieve what he has, well chronicled and celebrated in this monographic show that features over 40 important works accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue (available for purchase through the University’s Gallery, here), was no small task. In fact, it was the artist himself who co-founded the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, the first fully dedicated contemporary art space in Tampa. Testa-Secca gifted himself as well as the community by increasing access to now world-renowned contemporary artists through exhibitions by William Pachner and William Walmsley, among others.

One can see that he devoured the exciting and expansive ideas then emerging in the growing national obsession in the arts; this included the impact of an emerging art media that provided access to images and critical dialogue for those whose careers kept them physically away from the beckoning Mecca of Manhattan.

Among the hallmarks of Abstract Expressionism is an innate humanism grounded in the visceral reaction to the death and carnage of WWII and the challenging shocks of the Holocaust and the atomic bombing of Japan. Hence was birthed “The Age of Anxiety” that haunted our intellectuals and artists, counterpoint to the popular notion perpetrated in the sitcom Happy Days: '50s America as we would like to remember it.

White Bull - acrylic on Masonite 1968
What Ab-Ex gave us was an insistence on life in the form of the individual gesture that could be characterized as desperation for the impact an individual could have in a world that threatened to crush it. The apparent violence in the physical gestures of thrashing paint are paradoxically a plea for peace and meaning, ingesting the mess left behind by global conflict into an internalized cosmos that said “I act, therefore I matter.”

Testa-Secca’s reimagining seems to attempt to tame that wild energy by introducing geometric structures that act as architectural frames that interact with the more organic curvilinear forms that carry the action. This is tricky business, the very reason I admire this artist’s ability to navigate the dangers of applying a formulaic solution. Rather, the learned brilliance of his draftsman’s hand, filled with nuance and the knowledge that only comes with time and sensitivity might remind one of the fluid grace and discipline of the Olympic ice skater.

Ecstasy - mixed media on canvas 1975
These attributes are well seen in Ecstasy, a 1975 mixed media piece I particularly favored. As the artist plays a visual game of ‘hide and seek’ with various human bodies engaged in the private act of lovemaking, the handling is poetic in both physical mark making and the tone he brings to the subject. What can be a better answer to death than the act of making life?  I personally sensed the feeling of being nearly weightless as if the moment of ecstasy had momentarily taken me out of the heaviness of the world.

Not content to remain solely under the impact of Abstract Expressionism, Testa-Secca was perhaps even more influenced by the underlying elements of Pop Art. It is easy to be tempted into a snapshot memory of the movement, a bad idea that never occurred to this artist. Keying into the central elements of celebrity and its self-centered posturing, and matching this with the graphic strength that comes from the simplification of form that automatically follows photographic value structures, the painter instead stocks his canvases with multiple characters that preen with pride in their athletic perfection and ability to personify through facial expression and body gesture.

What grounds this series of images is the steady hand of a man who loves to draw, and draws well. He pushes himself, willing to chance failure as he experiments day after day, year after year. Artists who do so command this writer’s respect, for too many take the easy way out.

Testa-Secca was well aware of what he was doing, and summed up his efforts with these words: The drama of what you do with the space and how that works is what a painting really is. An artist is responsible for every inch of the canvas.


Shaman Five - mixed media 1976

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Roma-Bravo connection

An image from Alfonso Cuaron's Netflix film Roma

It’s in black and white; it’s in Spanish and indigenous languages, with subtitles; it takes place in early 1970s Mexico; and it is being distributed by Netflix. Yet Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical Roma sits atop many critics’ lists of the best films of 2018 and, improbably but also certainly, it will be a serious contender at next year’s Oscars.

Threshold by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
My friend Dick, who saw the film at home, urged me to catch Roma on the big screen if I could – in order to better experience its outstanding cinematography – and I am passing that advice on to you. In my case, I didn’t really have a choice, as I don’t subscribe to Netflix or any other media service (not even cable TV), so I was especially pleasantly surprised to learn that I could go to the Spectrum in Albany and see it there (it's also showing at Images Cinema in Williamstown, Mass.).

