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Friday, January 8, 2016

Tidbits for 2016

Ellsworth Kelly in his studio in 2012 (photo stolen from the New York Times)
As 2016 yawns and stretches into existence, a few items on the local art scene have caught my attention:
  1. The recent death at age 92 of Ellsworth Kelly. Almost universally regarded as a giant of 20th-century art, Kelly lived and worked in our region (Spencertown, Columbia County) for a great many years. I recall one encounter with the man, about 1984, when he stopped in to peruse my modest gallery on Washington Avenue in Albany. We knew he was a client of the hairstylist upstairs, but had never seen him. So, one day a middle-aged gentleman came in from the stairway area and looked around with what seemed to be a very practiced eye. I tried to engage him in conversation - no luck. Then I asked if we could place him on our mailing list (we did that with all visitors), but he demurred. When I more or less forced an introduction, he only gave one name: Kelly. I do recall that he did not seem impressed by what he saw, but neither did he seem disgusted. Personally, I love his work for its purity of form and color, and for its spirit of adventure. I also like the fact that Kelly was a supporter of local ventures, donating a print or two to be sold at Albany Institute fundraisers and employing local artists as assistants. He will be missed.
    an early Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroid self-portrait
    from the Jack Shear Collection
  2. Jack Shear photography collection donated to the Tang Teaching Museum. Shear was Ellsworth Kelly's longtime partner, and on Feb. 6 the Tang will open an exhibition selected from 500 significant and historical photographs he recently donated. It's a very truncated who's-who of 20th-century photography (with a notably gay-centric twist) that is sure to draw a lot of viewers and perhaps a snippet of controversy. Remember when the political right wing went nuts because the NEA had supported an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe pictures in Philadelphia? This show will definitely make it clear we're over that.
    Mazing Cave - collage by Michael Oatman
  3. This year The Hyde Collection will host the Annual Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region (popularly know as the Regional), and the judge will be a truly local artist for the first time in memory - Michael Oatman. Oatman, a professor at RPI, has shown regularly in prominent venues such as MASS MoCA and the Tang, as well as in New York City galleries for over a decade, so his credentials as a judge pass muster. Yet he also has regularly and recently participated in local juried shows such as the Regional and the Arts Center's Fence Show, which sets him apart from the typical Regional juror. This may bother some people, but I think it's appropriate - and a great choice of juror for this always intensely interesting local showcase.
    a photograph by Dan Burkholder
  4. The Photography Regional, our other most closely watched local juried show, will be held much earlier than usual this year, as co-host Fulton Street Gallery in Troy has scheduling conflicts for the more usual late-springtime slot. According to a recent announcement from co-host The Photo Center of the Capital District in Troy, the show will open on Jan. 29 as a two-week salon with all entries hung at both locations; then the judge's pared-down selection will be presented more formally at Fulton Street beginning Feb 20. This year's judge is Dan Burkholder, a Palenville-based digital photographer known for lushly detailed and subtly colored imagery.
  5. Beyond local: Oscar season is heating up, and I am struggling to catch all the films likely to gain lots of nominations. So far, the best film from 2015 that I've seen is Spotlight. I don't plan to catch the Star Wars film (sorry if you're a fan) - neither have I ever seen Titanic or Avatar, the other highest grossers of our time, so at least I am consistent. Am excited to see Carol as soon as possible, and have heard The Big Short is also very good, though I'm afraid it may give me unpleasant MBA-school flashbacks. More to come on the best films of 2015 in a later post ...
The movie Spotlight deserves special notice for the brilliant ensemble work of its cast.

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