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Monday, August 23, 2010

Hudson Galleries

I've missed some important exhibitions this summer in Hudson, but I'm happy to say several really good ones are showing there currently, so it's anything but too late to take advantage of the remainder of the summer season in this regional art mecca.

First up (beginning with what will end soonest and going on from there) is a fine display of large-format color photographs by Victoria Sambunaris at Nicole Fiacco Gallery. The pictures are direct responses to 19th-century Western landscape photographs, updated by being in color, but otherwise only different in scale than the sort of works they pay homage to.

However, while the spirit of this work is similar to the geological-survey work of the past, these changes in scale and color do a lot to change the overall effect. Sambunaris has a knack for choosing scenes that include physically tiny details that reveal 21st-century truths, nearly hidden though they may be in the eye-pleasing atmospherics of these big, smooth prints.

The work is savvy and expertly crafted. As in most Fiacco exhibitions, the presentation is almost too spare, with just seven images spread around the big, white box of a room. Also on view in the more intimate upstairs space are several unframed ink drawings by Troy artist Gina Occhiogrosso, titled The Road. Both exhibitions run through Sept. 4.

John Davis Gallery is featuring Caroline Ramersdorfer, an international sculptor with local ties, along with several other gallery artists in the four-story rear carriage house space. Ramersdorfer often works on a monumental scale (well documented in wall panels on view in the gallery), and the gallery's ample courtyard accomodates one such piece; however, the rest of the work on view is modest in size, and some of it is notably tiny.

If you thought that contemporary artists no longer carve marble, this show will be an eye-opener. Ramersdorfer's work, however, does not look backward. Neither does it present objects meant to be walked around and admired in the traditional way of three-dimensional carvings. Rather, most of the pieces in this show depend on the viewer's willingness to look through their multiple layers from a certain point of view, from which they tend to take on an almost illusionistic degree of depth and complexity.

Ramersdorfer's forms are abstract, though they could be understood to represent microscopic visions of organic or chemical materials, and they play with a nice variety of the textures that a medium like marble can take on, as well as some translucency. A couple of the smaller pieces are executed in wood (natural or painted), which works well enough as a study ("maquette" to some), but did not impart the same feeling as the completed stone carvings.

If you go to Davis, be sure to check out all four floors of the carriage house, a marvelously old and crusty structure, which serves well to display drawings by Constance Jacobsen, paintings by Farrell Brickhouse and Lois Borgenicht, sculptures by John van Alstine and Jon Isherwood, and a giant banner of an installation by Sam Sebren. It all ends on Sept. 12.

The most important show in Hudson right now, and probably one of the more significant shows to be mounted there in some time, is a retrospective of Edward Avedisian at Carrie Haddad Gallery through Sept. 19. It's almost unheard of for Haddad to devote the entire main floor of her gallery to just one artist, but in this case it makes a lot of sense, because the Avedisian we see there is at least three artists all by himself.

There is the master of color-field stripes in the front room, the smearer and splatterer in the middle, and the almost Pop-style renderer of domestic interiors and exteriors in the back. For me, Avedisian's stripe paintings are irresistibly beautiful and yet transcendent, making the other abstracts seem cloddish in comparison; meanwhile, the representational paintings are extremely competent and were, apparently, necessary for the artist as he transitioned from New York City life to sleepy Hudson in the '70s.

This is truly a must-see exhibition on the level of the finest galleries and museums anywhere. Avedisian, who was once a very sought-after guy on the New York art scene, left all that behind - not to work quietly in the country while maintaining a city presence, but to cut himself off from it - and the quality of many of these paintings (dating from 1960 to 2003) clearly demonstrates that he had the stuff if he had wanted to remain.

Instead, he melted into near-obscurity, then died in 2007, leaving behind a very impressive legacy we are lucky to have a chance to see before collectors disperse it all.

Carrie Haddad Photographs is also breaking from tradition with the inclusion of a painter, Lionel Gilbert, in the lineup of three artists on view through Sept. 26. This experiment succeeds (unless you have a problem with a gallery that has the word photographs in its title showing traditional paintings), largely because the two photographers, Kim McLean and Harry Wilks, though quite different from each other, both take a decidedly painterly approach.

The focus is on McLean, a voraciously inventive and ambitious maker of extremely detailed digital constructs that, though they use some photographic source material, really read more as paintings. They refer both directly and indirectly to major historical photographs, while evoking the lighting, techniques, and surfaces of more recent media such as CGI films and video games.

I've never been a huge fan of the created photographic image, and I find the artificiality of McLean's work somewhat tedious (though I have no doubt many others find it endlessly fascinating). But I have to admit that his exuberance is catchy, and his colors are simply gorgeous, even when muted to a nearly monochromatic palette in certain strong examples.

The more understated, but still pretty wild prints by Wilks (example above left), and the vintage modernist oils by Gilbert (example below) are also well worth seeing, though I wish there were a bigger selection of Wilks' work.

Another show worth checking out (though I missed it on my visit), features paintings by Frank Cressotti and Barbara Friedman at BCB Art through Sept. 19.


-S said...

Thanks for the roundup.

I saw Ramersdorfer and McLean shows last Saturday. Would definitely see a Ramersdorfer piece at home, they are intricate and organic. I like Carrie Haddad's photo gallery a lot, but I wasn't so sold on McLean either. A few of us were familiar with 3D modeling and mapping, so while it was quite exuberant in colors, it wasn't too original in concept.

I went to Mass MoCA the next day, the Leonard Nimoy, Petah Coyne and Material World installations were absolutely worth the trip.

david brickman said...

S - thanks for the heads-up about MASS MoCA. I would like to get there soon, but may wait for the opening of Michael Oatman's new installation in October. Either way, will definitely review Nimoy, Coyne, and Material World before they end.

Anonymous said...

Very nice review about Kim McLean's work. Just one comment--McLean is not a photographer. His formal art training was in Ceramics, while at the University of Wisconsin Masters in Fine Arts program. His older work in is painting and sculpture. This background is the source of the painterly approach you noted and the 3-dimensionality of his pieces, which are often thought to be photographed compositions.