Get Visual is the grateful recipient of a grant from The Christos N. Apostle Charitable Trust

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Channing Lefebvre at Clement Gallery

The artist Channing Lefebvre has assembled an exquisite collection of minimally altered ephemera appropriately presented under the title Appreciations: Fine Printed and Handmade Paper Collages, which I saw at Clement Art Gallery during last week's Troy Night Out.

Lefebvre's process is not unlike that of a curator, or perhaps even a photographer, whose intention is to direct our attention to the delights they have discovered, as opposed to the attention-getting tricks of an artist whose primary goal is self-expression. A printer by trade, he draws from a vast personal collection of printed material, ranging from antique lithographed catalog pages to contemporary hand-marbled Florentine paper, which he carefully arranges in very simple rectangular collages.

The show contains about two dozen of these, matted and clip-framed, all the same small size (maybe 5 by 8 inches each), and arranged around one much larger framed piece. Many more of the small ones are available to peruse by flipping through them in a display bin.

Lefebvre has always had a light touch in most of his work, which over the decades has included simplified landscapes, color-field paintings, more elaborate collages, fetishistic three-dimensional objects, calligraphic abstractions, and – most recently – systematically hatched abstract drawings. But this body of work shows the lightest touch of all, with many of the pieces combining as few as two elements in simple overlays. These “appreciations” could also be called observations – he has seen what happens when two or more shapes or patterns are combined, and is sharing that with us.

The centerpiece of the show, however, goes far beyond this approach, to produce what could arguably be called a full-fledged work of original expression, though it, too, is comprised entirely of cut-and-pasted swatches of other people’s designs. The chaotic collision of colors and patterns that occurs in that piece transcends anything the source prints’ creators likely would have envisioned. I found the effect totally gratifying (its hallucinatory quality is reflected in the far simpler piece reproduced at the top of this post).

Lefebvre had a large collection of drawings in a group show at Albany Center Gallery two years ago (you can read my very short review of it here), but he hasn't had a solo exhibition locally in quite a bit longer than that. This subtle presentation will not be for everybody, especially those who demand that their artists demonstrate specialized or arduous techniques, but it will grow on those who give it a proper chance (it's there through Feb. 24).

Rating: Recommended

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Here comes Oscar

Jennifer Lawrence (with young co-star) in Winter's Bone

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time know that I very occasionally weigh in on movies - and the recent Oscar nominations provide a ready excuse to look back at the rather weak year that 2010 was for the filmic medium.

Year Two of having 10 Best Picture nominees (up from the traditional five) shows what a problem that number can cause under such circumstances - my own record of films seen in 2010 barely includes 10 films at all, and most of those were not Best-Picture-Oscar worthy in my opinion. Still, six of them have been nominated for Best Picture, so I can comment on those - and having not seen the other four won't stop me commenting on some of them as well.

I will start with those I've seen, in descending order of my rating, then go on to explain why I haven't seen the others (yet).
  1. Winter's Bone - Nice that it got nominated, since it was by far the best film of the year. An intensely good story, incredibly well told (and beautifully photographed). I also think the unaffected and mesmerizing Jennifer Lawrence deserves the Best Actress statuette, but it's likely the Academy will consider her nomination to be the prize, and award the Oscar to someone more famous.
  2. The King's Speech - Like Winter's Bone, I loved this film and gave it my highest rating (4 stars). But the fact that such a modestly styled and historical presentation grabbed 12 nominations really underscores what a weak field we're considering. Firth and Rush together made this movie an extraordinary experience - if the world were just, they would share the Best Actor award.
  3. True Grit - OK, we're down to my 3.5-star rating here, which ain't bad, but it's only No. 3 on the list! Coen Brothers darkness tinges a rollicking Western with a couple of hoot-worthy characters played by Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. Both are terrific, but the kid is totally awesome. An incredible discovery. I enjoyed the film heartily, and wished I had popcorn to munch throughout.
  4. The Social Network - No surprise that this got a lot of noms, as it's got a super-relevant topic and very snappy dialogue by Aaron Sorkin. I gave it 3.5 stars, but ultimately found it less memorable than those listed above.
  5. The Fighter - An unoriginal story presented in a slightly novel way, with very, very good acting that elevated this film to a 3-star rating. I always expect greatness from Christian Bale, and here he comes close to the mind-bending tour-de-force that he accomplished in The Machinist (look it up, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is just as good). Melissa Leo was better in Frozen River; Mark Wahlberg may have been overlooked here.
  6. Inception - OK, the Academy gave like a hundred nominations to Titanic, so nothing surprises me anymore. This was a boring action film disguised as an intellectual thriller, starring CGI (and some actual people who did nothing to distinguish themselves, unless you count delivering laughably stupid dialogue with a straight face). I only gave it 2 stars, which means I wouldn't recommend you waste the time to see it.

