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Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region at The Hyde Collection

Installation view of MHR-80
all photos provided by The Hyde Collection
At  this year's 80th annual Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, hosted by The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, the show's the thing.

Part of MHR-80's Salon section
Juror Michael Oatman, a true local artist who lives in Troy and teaches at RPI (sorry, the rebranding as Rensselaer didn't take), has stepped up as curator - and not just any curator, but a particular post-contemporary sort of curator who uses the art and the venue to build a whole that seeks to be greater than its parts.

Jean Egger Quash, 2016
electric object, earplugs, and video
In this case, the parts consist of 126 works by 106 artists - an almost stupidly broad and shallow swath of our region's best creators - and the whole very smartly includes not only the Hyde's contemporary Wood Gallery, but also its weirdly curved basement space, its world-class historic house, and its lovely grounds. The result, featuring boldly painted walls of bright orange, deep green, and warm grey, is striking, fresh, and - well, a little distracting from the art itself.

The show is installed according to a set of six organizing categories drawn by Oatman from "the history of display": site, vault, salon, cube, mirror/grid, and landview. I have to admit, I'm a little baffled by the concept, and not convinced that it succeeds here, but I give Oatman credit for trying the experiment in front of so many interested audience members. However, they (like me) probably just want to see who got in and what their latest work is like - rather than to receive an academic history lesson in the form of a contemporary art exhibition.

Brian Cirmo, Cat’s in the Well, 2016
oil on canvas
So - who got in? A satisfyingly long list of people, including many names familiar from past Regionals, and plenty of new ones, too. Among my favorites were Daesha Harris, Victoria Palermo, and Stephen Niccolls (all known from prior juried shows); also Anna Roecklin, Matt Crane, and Gyula Varosy (all new to me). In the spirit of the Regional (which, by the way, is one of the oldest continuously running shows of its kind in the country) the selection is very geographically diverse, a feature of the Hyde regionals that I've noted in the past.

Elizabeth Panzer Nasturcium Op. 3, 2015
photograph
A quick review of the numbers shows that no more than 20 of the selected artists have more than one piece in the show - which makes for rather chaotic viewing, despite the organizing principle and a very thoughtful layout. I'm used to looking at a lot of art, but I'm also old-school: I like to see my art in groups that help me develop an understanding of each maker's vision. Here, instead, I felt overwhelmed by the curator's vision, and was fighting to focus.

A few years ago, Oatman co-curated (with Ken Ragsdale, who is conspicuously absent here) the wonderfully stuffed An Armory Show at Sage College of Albany's Opalka Gallery, using a similar approach to this installation. There, however, each artist had a lot more examples of their work included so, despite the chaos, one could delve in. This show feels much cleaner, but is also a tease, especially if you are seeing an artist here for the first time.

Danny Goodwin 3-D Cardboard Box Prototype, 2015
archival pigment print
Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region continues through Dec. 31, and the Hyde is offering "pay as you wish" for the month of December, so it's a good time to go check it out and save a few bucks on the standard entry fee. Don't be put off by my quibbles - the annual Regional exhibition is a must-see, and this one is absolutely worth the effort.

If you go, be sure not to miss the "interventions" by artists in the Hyde House - there, two historic bathrooms have been cleverly altered, and a bedroom has been lovingly updated. There are also three large-scale outdoor pieces, one of which drew me to the back garden area of the house, where my companion and I enjoyed a stunning view of the paper mill that endowed the Hyde, and its vast supply of stacked logs. If it had been entered, we would have given it first prize.

Kathy Greenwood, Paper Dolls, 2016
digital prints, colored pencil, acrylic on paper, cotton cloth

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