The Daydream by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Though I have avoided reading any reviews of Roma until after I post this commentary, there’s no doubt it has been extensively covered in all the publications that offer such content, so I won’t try to add to those assessments here. Rather, I wish to share my perception of the connection between the work of the great 20th-century Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo and the imagery seen throughout Cuaron’s movie.

Striking Worker Assassinated by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
It can’t be coincidence – Cuaron (who did his own cinematography on this project) clearly was emulating Bravo’s content and style. And, why not? The film takes place in Mexico City (with a few short side trips into the countryside), where Bravo plied his trade for a remarkably long time (he was active until his death at age 100 in 2002), and where he made pictures of everyday life with a surreal twist, a description that could apply to Roma as well.

Sparrow, Light by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
From the floor-washing shots that open the film to the nearly endless still held under its closing credits, and throughout the rest of Roma, I was reminded again and again of images from the Bravo catalog. I present some of those images here as examples for those who’ve seen the movie (or plan to see it); I think you’ll agree that there’s a strong relationship.

title unknown by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
So, why should we care? Well, for one thing, Bravo deserves to be better known. If the attention this film is getting could also expand his following, that would be good for his legacy and for the new fans he will acquire. Admittedly, I have a bias (don’t I always?) – when I began making black-and-white photographs in 1972, Bravo’s work in photo books was among my earliest influences. And it nicely stands the test of time, as Cuaron’s film underscores.

Dog Number 20 by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
But there’s more to all this than nostalgia for a simpler time. Indeed, Roma describes a time that was brutally complex. But perhaps it takes a simpler medium – slowly moving black-and-white – to help us understand the meaning of that time, and ours. I thank Cuaron for making this film, though it is painfully sad; and I thank him for revering and re-creating the subtly powerful style of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, one of the greatest photographers ever.

The Eclipse by Manuel Alvarez Bravo





Monday, December 3, 2018

Katie DeGroot at Galerie Gris, Hudson

Blue Diva - watercolor on Arches paper 4'x3'
Sometimes, when I am explaining my aversion to spending too much time on the internet, I will tell people "I'd rather just stare at a tree." I wouldn't know whether Fort Edward painter Katie DeGroot cares for the web or not - but she has me beat soundly on the second count.

DeGroot's solo exhibition of prints and watercolors at Galerie Gris in Hudson is a delectation of trees: Their branches and leaves, along with the other living things that thrive in their company, including lichens, mosses, fungi, and ferns, are the stuff of her personal obsession.

Hah! - watercolor on Arches paper 30"x23"
DeGroot has spent many years now with her method of collecting intriguing fallen branches, or whole logs, and then lugging them to her studio, where she paints lovely, playful interpretations of their forms and colors on pure white grounds. This latest crop of paintings (all from the last nine months) is joined by a series of monoprints, aptly entitled Fall, that depict gatherings of leaves.

On a recent visit to the gallery, DeGroot explained to me that the monoprints are made by painting in watercolor on a polypropylene sheet called YUPO, and then transferring the paint to paper. The result has characteristics that are subtle in their differences from a direct watercolor on paper; and the process gives the artist a more spontaneous experience, both because the paint lays down in unexpected ways and because the image is reversed. I enjoyed the simple directness of this series.

Accessories III - watercolor on paper 24"x18"
But the paintings really captivated me. It's possible I brought a bias to the show - I'd just returned from the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, where mosses et al reign supreme, so I was primed. But DeGroot's work is winning enough all on its own: Surprisingly colorful (she insists the shades are representational), dancingly gestural, at times outright goofy, and, in these newest pieces, often more textural and patterned than in the past, they reward close and repeated viewing.

I noticed that some of the paintings play less with chromatic range and more within a black-and-white palette. This is natural, as many of the subjects are birch branches, but it also appears to be a purposeful narrowing of focus by the artist.

Apart from the fun and fascination of the bigger works' colors and shapes, the details of these paintings reveal a world of plants (and things that may not be properly termed plants) that one not accustomed to the natural sciences may be surprised to discover. My amateur herbalist wife, for example, would immediately see and identify species here that I can only guess at - but even to the untrained eye, DeGroot shows how rich and real this world is, with its many characters living in symbiosis, and records it in a delightfully fresh way.

