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Friday, December 18, 2009

Three shows in Troy (updated)

There's nothing like a walkable downtown, especially at a time when you're hungry for some good art to look at and many of the region's galleries are closed or between shows or stuffed with holiday fare. So it was with great joy a few days ago that I almost literally stumbled into three worthy exhibitions all within a stone's throw of each other in the beautifully walkable downtown of Troy.

Let's begin with the one that ends first (and very soon - Thursday, Dec. 24, to be exact). The Arts Center of the Capital Region is hosting a savvy and immersive installation titled Electrical Forest: Made in Troy by Brooklyn-based artist Noah Fischer that was created in two phases. In the first phase, which aimed to involve the whole community, Fischer set up a production line for the creation of 10,000 acetate-and-paint leaves, described by him as "a group engineering project."

Phase 2 allowed the artist to fill the Arts Center's entire large gallery with his installation, an environment all its own with various sub-environments within. There are tree elements, including some pretty big chunks of actual former trees, and electrical elements, many of which tend to spin in circles. The overall theme color is a middle blue, and there are lots of lights and shadows or projections that make for many layers of visual experience.

You can find out lots more about Electrical Forest here; it's definitely worth a visit if you can fit it in.

Next up, through Jan. 2 is an all Latino four-person show at Martinez Gallery (limited hours: Weds.-Sat, 2-5), titled Impermanence. The artists - Alexis Mendoza, Roxanna Melendez, Jaime Suarez, and Martin Rubio - are Martinez Gallery regulars with extensive international exhibition records, and are showing work that is not necessarily their freshest, but it is still a refreshing collection that energizes the gallery.

Melendez and Suarez are paired in the front room, where their extremely different styles enjoy a sort of perfect balance with each other - whereas Melendez's paintings are exuberant, colorful, full of real life, Suarez's "clay graphics" (a new medium to me that resembles encaustic) are more introspective or contemplative and purely abstract. Suarez has a narrow palette, an architectural compositional sense, and a complicated directness that will draw you in to study his surfaces from up close.

Every time I see Melendez's work, I am strongly reminded of the prints and paintings of longtime Capital Region stalwart Lori Lawrence, and the impression this time was no less strong. However, Melendez also evokes Matisse with one painting in particular that features a very lucky cat in a charmingly tilted view of a bedroom.

Mendoza, a Cuban color field painter, has several unstretched canvases of varying sizes nailed to the walls of the back gallery; their physicality in this method of presentation goes well with the natural-colored wooden sculptures of Rubio (who, like Suarez and Melendez, is Puerto Rican). While Mendoza emphasizes subtle color relationships, Rubio is all about forms in a classically Modernist way (think Arp tinged by Botero).

Finally, just extended through Jan. 26 is the excellent, eight-person Group Show, Pt. 2 at Clement Art Gallery that features Laura Glazer, Christopher Murray, Sergio Sericolo, Jeff Wigman, Dorothy Englander, Robert Gullie, Joe Putrock, and Erik Laffer (a tantalizing snippet of each is shown above, in that order). It's a lot of art packed into a little space, but that makes for a great, concentrated immersion, like eating a small cup of really tart lemon sherbet.

Of course I have my favorites among these artists, and this show provides some strong experiences of their work in interesting combination. For example, Glazer and Putrock (two photographers who frequently collaborate) have each mounted a grid of nine rather small framed photos, forcing a little face-off across a small space. Also employing the grid of nine are two small pieces by Laffer, while his larger works on view show color variations that are beginning to look more than decorative.

Englander offers some sweetly ethereal seaside landscapes (which I had the pleasure of seeing come into existence in stages, as she shares my studio), and Sericolo continues to plumb the possibilities inherent in painstaking drawing on antique anatomical plates, resulting in fascinating transformations. Most impressive to me here, though, are the concoctions of paint and paper made by Murray, who uses glorious color and clever graphic design to evoke the lushness of the natural world in summer.

All in all, a darn good walk around Troy!

2 comments: said...

David, I gotta agree with you that Jaime Suarez has "a narrow palette," but I was mezmerizing by the works immediately upon entering Martinez Gallery. The purposefully limited earth tones resonated deeply with me.

Thanks for the review.

david brickman said...

That was merely descriptive, not intended to be taken in a negative light. Suarez's work is indeed mesmerizing! -db