Now, for the Best Picture-nominated films I haven't seen, in the order I may see them in:

  1. Black Swan - I have shied away from this film, despite having loved Darren Aronofsky's previous work, because I'm worried that the crazy ballerina character (seen in photo above at right) will give me unpleasant flashbacks to a couple of past girlfriends. Also, the mixed reviews. But I may buck up my courage and catch it while it's still in the theater. One more thing - am I the only person who's sick and tired of Natalie Portman already?
  2. The Kids Are All Right - Gets points for correct spelling of alright. Lots of people have urged me to see this film, and I like the actors just fine. But, a long time ago, lots of people urged me to see a Lisa Cholodenko film called High Art, and it also had some pretty good actors in it, but it was so horrbly written that I shut it off after 45 minutes. Finding this available from the library will probably take several months, but maybe some day I'll see it and find out that this time they were right.
  3. Toy Story 3 - Predecessors were wonderful, and this probably is, too. Didn't see it because I'm old and don't have kids. Also, it sort of bothers me that it has grossed $415 million to just $6.3 million for Winter's Bone. Could it possibly be 65 times more worthwhile?
  4. 127 Hours - Didn't go because I don't crave such a harrowing experience. Probably won't ever crave such a harrowing experience. Also, I get the impression that the guy James Franco plays is so arrogant that half the audience is glad he has to cut off his arm. Yeeeesh!

Overlooked: Babies. I can't understand why this French-made documentary isn't nominated in its category. Of the five feature-length documentary nominees, I've only seen one - Restrepo - and it was amateurish in comparison to the lyrical, beautiful, nearly wordless human nature film Babies. See it and be charmed by who we are.

Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

Friday, January 21, 2011

The World According to Willie

Willie Marlowe: A Survey 1977-2010 has opened at Sage College of Albany's Opalka Gallery; there will be an artist's reception there on 1st Friday, Feb. 4, from 5-9 p.m.

I've seen the exhibition, and it is exquisite. But, because I was commissioned to write an essay for the show's catalog (which also contains an essay by E. Tornai Thyssen), I won't be writing a review. Instead, below are a few key images from the show, along with the text of my essay. Naturally, I highly recommend you go see this wonderful work.

Hot Coals and Feather Moon 2009 mixed media on paper 13.5" x 21"

The World According to Willie

It’s been almost 30 years since I first met Willie Marlowe, but she never ceases to amaze me. Demurely Southern, with a deliciously acerbic undertone, Marlowe is quiet but frank, extremely reliable, and remarkably committed to her work. For the many years she taught at Sage, she was also strongly committed to the students – but there was never any doubt that painting came first, clearly manifested in a relentlessly constant studio practice, which in turn set a fine example for her devoted students to follow.

I see Marlowe as having had two sides all these years: The single-minded painter isolated in her studio, continuously bringing mountains of rich artwork to life; and the joyful, attentive friend, teacher, and collaborator who issued a steady stream of letters (and, after a certain date, e-mails) as well as mail-art pieces and curatorial projects, all bearing unparalleled enthusiasm for other artists’ activities. She is that increasingly rare person who always picks up the phone if you dial her number. Yes, she’s home in the studio painting feverishly and, of course, she has time to talk.

