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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summer shows to see

Venus with an Organist and Cupid by Titan is on view at the Clark this summer.
Summer has arrived and it's usual for a spate of blockbuster shows to open at our region's major museums. But, alas, this year is a disappointment - there's no Van Gogh and Nature (which smashed box-office records at the Clark Art Institute last year); there's no Modern Nature: Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George (which put The Hyde Collection - and Glens Falls - at the center of the art world's focus in 2013); and there's no Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (which exemplifies the drawing and staying power of a well-formed exhibition, as it went on tour from Stockbridge's Norman Rockwell Museum in the summer of 2010 and, since then, has generated over 12,000 page views on my review of it here).

The closest thing we have this year to a summer blockbuster is the Clark's Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado (which opened on June 11). However, in our age of ubiquitous Internet pornography, it is almost quaint in its outdated immorality, and rather uninspiring compared to the usual star-studded summer fare offered by Williamstown's queen of art museums.

Instead, we seem to have a season of prints: The Hyde is presenting Dürer and Rembrandt: Master Prints from the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly (set to open on July 10) and the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown has Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris (which opened on May 28), featuring posters, prints and drawings - but no paintings.

We also have a summer of outstanding contemporary art, in venues as diverse as the Albany International Airport; The School in Kinderhook; libraries in Albany and at Union College; small galleries in Lake George, Hudson, and Schuylerville; and the vast MASS MoCA in North Adams, where conservative skeptics are won over every day by consistently excellent selection and installation of today's most challenging living artists.

Here are my recommendations for summer viewing, in approximate descending order of scale:
  1. Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder, MASS MoCA through April, 2017. I could recommend this show on the basis of the title alone - but it includes a grand swath of international artists, at least one of whom I know I love, so there's reason to believe it delivers on the promise. And there are nine (count 'em) other current exhibitions there as well. Just plain go.
  2. Dürer and Rembrandt: Master Prints from the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly, The Hyde Collection through October. When it comes to classical European printmaking, Dürer and Rembrandt are widely considered to be the best in history, and this collection is described as "one of the most distinguished private collections of prints" in the US. Should be a terrific show.
  3. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris, Fenimore Museum through Sept. 5. Lautrec was known for his color lithographic posters advertising Parisian entertainments, and these will be the centerpiece of the show. This summer the Fenimore also features exhibitions of early Ansel Adams photographs (from when he made the prints himself) and a traveling show of Whistler lithographs from the Speed Art Museum - so this is the perfect combination destination with the Hyde for lovers of works on paper.
  4. Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute through Oct. 10. Williamstown is a heckuva lot closer than Madrid, so why not check out these 28 master paintings? Please forgive my lack of enthusiasm for what could turn out to be the best show of the summer. And let me know how you liked it!
  5. Staying Power, Albany International Airport Gallery through Jan 2. After 17 years, founding director Sharon Bates is retiring from the Arts and Culture Program at the airport, and this brilliant show is her swan song. More than a commentary on time's passage and the agelessness of the creative process, it is a gathering of eleven of the region's most vital artists of any age. Remember - you don't need to pass security to see it, and parking is free with validation from the gallery or gift shop.
  6. Change of Place: Four Solo Exhibitions, The School in Kinderhook though the summer. New York City gallerist Jack Shainman opened his upstate showcase two years ago and I must admit I haven't been there yet (being open only on Saturdays makes it a challenge). But this space has earned raves from all over and the current set of solos by Pierre Dorion, Hayv Kahraman, Richard Mosse, and Garnett Puetta is a strong incentive to get there now.
  7. Fence Select and Ray Felix, The Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy, July 16 through Aug. 27. An annual favorite, plus a solo show by last year's top prize winner. On a sad note, Felix's Fulton Street Gallery in Troy has just closed, ending a long but worthwhile struggle to maintain a membership gallery that featured many good shows over the years and was a co-sponsor of the Photography Regional. It will be missed.
  8. Too Many Words, Albany Public Library Pine Hills Branch through Oct. 2. Six artists are organized by able curator Jess Cone into a quirky but also elegant exhibition space that brings art to the library-going public. These shows are always good, and the open hours are extensive, so access is easy.
  9. Woodcuts and Sculptures, The Laffer Gallery, Schuylerville, through July 10. Two of the region's best artists (Allen Grindle and Mary Pat Wager) in a strong pairing at one of the few local commercial venues that has survived showing contemporary fine art.
  10. Corwin Lewi and Barbara Price, Lake George Arts Project July 9 through Aug. 12. Consistently (along with Albany Center Gallery) one of the two best small nonprofit exhibition spaces in the region. These two artists produce subtle, delicate drawings connected to life's passing moments.
Add note: Through June 30, an exhibition titled Give 'Em Hell by street artist Scout/Pines is on view at Time & Space Limited in Hudson. Other Hudson galleries always worth visiting include BCB Art, John Davis Gallery , Davis Orton Gallery, and Carrie Haddad Gallery. Enjoy your summer!

A painting by Scout/Pines at TSL in Hudson through June 30.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Horror in Orlando

Deeply saddened and disturbed by the heinous attack in Orlando this weekend that left so many people dead and wounded. My heartfelt sympathy and support go out to the victims and survivors, their families and friends, and everyone else touched by this senseless tragedy.

The arts would barely exist without the cultural and creative contributions of non-conforming people, whether LGBT or just differently thinking. The America we know to be great is a place of tolerance and diversity, not a place of hatred. Tolerance and openness are the backbone of artistic expression, and it is the soul of America to respect and protect freedom of expression. This is our highest priority as a nation, as a people, and as a world leader for more than two centuries.

May we find a way out of the dilemma that places the right to purchase firearms higher than the right to a reasonably safe and secure pursuit of happiness. May all victims of gun violence rest in peace.