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Friday, July 24, 2009

Lore Hauptman at Albany Art Room

If you want to know the secret of a long life, look to Lore Hauptman. Still making art at the age of 94, Hauptman's show at the Albany Art Room clearly reflects the youthful exuberance that has kept her going all these years, from her childhood in pre-Nazi Germany through subsequent relocations to Holland, then Israel, and finally the United States (she now resides in Albany County).

A granddaughter organized Hauptman's first-ever local show at this charming, offbeat art space on the 1st Friday circuit, and it couldn't be more appropriate for the site. Featuring 26 little gems of frivolity in two-dimensional mixed media, along with a handful of decorated ceramic vessels (Hauptman worked primarily as a potter), the collection is full of whimsy - childlike but sophisticated.

The show begins in a narrow spot near the cluttered Art Room's entrance and then fills a clean, well-lit room beyond the multi-purpose business' retail art-supply shop, providing inspiration for and respite from the creative bustle of activity in a somewhat labyrinthine space that is essentially a studio for rent. The display near the entrance features a glass-paned curio cabinet with several small sketchbooks, a few ceramics, and black-and-white photos from the '50s, neatly encapsulating a life fueled by creativity and zest.

These qualities are embodied in all the wall-hung pieces, most of which are figurative and focus on playful and whimsical topics, such as the circus, Lady Godiva, animals, flowers, and solitary but joyous artists at work. All are identified simply as mixed media, which is somewhat of an understatement, as a great number of techniques are employed, including etching, watercolor, and collage.

Hauptman displays an illustrator's ease with subject and technique; indeed, many of these pieces feel like they could have been intended for books of fairy tales, though they are more personal than that would suggest. Among the strongest pieces, one of an artist painting outdoors under a fanciful tree of flowers clearly evokes Marc Chagall. Others place more emphasis on constructivist form, with layerings of paper building up geometry and texture. Another outstanding piece is an ethereal watercolor of a vase of flowers, painted on a page from a book; it evokes another artist from Hauptman's time, Paul Klee.

Altogether, it is a joy to enter the Art Room and feel its life-affirming energy, perfectly exemplified by the sweet-souled art of a wise woman who never lost her innocent optimism. Take note that the show is set to run just through Friday (the 31st), but may be extended for another month (check for updates). It is open from 10 to 4 Saturday and from 10 to 1 on Sunday, then again from 11 to 6 Tuesday to Friday.

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