Painters do work in isolation – it’s a necessity – and, as with all good painters, Marlowe’s work is truly a world unto itself. With the majority of her pieces being small and jewel-like, suggestive but usually abstract, and created with non-traditional techniques, it would be easy to think that they represent a primarily inward-looking process. However, that would be a grave misapprehension. In fact, Marlowe’s work is deeply informed by the world around her, and particularly by her travels.

A brilliant colorist, Marlowe added black to her palette after stints as a visiting artist in Barbados in 1986 and the Yucatan Peninsula in 1993, where she experienced the sudden drops to nightfall typical of places near the equator. The vivifying effect of black on the other colors she employs recalls for me another favorite painter, Henri Matisse. Caribbean influence also appears in the lushly lit and exotically populated underwater gardens of many of her paintings made in that period and since. And a longtime theme of houses took on new flavor with the hurricane-threatened shacks of another series that came out of those island visits.

Adding to the Mayan-inspired ziggurats and labyrinths that have always fascinated Marlowe (and which show up in tantalizing concrete poetry pieces as well as recent digital paintings), trips to Ireland in 1997, 2001, and 2005 brought ancient stone monoliths into her daily vocabulary. They found good company there with Marlowe’s various references to cave paintings, calligraphy, architecture, and historic maps. And then there’s Venice, which she visited in 1984 and 1989 and then returned to in 2006, 2008, and 2010 for artist’s residencies.

As a source for Marlowe’s dazzlingly layered and transparent colors, Venice is almost too obvious. The sun glinting off the water, the fresh and weathered colors of the houses and palazzos, and the mesmerizing glass, born in fire, all fit Marlowe’s vision like a glove (one 2010 example, titled Glass Games, is shown above at right). Recent years have found her spending longer and longer stints in that magical island city, where incidental facts of life such as the absence of cars and the presence of cats resonate with the Willie Marlowe I have always known, and where she clearly comes alive in new ways.

The work inspired by her stays in Venice is perhaps most meaningfully captured in Marlowe’s use of portals. The city has countless covered passageways, doors, and windows that suggest these arched entries into and out of the paintings. While her work has always been given to structure, the more recent Venice paintings take on new aspects of architectural rigor, sometimes flattened into pre-Renaissance perspective, other times opened into multiple dimensions. Stage-like spaces are often suggested as well, wherein Marlowe’s biomorphic figures dance and swirl, a connecting element through most of her work, whether painted, constructed or collaged, whether brightly colored or in black and white, whether shiny, flat or textured. These gestural forms represent life, ideas, dreams, poetry, fabric and glass – everything that embodies the precious elements of Willie’s world.

Stepping into that world through any of the many entries she offers gives the viewer of a Marlowe painting or series a new experience, belying the deeply historic sources that inform it. Ultimately, it is this freshness, inexplicably available to the painter in her studio over decades of constant effort, that makes the work irresistible. Equally, the artist’s rigorous attention to detail, masterful technique, and commitment to a personal vision make it lasting – and important.
David Brickman, October 2010

Wingspan 2010 modular installation, acrylic on paper mounted on wood panels, 80" x 110"

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Jewel Thief at the Tang Teaching Museum

Think what it would be like if you had a friend with a really wild modern art collection, and you were invited to hang out for a while in their home gallery. Now imagine that the living room/gallery is more of a playground, built on a giant scale, with a soaring ceiling, broad swaths of bright colors and shapes on the walls and floors, a series of huge blocks marching through the middle of it, and viewing stands of varying heights from which to take it all in.

