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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Studio Visit: David Arsenault

Center of Attention - Oil on canvas by David Arsenault
His work has been compared to that of Edward Hopper. He was voted "Best Visual Artist" by the readers of Metroland in 2002. And as a past president and Oakroom Artists stalwart for many years, he has shown a lot in Schenectady and just about everywhere else a painter can in the Capital Region. But David Arsenault has moved on - to Rockport, Mass. - and he's not looking back.

Swaying in Time - oil on canvas
I recently caught up with Arsenault in his newly opened gallery in Rockport, a sweet seacoast town on Cape Ann with beautiful harbors, rocky sea walls, inviting cafes, many galleries, and a long history of resident painters. He moved there only last fall, but has already immersed himself in the cultural scene and staked his claim to the town's iconic "Motif #1," a satisfyingly geometric red fishing shack (seen in the painting reproduced above).

Arsenault was pushed to this decision by a helpful interruption to a long career in publishing (he was trained at Sage College of Albany as a graphic designer), and pulled by an equally helpful wife who has often relocated and was ready to do it again. They landed well, renting a nifty wooden house in town and the crisp space that houses the gallery (seen in this photo), where Arsenault has a well-lit painting loft and lots of nice walls to display his finished work, situated a stone's throw from the Motif on a charming, touristy stretch called Bearskin Neck.

Going Topless - oil on canvas
If you've seen his work in the past, you know Arsenault has one chief concern: Light. Unlike many painters who cherish this element, he used to paint night scenes often (an old favorite you may recall features the multicolored glow of the Malta Drive-In), and he also frequently addresses the matter of sunlight as it enters domestic interiors (as did his idol, Hopper). But the current work I saw on this visit is all about the light in the sky, over the water, and on the land of Cape Ann.

Cape Ann Rocks - oil on canvas
This is not a new subject for Arsenault - he spent a lot of time over the last decade or so painting in Cape Cod, where he also often showed - and he began visiting Cape Ann in 2013. But the full-time immersion is new, and the setting of Rockport, as rugged as the name implies and constantly windy, is a prime jumping-off point for this new life. The fact that Arsenault and his wife, Sue, an independent interfaith minister, set off to make their way there just as winter approached (and what a winter it turned out to be!) speaks to the boldness of the act, and goes a long way to explain how quickly these two have been embraced by the local community.

Rock Star - oil on canvas
But, now that the gallery is officially open (as of April 11) and the tourist season has begun, it's time to see if the decision will work financially. So far, Arsenault is off to a good start, having already sold a few originals and several reproductions (he has long marketed his work at several price points to reach a broader market). One concern is that Rockport tends to be popular this time of year with Europeans - but the euro is down sharply against the dollar; another is that surviving as an artist depends an awful lot on luck.

In the meantime, though, Arsenault is in a great spot - he can just keep painting every day until the next sale walks through the door. And, judging from what I saw on this visit, I'd say it's going to work out just fine. To see more of David Arsenault's art, he recommends you go to his gallery's Facebook page (The Art of David Arsenault). Another option is his website. Or you could just jump in the car and go check it out amid the other wonders of Rockport.

Good Harbor Spring - oil on canvas by David Arsenault

Monday, May 4, 2015

Click! and Making Their Mark at The Hyde Collection

Jeannette Klute American (1918-2009) Trillium, ca. 1950
Dye transfer print, 14 1/4 x 18 3/8 in.
All photos shown with this post: The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY
Gift of George Stephanopoulos and Family, 2013
In a time of transition for The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, two small shows drawn from the museum's permanent collection are on display. The more significant of the two was curated by outgoing Director Charles Allan Guerin, who will be replaced in July by former Hyde curator Erin Coe. Titled Click!: Selections from the George Stephanopoulos Collection, the Hoopes Gallery display features 31 photographs chosen from among more than 120 that were recently donated to the Hyde by the political and media pundit. It hangs through May 31.

Having heard the news about this important addition to the collection, I was eager to have a look - and I'll admit I was a bit disappointed not to be seeing the whole trove. Guerin culled the larger group down to the work of 12 artists (pointedly describing them as such in the show's written material), with a nice range of styles, methods and time frame, creating a mini-lesson in the history of the medium of photography. A few of those included are widely regarded as significant, and none of the work is second rate, but some is rather little known, a treat for a crusty old curmudgeon like me who thinks he has already seen all the worthwhile pictures of the 20th century.

Mario Finocchiaro - Man Standing beside His Fiat 1000,
ca. 1970s, gelatin silver print, 11 3/4 x 8 1/2 in.
Among the household names are Larry Fink, represented here by four prints from his 1980s series on working-class people at home in Pennsylvania; Joel Meyerowitz, with four small color gems from his Bay and Sky series of Cape Cod pictures; and Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose two prints from the 1960s are more like news photographs than most of his best art. Surprises include an Italian photo-club member from Milan named Mario Finocchiaro (example shown at right); Jeannette Klute (the only woman in the show), who had a career at Eastman Kodak developing the dye-transfer printing process (image shown at the top of this post); and William E. Dassonville, a recently rediscovered practitioner from the early days of West Coast photography.

The majority of the pictures have social or political overtones, not surprising considering their source. Some of these are wonderfully witty, incisive, or even mysterious, such as Leon Levenstein's two undated pictures of people seen from behind, and Leonard Freed's four documents from diverse locales, including Sicily (the shot features a large tuna) and London (depicting British women of Indian descent). There are two images of Dwight D. Eisenhower, one by Cartier-Bresson (who was French), the other by the Canadian portraitist Yousuf Karsh.

Karl Struss American (1886-1981)
Bridge and Train Signal, Pittsburgh, ca. 1912
Gelatin silver print, printed ca. 1980, 3 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.
One of my favorites in this selection is a small, very Modernist print made from a 1912 Karl Struss negative (shown at left), which stands in stark contrast to a 1910 Struss image that is pure Pictorialism - what a difference a couple of years made! Also outstanding are two 8-inch-by-20-inch black-and-white contact prints by Michael A. Smith; one is of a lifeless corporate building in Princeton, N.J., the other of a sunny vineyard in Tuscany.

Only 13 works of art are included in the Rotunda exhibition titled Making Their Mark, but as the title suggest, they have an impact. Again drawn from the museum's permanent collection, these works on paper are by names major, minor, and in-between. Examples of the known include Wassily Kandinsky, Dorothy Dehner, and Robert Motherwell. Also included are two fine drawings by local artists Sandra Miller and Dorothy Englander, which were purchased by the Hyde back in the days of the Adirondack Regional exhibitions (full disclosure: Englander and I share a studio).

All the work in this show is abstract or nearly so. One curiosity is a very graphic representation of figures (so stylized they look more like mechanical drawing tools than people) titled "The Specious Solemnity of Gossip," made by Attilio Salemme in 1943. There's also a vibrantly colorful composition made by Ludwig Stein in 1985 titled "Time Trap" - somewhat ominous if you note his death date is 2015.

Perhaps the strongest piece in the show is a drawing by Gregory Amenoff (pictured below) - I would say that work alone is worth the trip. Making Their Mark will hang through June 21. The Hyde is also hosting the 24th Annual Regional Juried High School Exhibition through May 31 in the Wood Gallery.

Gregory Amenoff - Pink Sweet (Suite) #1, 1979 Gouache and pastel, 13 x 15 inches
Gift to The Murray Collection in memory of Terry A. Murray