The show, informally titled "The Singular Elegance of Trees," after an article by DeGroot that was published last year (read it here), is on view through Jan. 18, 2019. Gallery Gris' hours are Friday-Sunday, 11-5, or by appointment.

Inonotus Obliquus Duet - watercolor on Arches paper 60"x45"



Sunday, November 25, 2018

Dia:Beacon

Robert Irwin - Excursus: Homage to the Square3, installation view
If you've never been to Dia:Beacon, and you like modern art, then add it to your list.

I took advantage of November's first major holiday to dash down to Beacon in time to see a major installation by Robert Irwin that was slated to close on Nov. 26 (as this posts, there's just one day left - sorry, folks!), and to stroll around the grounds both inside and out that Irwin had a hand in designing.

While this experience was worth the trip, so is everything else about Dia:Beacon - no need to be discouraged by the Irwin ending, there's still plenty there to revel in whenever you go. Now 15 years old, the vast museum created from a former Nabisco box factory presents unique opportunities to see some of the 20th century's greatest monumental works of art. In the words of the Dia website, "each gallery was designed specifically for the presentation of one artist’s work. Examples include Dan Flavin’s series of fluorescent light “monuments to V. Tatlin”; Joseph Beuys’ mixed-media installations such as Fond III/3 (1979) and Fond IV/4 (1979); Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses (2007); and Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West(1967/2002)."

Looks like a piece of plate glass but is merely
a rectangle marked in yarn, by Fred Sandberg
The Irwin piece, entitled Excursus: Homage to the Square3, found itself in perfect company with these and the other regularly exhibited artists. It's an experiential, immersive, architectural construction that uses white wooden frameworks covered with white scrims to establish a matrix of rooms (which, incidentally, are rectangular, not square), each of which is lit and punctuated by a set of four vertically oriented fluorescent tubes. The tubes are covered by intricate layers of color filters, establishing a sort of totemic system that makes each room unique. Watching other people, including children, wander among - or streak through - the spaces added to the fun.

On this visit, I had limited extra time to explore, so I made sure to stop with a couple of favorite artists (Fred Sandberg, Blinky Palermo), while also checking out ones I knew not at all. Sandberg's super-minimalist yet hyper-real yarn constructions did not let me down, as invisible planes floating in space emerged from his pieces inexorably to all present (see photo example at right, above).

One discovery was the work of Mary Corse - big white or black paintings that go through shimmering changes with each glance, due to a swirled surface of tiny glass beads. I also quite enjoyed Walter De Maria's final work, a ghostly trio of restored (actually, transformed) 1950s pick-up trucks, each with three shiny obelisks sticking up from its bed like alien invaders.

In between came a big hall of wonderful John Chamberlain sculptures, which recently had a flotilla of many spindly boat-like pieces added, forming a fine, fresh counterpoint to his bulkier constructions of junked car metal. To anyone who might suspect that twisting and welding and coloring huge slabs of steel into fresh forms isn't a fine art, I suggest you see this work.

To everybody else, I say have a good time whatever you do!

Hall of sculptures by John Chamberlain 




Saturday, October 27, 2018

2018 Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region at UAlbany Art Museum

Matt Frieburghaus - Water Collection, still image from four-minute video
The current edition of the annual Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region (aka the Regional) opened recently at UAlbany’s University Art Museum, and it is subtly strong. Selected by the installation artist Jean Shin from more than 1,500 submitted works, the show is spare and surprisingly tame – apart from a couple of challenging videos and VR treats, you might believe you were viewing art from two or three decades ago.

But don’t take that the wrong way – Shin’s choices are almost flawless in terms of quality; maybe this snapshot of 2018 simply says that artists today are looking forward by looking back. I for one will never tire of painterly abstraction – and here’s a ton of it! Indeed, this Regional is almost a show of paintings, with a few photographs, sculptures, prints and drawings thrown in for balance.