This Alice-in-Wonderland scenario is what it’s like to experience The Jewel Thief, organized by Skidmore College’s Tang Teaching Museum curator Ian Berry in collaboration with Yale University administrator and sculptor Jessica Stockholder. Publicity for the show aptly describes it as “immersive” and it’s true that one can feel a bit like they’re drowning in a sea of so much art; also describing it as experimental, the show’s organizers clearly want to lead viewers into a place where they can experience abstract art in a new way.

The more than 100 works in the exhibition by 60 or so artists include a significant number from the Tang’s permanent collection, while the rest were borrowed from artists, collectors and commercial galleries; some of those were designed and installed specifically for this show. Almost every common medium is abundantly present: painting, drawing, sculpture, and textiles, as well as decorative media such as wallpaper, furniture, and light fixtures. Printmaking is represented by just a handful of items, and photography is entirely absent (unless you count the one color photograph by Anne Delaporte, which is entirely covered in gold leaf and therefore invisible).

The historical sweep of the show is also broad, with at least one piece from every decade going back to the 1950s – but it is by no means a survey (nor intends to be), and the great majority of the works date from 2000 or later. The show is perhaps best summed up as an amusement park designed by two connoisseurs of abstract art who had access to tons of great material and could think of nothing more fun to do than to present it all to the rest of us in a fresh way.

This is accomplished by various stratagems. Take those blocks, for instance. As you approach the Tang’s main gallery from the museum’s entrance, you confront the first of them: a 13-foot cube painted on most of two sides in camouflage (following instructions by Jim Hodges), it shares dominion over the space with a large, permanent staircase, a temporary structure of metal bleachers (one of the show’s viewing platforms), and a seating group by the artist James Hyde. One has room to move around the cube, and is free to climb either staircase for a view from above, but the siting of it sends an immediate message that this is a show that may mess with your perceptions – or your preconceptions.

If, like me, you should choose to squeeze past one corner of the big cube toward the gallery entry (not birth-canal tight, but suggestive enough), you would find that entrance somewhat blocked by a second cube 10 feet high, which, like the other, is festooned with art (a surprisingly great many pieces in this case). Several other blocks follow in an angled line through the big room, ending in one just two-feet cubed, with a single small sculpture perched upon it (and too low for my middle-aged back’s comfort).

Once inside the room, you begin to discover other curiosities about the installation. A large wooden platform fills one corner, with a series of colorful and sharp-angled other platforms of varied heights stepping up to it. This, you soon learn from the helpful staff, is a sculpture by Stockholder – and, yes, you are expected to walk on it if you wish. A couple of other sculptures sit upon it already, which surprised me at first, but it is not the only instance in the show of one person’s art being mounted atop another person’s.

The rest of the room features different kinds of floor and wall treatments, from a Batcave-like space created by Liz Larner to cradle some of her porcelain works (and, no, you are not expected to enter it) to the aforementioned swatches of bright geometry on walls and floor. Pictures are hung salon-style throughout the room, in lines and groups and crowds that sometimes go up quite high. This is true outside the main gallery as well, and that’s where the scaffolds and steps come in so handy. (Mental note: I must try to remember to bring a step ladder to the next big museum show I visit.)

A printed guide with color thumbnails and identifying information for each artwork accompanies the show (which, wisely, has no labels), resulting in a treasure-hunt atmosphere for those who pick it up. This became a big part of the fun, because, believe me, not every work of art was immediately easy to spot. Also, as it turned out on my visit, the last page of the guide had become (temporarily?) obsolete, as several works had been removed from an upper “bridge” in the museum to make way for a new show’s installation. My guess is that they will be replaced after the upstairs exhibition’s packing crates are safely out of transit.

You may have noticed that I am not saying much about the specific artworks in The Jewel Thief. This is not because they are unworthy of comment – indeed, there are many wonderful works on view, by people most of us already know about (examples include Andy Warhol and Joan Mitchell) to folks I’ve seen in other Tang exhibits (such as John Torreano and Allan McCollum) to relative unknowns, and even a couple of locally shown artists (Victoria Palermo and Christopher Harvey). Some of these artists are represented by just one piece, while a few have as many as five or more on view – but in any case, this is a show that seems meant to be perceived as greater than the sum of its parts, and it makes the parts themselves seem relatively undeserving of specific comment.

