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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Shows seen, and to be seen

Luis Molinari Flores Unititled II 1971 screenprint
I'm putting this one first, because it will be the first to end: When We Were Young, Rethinking Abstraction from the University at Albany Art Collection (1967-present) lives up to its two-breath title by presenting a nice, beefy slice of strong, colorful work in various media (mostly prints). It will hang at the University Art Museum only through Saturday, Dec. 16, so get there if you can.

I took the opportunity to glimpse the show after stopping there recently to hear New York City-based art critic and poet John Yau speak, but the show without Yau would also have been worth the trip. The  works include world-famous names such as Josef Albers (a tasty folio screenprint in which ochre confronts gray), and locally famous artists such as Jenny Kemp (a gorgeous gouache that also features gray and yellow) as well as one great untitled print from 1979 by Garo Antreasian, an artist previously unknown to me and a very happy discovery.

Speaking of Yau, he showed slides by a dozen or so painters he has written about, including Williams College professor Barbara Takenaga, who has a retrospective show currently at the Williams College Museum of Art through Jan. 28. I loved the examples of her work that Yau presented, and will make every effort to cross the Berkshires soon to see that exhibition.

An unidentified Civil War officer
Troy's Photo Center of the Capital District, a gloriously or grotesquely cluttered space (depending on your point of view), has quite a different display on view through mid-January, titled Unknown Military. Here are nearly countless pictures of many sizes dating from the Civil War through the Vietnam War, along with related objects and ephemera, as well as examples of the types of cameras that would have taken the pictures, all presented as if in a cabinet of curiosities.

This is not an art exhibition - it will be of interest primarily to history buffs, veterans, students, and so on, in addition to enthusiasts of documentary photography. One word of caution: Unknown Military is intended as an ant-war presentation, and it has some challenging, graphic content. I personally found it overwhelming, but others will surely revel in its excess.

Installation view from The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness 
Almost as overwhelming, though much more spaciously installed, is a museum-scale show featuring well over 100 artists at The School, a project of New York City's Jack Shainman Gallery that sits upstate in Kinderhook. The exhibition, entitled The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness is sprawling, both physically and conceptually, with pointed juxtapositions that crisscross the centuries, and full-wall constellations that mix contemporary photographs with traditional African sculptures, along with just about everything in between.

It's a bit like cracking open the mind of a collector on steroids (and it may be just that, more or less), but the exquisitely renovated former public school building is so pristine and perfectly designed that it softens the impact of what otherwise might seem utterly chaotic. Please note, The School is open only on Saturdays from 11 to 5, and the show is slated to end on Jan. 6.


The last show I'll mention is also a rather vast display, in this case a showcase exhibition of the Albany Institute of History & Art's superbly impressive collection of Hudson River School paintings. I always knew the Institute had a great collection of this movement, featuring the top stars (Thomas Cole, Frederick Church, Asher Durand) and the rest, but that knowledge did not prepare me for this feast of 88 works in one big gallery.

The level of detail and the overall quality of these paintings are both immediately pleasing to the eye and demanding of intense scrutiny. There are many delights to discover, including some views that feature sites within the immediate vicinity of the Capital Region, not to mention the Catskills and the Adirondacks as recurring themes.

The Hudson River show will remain on view for an unspecified (though surely lengthy) period, but I recommend that you go sooner rather than later, because you will want to return. It's that good, and it's that difficult to take it all in at once. I've been twice, so far, and I will be back.

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