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Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region

Daniel Brody - Game On/Game Over, still from digital video
Every year, the annual Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region offers a good opportunity to take the pulse of the local art scene in one time and place, and this year's edition at the University at Albany Art Museum is a prime example of how that works.

Though the vagaries of who submits work each year and especially the taste of the juror will have a distinct impact on what's seen, there's usually a broad enough coverage to be reasonably representative of what artists in the orbit of Albany are doing.  And because these artists are also in the orbit of New York City, one can also get a sense of what's current there and, by extension, in the art world as a whole. This year's juror, Rachel Uffner, owns a New York City gallery, so the sensibility of the show is most likely that much more imbued with the bigger art world point of view.

Fern T. Apfel - Skyline, collage and acrylic 
If so, then the current art world, whether regional or global, is still very much about painting, especially painterly abstraction, with a strong side interest in the figurative and the decoratively patterned, and flirting a bit with representation on the Pop side of things. There are 44 artists included (out of a daunting 367 who entered the competition), which is a good number - neither too many to get a grip on in one viewing, nor too few to hold the space - and about three-quarters are represented by multiple works, which is always desirable in large group shows.

Ian Myers - Fish, oil on canvas
Noticeably in short supply in this selection is photography which, in the 25 or so years since the medium was first allowed in the Regional, usually has a strong role. Instead, the few photographs chosen are relegated to subsidiary locations in the gallery and, except for Jess Ayotte and Han Dogan, both of whom present slyly low-key black-and-white prints, and Katria Foster, whose works read almost as abstract paintings, the offerings are weak.

Then again, video has two strong entries, including Daniel Brody's digital animation Game On/Game Over, which won the top prize and is well worthy of the honor, and a concrete-poetry piece by Kyra Garrigue. It's intriguing that Garrigue's Poem: Untold Story has company in another concrete poetry work, this one formed in Morse code that was drilled into three smooth panels of birch by Colin Chase.

Monica Bill Hughes - Boob Bouquet
acrylic, ink, spray paint, and glitter on canvas
Other sculptural works are among the more compelling pieces here, including two slightly chilling scale models by Roger Bisbing and a very impressive series of five works in ceramic and wood, buffalo horn, or mammoth ivory by Robert Augstell; both Bisbing and Augstell won awards. Top awards were also taken by outstanding painters, including Monica Bill Hughes's naughty, lush still lifes; Stephen Niccolls's wonderful retro-Modernist compositions; two tongue-in-cheek works by Ian Myers; and two cleverly titled mixed media paintings by Kelsey Renko (artists who have the courage to title their works creatively get extra points from me).

Also outstanding: Charles Geiger's technically brilliant tropical arabesques; Mona Mark's scrupulously pared down exercises in monochrome; Jenny Hutchinson's meticulous, playfully layered paper-cuts; and Susan Spencer Crowe's boldly colored and formed wall reliefs.

Overall, this Regional suffers a bit from being on the wan side, color-wise, and from a lack of scale (only a handful of pieces exceed 5 feet in size). It is therefore overwhelmed by the cavernous white space of the UAlbany Museum. On the other hand, the two-story gallery's large, open central staircase allows a view of half the show all at once, which is a terrific advantage in getting the big-picture sense. And that sense is that the scene is plenty vibrant enough to survive another year. We'll get to reassess again at the next Regional, set for The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls.

By the way, this exhibition ends on Sept. 5, so if you want to catch it, you must act now.

Roger Bisbing - Lunch 1961, brass, cast bronze, and aluminum


John Rowen said...

David: After reading this entry and then looking back to a few of the earlier entries, I respect your ability to see - - and then report on - - so much fine art this summer. We hope to see Maxfield Parrish. Any advice on a good place to eat in Cooperstown?

david brickman said...

Well, my favorite restaurant in Cooperstown was Alex and Ika, which unfortunately has closed. But you can't go wrong with Blue Mingo, just a few miles out of town right on the lake. Enjoy!