Now, smarter people than me have addressed the issue of curator vs. artist for a good long time, and I don’t expect to add much to that discussion here. In fact, I think there was a panel discussion about that subject presented last fall as part of the programming around The Jewel Thief (the show opened in late September). So, suffice it to say that this show brings the issue up – big time.

I have to wonder: Do any of the artists in the exhibition feel used? Or do they feel exalted by inclusion in such an important and interesting event? I suppose some artists have smaller egos and are genuinely happy to be part of the greater whole (after all, whether they like it or not, they are merely a part of the contemporary scene, and an even smaller part of the whole history of art and culture). But I also suspect that a lot of artists, known to have big (and sometimes quite fragile) egos, may be feeling vaguely bad about it. Not as bad, perhaps, as those left out, but still …

All that arguing aside, make no mistake - The Jewel Thief is a heck of a fine exhibition, with a ton of really beautiful drawings, paintings, sculptures, installations, etc. in it. You have until Feb. 27 to take it in – be prepared, once might not be enough.

Rating: Must See

Photographs by Arthur Evans, provided by the Tang

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Immodest Proposals

Back in November, I put up An Immodest Proposal, a post that, in a small way, addressed the current crisis in funding for local arts organizations. Since then, a couple of interesting things have come up in relation to that situation.

First, the Times Union published a feature in which a variety of local arts pundits were asked to talk about their wishes for the New Year. While most of the respondents' comments were relatively self-centered, one of them, Nippertown's Greg Haymes, saw the bigger picture and suggested that individuals from arts audiences each challenge themselves to try just one new arts venue this year.

This simple idea has great ramifications, and the good folks at the TU, recognizing that, turned the suggestion into another feature, titled A resolution for the arts. This time, they took the approach, with the "If you liked this ... then you might enjoy this" format, and added an invitation to readers to offer more such suggestion on the TU's local arts blog (you can read those comments, including one from me, here).

So, I love that whole concept, and look forward to the next installment from Tom Keyser and Co., in which they reveal more and more great ideas for audience members who wish to branch out.

But, wait, there's more! Yet again in the TU, a recent op-ed written by Albany County Legislator Tim Nichols takes another step, more in the direction of my own pie-in-the-sky proposal. His article, titled How Albany County can sustain the arts, offers a concrete tax-revenue-based proposal for a new law that would "direct 1 percent of the hotel tax, roughly $1 million [annually], to arts and cultural organizations ... ".

$1 million annually to arts and cultural organizations? All I can say to that is HOORAY!!!!

And again: Let's do it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Child is Father to the Man: Thomas D'Ambrose and RADICAL! at Albany Center Gallery

A very snowy 1st Friday kept the throngs at bay, but a good turnout of devoted fans still made it to the opening of a two-person show titled Eco Primitive Eco Surreal at Albany Center Gallery.

The inspired pairing of Thomas D'Ambrose and RADICAL! makes for a somewhat mind-bending experience, as the two artists are almost diametrically opposed, psychologically speaking, and their technical approaches are also in deep contrast. Yet it works beautifully, finding lots of common ground in terms of scale, subject matter, and delivery.

D'Ambrose, well into middle age, draws and paints like a child, usually depicting happy, frolicking animals. RADICAL!, a pseudonymous graffiti-style artist just 19 years old, applies masterful technique to a panoply of grotesque characters immersed in drugs, violence, even shades of bestiality.

Still, an innocent optimism lurks beneath the surface of the Hudson Valley Community College sophomore's creepy universe, mysteriously mirroring the uncomplicated sweetness of his elder's world view. The combination is surprisingly bracing, lending a bit of gravity to D'Ambrose while picking up the lightness of RADICAL!'s nightmares.