Shari Mendelson - Korean Bird Vessel 2
repurposed plastic and other media
Looking closer, it’s a tight selection for the fairly vast space – just 78 works by 38 artists – organized into affinity groupings that provide most of the pieces with very good company. Longtime fans of the event will recognize plenty of names, such as Susan Spencer Crowe, Stephen Niccolls, and Deborah Zlotsky, but will also be exposed to a number of new ones. Among those, I was intrigued by Beth Humphrey's petite, colorful, cut-paper collages, which float off the wall as lightly as flower petals or insect wings, and by Shari Mendelson's neo-ancient artifacts of the plastic age, which I like for their sly sense of humor and wan coloration.

Gina Occhiogrosso - A Cold Melt
acrylic ink and oil on muslin
Top prize went to Gina Occhiogrosso, a SUNY New Paltz alumna and College of Saint Rose professor who has been showing a lot  in the top local venues (e.g. Albany Airport Gallery, Albany Center Gallery) and who seems to have suddenly come into her own. The two large paintings on pieced muslin that she presents here are well worthy of the award.

Nearby are several of the show’s three-dimensional works, including David Herbert's  monumental take on the Statue of Liberty. Topical and laboriously hand-wrought of wood and string, its emptiness speaks volumes. Also topical are Susan Hoffer’s three modestly sized representational paintings of people looking at electronic screens. Her titles are ironically compelling (one is Watching Human Rights Silently Legislated Away) and her technique is both luminescent and a bit goopy, creating an odd surface tension that adds to her wry message.

Karin Schaefer - Intersectional, oil on canvas
Most of the other paintings in the show, including Karin Schaefer’s studies in blue, two beauties by Niccolls, and Zlotsky's three quasi-Constructivist pieces, along with works by Victoria Palermo, Gerald Wolfe, Claire Stankus, and Rick Briggs, are more about the color itself – but, again, that’s all right with me. Meanwhile, even some of the photographs in the show, such as Justin Baker's and Ray Felix's, are studies in color abstraction, as are Crowe's brilliant cut and folded wall reliefs.

A particular favorite piece of mine (and winner of both a Juror's Award and a purchase prize) is Laura Frare and Mary Kathryn Jablonski’s video-poetry collaboration, entitled These Last Few Days of Freezing Rains. It runs an acceptable 4 minutes, and creates a wintry atmosphere by combining visuals and images evoked by spoken words. Be sure not to miss seeing/hearing it from the start, as it cycles continuously.

David Herbert
The Phantom of Liberty
wood, string, paint, hardware
Another innovative video in the show, by Matt Frieburghaus, appears to be an animated Marcus Uzilevsky (remember the cloyingly popular 1980s artist of the linear landscapes?). I know Frieburghaus derives landscape images of water, mountains, and icebergs directly from nature, so perhaps he’s adapted one of his originals into this form as a tongue-in-cheek homage to the other artist - or else he took an actual Uzilevsky and animated it. In any case, it held my attention for a good while.

Similarly mesmerizing are the two VR (virtual reality) works presented by Jessica Ann Willis that each provide a kaleidoscopic experience in an illusory cube of space. On the wall nearby are two exquisite mandala-like paintings by Amy Cheng, and two similarly radiating rag-rug assemblages by Kathy Greenwood - yet more non-representational work in the show.

Susan Spencer Crowe - Tosca
cut and folded paper, graphite, Flashe
A few other sculptures expand the show's range - including a big inflatable car by Greg Skochko, cleverly jigsawed vintage doors by Amelia Toelke, jewel-like colored acrylic in Susan Meyer's constructions - as do photographs by Martin Benjamin, Sean Hovendick, and Monica d. Church that compassionately depict people. But, overall, the paintings clearly dominate this Regional.

Taken as a whole, the exhibition clearly demonstrates just how high a standard is maintained by the fine artists in this region, and provides plenty of food for thought on the questions of what defines a region and what defines a moment in time.

Note: This year's Regional is accompanied by a sidebar exhibition in the Museum's attached upstairs West gallery. Entitled Flow, it includes one or two pieces each by 11 UAlbany alumni whose works  received UAlbany purchase prizes during the past nine Regionals, and covers a full range of artistic media. Both shows continue through Dec. 8.

Susan Hoffer - Appealing to a Moral World Community, oil on hardwood