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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mike Glier at Opalka Gallery

December 29, 2008: Stream, Hoosick, NY, 30ºF, 2008 Oil on aluminum, 24" x 30"
The title of the current show at Sage College of Albany's Opalka Gallery - meander, because you can't see much while marching - could simply express a philosophy, but I feel it also aims to serve as a sort of explanation. This 35-year survey of Mike Glier (extended till Feb. 8) features several rather disparate bodies of work - the titular meandering - each of which displays technical mastery, intellectual rigor, and engaged passion. Glier paints, brilliantly. Glier draws, with consummate ease. Glier conceptualizes, deeply and effectively.

Satisfaction: Untitled, 1989
Charcoal on paper
12.5" x 9.25"
But there remains the sticky problem of Glier's diversity, and it can't be overlooked. We want our artists clearly recognizable - the market dictates this, and people's overworked minds and hearts demand it. How then do we view an artist who refuses to present a unified vision, who is - inconstant?

I'm not very familiar with Glier's career history, but I expect this variability - or the appearance of variability - has plagued him. I also assume he has chosen not to let the perception of others affect him very much - otherwise, why run the risk of changing tracks? In this very ambitious presentation of great swaths of his best work, Glier and curators fearlessly place portraits next to abstracts, text-splashed sticks next to landscapes, and political commentaries next to familial musings.

Garden Court: Summer, 1994
Acrylic, charcoal on canvas 120" x 90"
The overall effect is impressive, but confusing. While Glier's skill and commitment are undeniable, one must read the wall text and label details to grasp the singularity of his vision, which is more about ideas than images. In the end, his message is primarily as an environmentalist, expressed by a talented painter who is as deeply sensitive to humans and other creatures as he is to the land they inhabit, who is worried about political and economic power-mongering, and who strives to make these concerns apparent in his lushly beautiful art.

Rather than try to describe it all to you, I offer a few choice examples here (leaving out the overtly political work, which I find caricaturish) and urge you to go see for yourself what Glier does so well, and has done for all these decades.

Also, at 3 p.m. on the last day of the exhibition (Sunday, Feb. 8), the gallery will host a talk by Sage professor Steven Leibo on the effects of global warming in this region. After the talk, Glier will be on hand to answer questions about his work. That should provide a great opportunity to understand this complex artist a little better.

Shade Turf with Nine Mice, 2001
Charcoal, oil on aluminum panel  60" x 60"