I was already convinced of RADICAL!'s significance as an artist before this show, which demonstrates growth and strength as he adds more three-dimensional elements and new figurative aspects to his graphic style. Now, I have a greater respect for D'Ambrose, whose musical career focus and extreme modesty had led me to take his art less seriously in the past. Here, he displays a greater diversity and a more complex sense of color and texture than I had previously seen.

Altogether, a great start to the new year's exhibition calendar.

Rating: Highly Recommended

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Uncertain Spectator at EMPAC

A visit to RPI's Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center is an otherworldly, futuristic experience, and the exhibition Uncertain Spectator fits it to a tee.

Curated by EMPAC's Emily Zimmerman, Uncertain Spectator includes mainly high-tech and video-based art, as you would expect, by 10 artists (or collectives) from all over the world. But does the show meet the expectation created by its theme, which is anxiety? I'm not quite sure.

First, a little about the setting. EMPAC is a gigantic, super-modern building that virtually hovers over Troy, with massive shapes and expensive surfaces that make it truly a work of art in itself. I approached from the most obvious entrance, which, with its big, curving driveway, appears welcoming enough. But a little confusion ensued.

There are lots of doors (which, despite the absence of any visible staff, open readily enough), no apparent elevator, and lots and lots of stairs. I'm fit enough, so I decided to ascend on foot. There, the adventure began, as curious sounds emanated from hidden speakers nearby, immediately alerting me to the fact that my arrival had been detected.

I'm not OCD, but I did count as I climbed - ranked 14 steps at a time between landings, five or six flights of stairs brought me alongside the curving belly of the building's main theater, which occupies its center like a massive, docked spaceship. Slightly out of breath, I arrived at the 5th floor lobby, and the apparent beginning of Uncertain Spectator.

Yet, true to the promise of its title, I was already feeling uncertain. The sound installation that had greeted me at the bottom of the steps continued to emit nifty noises, but was it part of the show? (the answer seems to be "no"); though there was some signage, labeling, and display copies of the show's catalog, along with large take-away posters by Anthony Discenza on a spotlit pedestal (an example of his signage art is shown above at right), much of the lobby space was forbiddingly dark, and still I saw no people (though at times I thought I heard people - live or recorded, it was impossible to say).

Having been directed in a message from EMPAC's PR man to retrieve a copy of that catalog from the 7th-floor box office, I dropped my coat on a bench and resumed my upward trek. After a differently paced flight of steps (I think it went 12-12-20), I summited near a tremendous desk in a cavernous upper lobby, in the center of which I recognized an electronic sculptural installation from the show. Behind the desk was a small, young woman and on top of it was a catalog with my name on it.

And so, the adventure continued. After a perusal of the Marie Sester piece I'd spotted, which hissed and shrieked at me as I moved about its white, shag rug and five colorfully upholstered chairs, a spectral-looking but friendly young man beckoned me to enter one of the dark corners of the space; there, beyond a parted black curtain, a fascinating black-and-white film by Jesper Just was showing. Its soundtrack consisted of a haunting theme harmoniously whistled by a trio of actors. The handsome man and two beautiful women of significantly different ages seemed to be performing a wordless seduction a trois in a lavishly appointed Gothic-style room, explicated by many softly lit closeups of their hands, eyes, and lips.

Worried that I'd never escape the clutches of this siren song before seeing the rest of the show, I stepped back through the black curtains, with a promise to the young man that I'd return to finish viewing the 10-minute cycle (I did). By this point, I was beginning to understand that the show was scattered about these two floors, and that much of it was in the form of projections in various screening studios, as indicated by signage leading to them.

One of the benefits of this design, aside from the obvious necessity of using available studios for such screenings, was that it introduced me to a good number of the (apparently) many theaters of different sizes in this marvelous building. I added to that exposure by checking out the interior of the main theater - it is an awesome piece of architecture, a stunningly beautiful example of acoustic design, and much warmer than you might think it would be, as it is made almost entirely of wood. My footsteps echoed sharply throughout the space - I imagine a concert there would sound terrific.

