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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Troy Night Out

OK, the weather has put a crimp in my ambitious plan for today to go see several shows in Troy and report on them in time for tonight's Troy Night Out. Instead, a short plug for two of the venues involved:

John Connors, one of my favorite local artists, has a solo of his lyrical Trojan watercolor drawings at Clement Art Gallery (example shown above). This is a show certain to bring joy to all who view it, and John is fun at a party, so go tonight if you can. Click if you want to see my 2009 review of his last solo show at Clement.

Also well worth checking out are two exhibitions at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, both of which opened last month; Vignette, curated by Nadine Wasserman, runs through March 20, and I expect to post a review of it here before then - but Andrea Hersh's Flora & Fauna (example shown below) ends Saturday, so see it now or forever wonder what you missed.

Enjoy the snow!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Carrie Will: I Am Redundant

The photographer Carrie Will has made her presence known in recent years with pictures in several regional juried shows - now a solo exhibition at Siena College’s Yates Gallery offers the first local opportunity to look at a full body of her work. Presented in a diaristic mode, I Am Redundant includes 13 medium-sized color prints, all of which are double self-portraits. That is, Will is an identical twin, and the portraits are of her sister and herself (you can see her portfolio by clicking here).

Tagged with the quote “I am redundant, half of a whole, a freak, identical and lucky,” the collection belies this statement by demonstrating (perhaps without intending to) that the two sisters are in fact not quite physically identical, and that each has a distinctly different personal presence.

This contrast is most apparent in the image titled Williamsburg, where the two sit in a gritty outdoor part of New York City, facing the camera. Rikki, the darker sister identifiable from the show’s first picture, which sorts them out by shirt color, slumps miserably, while the brighter Carrie holds herself up firmly and optimistically.

These pictures may be total fictions – it’s hard to tell. Do the young women come from a privileged home (like Tina barney, a photographer this work recalls), or are images such as the one taken in a sumptuous and multi-arched “Dining Room” made in other people’s spaces? It doesn’t really matter – these are the kinds of questions the genre prefers to ask rather than answer.

What appears to be real, however, is the intense relationship between the two sisters. In several of the pictures, they are locked in an intense embrace. One wonders whether Rikki is also an artist; or if Carrie, who is an artist, is actually the better adjusted twin. Is she supporting the emotional struggles of the seemingly troubled Rikki?

I’ve never been a big fan of the storytelling, girls-playing-dress-up style of photography that has been so popular since Cindy Sherman's heyday, but Will brings a deft touch to the category with her refined sense of color and form, and her understated ironies.

Please forgive the late notice, as there is only about a week left to see this show – it ends on March 4 - but it's worth a look if you can fit it in.

Rating: Recommended

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Objects of Wonder & Delight at The Hyde Collection

Walt Kuhn Dancing Pears, 1924, oil on canvas, 12 x 15 in.

The Hyde Collection has broken with tradition by bringing a crowd-pleasing show to Glens Falls in the middle of a harsh winter. Objects of Wonder & Delight: Four Centuries of Still Life from the Norton Museum of Art may not be summer blockbuster material, but it comes darn close, with a galaxy’s worth of major-name artists’ work wrapped around an underwhelming premise in an intriguing way.

Organized by the Norton (which is in West Palm Beach, Fla., and where Hyde director David Setford once worked), this touring show both fulfills expectations and challenges them. Part of the strategy involves subthemes that allow for a free flow of groupings and interactions among the works. For example, in the section titled From the Garden: Fruits and Vegetables, tabletop still lifes mingle with figurative interiors and landscape-ish exteriors.

Here, the staff of the Hyde has excelled in clever arrangements and juxtapositions that make the whole enterprise much more lively than the topic natura morta ought to promise. But, then again, just look at what they had to work with. The selection of 51 pieces (including three-dimensional works and several functional or decorative objects) bristles with creative brilliance.

Making a list of standouts, I ran out of room on my notepad: Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Courbet, O’Keeffe, Demuth, Lichtenstein, Avery, and Severini number among the 20th-century painters with significant pieces here. Photography is also well represented, most importantly by two Edwards (Steichen and Weston), along with important predecessors, contemporaries, and followers – including Baron Adolph De Meyer, Ralph Steiner, Dorothy Norman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Lilo Raymond.

The sculptural surprises include an oversized felt suit by Joseph Beuys, a miniature townhouse by the British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, and a marvelously wrought wooden skeleton of a grouper fish by Fumio Yoshimura. This is not your Dutch uncle’s still life – but, don’t worry, there are enough Flemish paintings here to satisfy him, too. In fact, these provide some of the show’s nicest moments, such as the Jesuit painter Daniel Seghers’ undated oil on canvas depicting a luminescent garland of flowers (explained on the label as representing painting as a form of religious contemplation), and the nicely conjured trio of William Harnett’s Bachelor’s Table (1880), Christiaen Striep’s classic still life (about 1665), and a Chinese Imperial carved wood panel from the Qing dynasty (1736-1795).

But, ultimately, Objects of Wonder & Delight really earns its stripes through individual masterpieces. Starting with a large Robert Delaunay from 1916, its objects radiating colorfully striped auras, the show grabs you by the eyes and never lets go. The O’Keeffe, a white cow’s pelvis floating in a brilliant blue sky above a low Southwestern landscape, is gorgeous; one of the Matisses is also arguably a landscape - a fabulous seaside one featuring two beached rays; and a 17th-century trompe l’oeil by Jacobus Biltius is a masterful and darkly humorous example of the genre.

Almost mirroring the Matisse is a Surrealist-tinged painting from 1945 that also features rotting fish, by the Japanese-American Yasuo Kuniyoshi – fortunately, though they’re not hung together, it’s possible to view them simultaneously from a certain vantage point. Another treasure, the Courbet, shows that great art can be made while languishing in prison – and by contrasting the temptations of accessible fruits with those of an inaccessible forest.

Among all this glory, my favorite picture in the show is a relatively small and unassuming one by the German Expressionist Max Beckmann – probably not an artist you think of as painting still life at all. But here is his signature black-outline style gracing a two-foot-square canvas with a spray of irises and a few unlit candlesticks. The painting was made just a couple of years before his death, and you feel that he senses it coming, but you also feel in the colors how fiercely he defies it. Still alive!

Rating: Must See