Back across the gangplank (yeah, the ship metaphor is blatant) onto the lobby floor, I resumed my search for the elements of Uncertain Spectator, and first noticed one of many slick-looking hand-sanitizer dispensers that stood vigil here and there. Were they part of the show? Alas, while there's no doubt they were anxiety-induced, this turned out not to be the case - the young woman behind the desk helpfully informed me that they were merely a vestige of the campus's response to the 2008 swine flu epidemic. Even so, I hazard that any artist who might wish to claim them as a clever installation piece would have a reasonable excuse to boast inclusion in the show.

Another unrelated art installation (made of color-coded light fixtures) guides the path to a screening room where an animated film by Jordan Wolfson features Coke bottles filled with sloshing milk that march relentlessly along dark city streets (image above at left). Anxiety inducing? Nah, just grating.

Somewhat clearer, though scarcely innovative, were two videos showing on monitors in the original lobby. One, by Kate Gilmore, depicts two simultaneous views of the artist as she laboriously squeezes herself through a tight, cobbled-together channel. The other, by Tue Greenfort, presents an overhead view of a trapped couple in a white-cube art installation as they collaborate to make their escape over the wall.

These closely relate to a nearby series of photographs from a 1968 happening by Graciela Carnevale, in which gallery goers are locked into an empty space and eventually break its plate-glass window to get out. These three documented performances essentially form a show within the show that addresses topics of control and entrapment. But how well does it express anxiety?

Also nearby is a meticulously constructed kiosk with an electronically controlled and illuminated graph by Susanna Hertrich that depicts colorful bubbles of hazards such as gun crime and cancer in relation to their corresponding degrees of public outrage. This Reality Checking Device (shown at top of post) works well, but struck me as merely a good start.

Similarly, the French collective Claire Fontaine offers a dozen American quarters that have been modified to conceal curved blades (and which I am describing based on photographs, because the piece was missing due to its container having been vandalized). The connection to the box-cutters used on 9/11 is clear, but one still looks for greater revelations.

Far more effective, in yet another dark theater, is a color film projection of a man performing monologues, by the collective SUPERFLEX. Here, the large, dark, empty projection room, the hugely enlarged, droning, anonymous interlocutor, and the pointedly hypnotic and economic/social/political content of his words conspired to transport me to a place where they may have been cause for concern. At last, this was a work of art that fulfilled both the promise of the show and the elaborate technology behind it.

This film alone, and the stunning EMPAC building, are reason enough to go see Uncertain Spectator before it ends on Jan. 29.

Rating: Recommended

Also of note in Troy is the exhibition titled Daughters of Aspasia by Jeri Eisenberg and Gail Nadeau at the Photography Center of the Capital District. These two well-known regional artists extend the photographic medium well beyond traditional methods, presenting an extremely subtle coordinated effort in this show.

Nadeau's work consists of extensively manipulated and colorfully painted personal images that read almost as a diary of her real or imagined family life; Eisenberg shows four triptychs and one quadruptych of extremely soft-focus images of landscape themes related primarily to atmospheric effects (example below). It's a show well worth seeing.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Media Watch: Metroland needs a critic

You may have noticed that Metroland, the Capital Region's alternative newsweekly, is advertising for a freelance art critic. Though the paper lists three art critics on its masthead, it seems none is currently writing there.

I mention this in the hope that a Get Visual reader who has not seen the ads in Metroland becomes interested in contributing reviews to that publication. Without a Metroland art critic, our local media coverage is lacking an important facet. My own past experience writing reviews for that paper (in two or three stints totaling six or eight years) is that it provides a wide-open opportunity to cover shows as the writer sees fit.

Ideally, someone qualified and interesting will get on board and publish regularly.

Any takers?