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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Swan Song

Installation view of Staying Power - photos provided by Albany International Airport Gallery
It's entirely appropriate that the final exhibition organized and installed by outgoing Director Sharon Bates at the Albany International Airport Gallery expresses the value of its title, Staying Power. Bates has the same qualities as the 11 venerable artists she has assembled for this excellent, elegant show - and she will no doubt amply demonstrate that in the next chapter of her life, when she sets forth in retirement as a full-time artist.

Barbara Takenaga - Tadanori Meets Hiroshige
acrylic on linen 2013
Her swan song is a paean to perseverance, a celebration of agelessness, a fascinating collection of excellence and diversity. The artists presented here have but two things in common: They are all located in the greater Capital Region; and they all have been at it for quite some time. Oh, and they're all darn good. Naturally, I have my favorites among them, but I am reluctant to sully the unified purpose of this show by picking and choosing.

Instead, here's an overview:

Margo Mensing - J. Robert Oppenheimer
cut security envelopes on paper 2005
One feature of the show (which will hang through Jan. 2, 2017) is a series of video interviews with the artists that has been placed on monitors in several spots throughout the gallery, as well as in a larger projection room. It underscores the purpose of the show to not only display the work these artists have created, but also to plumb their minds and their motives, as they discuss matters within the lifelong pursuit of an artistic career.

Before entering the gallery proper, one can stop to watch a few minutes of several of these artists telling about their first memories of making art, a great way to prepare for the exhibition's thematic feel. Elsewhere they discuss success, failure, fame, etc. It's not necessary to hear the commentary to understand what's on view, but it adds depth to the experience.

Susan Spencer Crowe - Sweeet, cardboard, encaustic, 2015-2016
Bates founded the Art & Culture program at the airport, and led it for 18 years, typically organizing shows with themes both quirky and grand, so this last one from her is cut from the same cloth - perhaps leaning toward a final statement, but really more open-ended - just as the included artists are working in a flow of continuity from their pasts to their futures. Many of the exhibitors include prior as well as current work, while some have only current work in the show. It's a testament to the vigor of ongoing artistic exploration and expression, and to the simple fact that art knows no age.

Paul Katz, 10 sculptures from the Prelude series and a painting
gesso, oil, sand on found objects and canvas, 2010-2016
The installation is scattered throughout the gallery's far-reaching spaces, held together by the glassed-in central apse that allows visitors to gape down upon the TSA's security screening zone and to see through and across to most of the rest of the third-floor exhibition area. As in a shopping mall, one walks around the perimeter with the big gap in the middle - unlike shopping, however, here one has the opportunity to be absorbed into experiences far more original than mass consumption.

Examples: Jeanne Flanagan shows a series of drawings that delve into identity as represented by her own enlarged fingerprint; Bruno LaVerdiere, also working in series, reiterates a decades-long obsession with spiritual dwellings as expressed in clay sculptures and painted panels; and painter Harry Orlyk immerses himself daily in the Upstate rural landscape - 10 of his Impressionist-style, unframed works reveal the results.

Benigna Chilla, installation view
(note, the piece in the center is currently not on view
as it was stolen, recovered, and is held in evidence by the police)
My one quibble with the show would be that a few of the artists have too little work in it: Barbara Takenaga is represented by just three (marvelous) paintings and so is Benigna Chilla (though her works on fabric are very large). Just six of Walter Hatke's subjectively realist visual puzzles are included (four of which are modest variations on his pun-worthy surname). This left me wanting more.

One of my favorite things about the show is the decision to illustrate each wall-mounted artist bio with a black-and-white photo of the artist from a much earlier time (shy one, which had no photo). Though a sweetly charming approach, it also hammers home that this show is very much about the passage of time. In contrast, I had the pleasure of attending the show's opening reception in mid-June and of seeing nearly all 11 artists in their current appearance - older, yes, but still very vibrantly alive.

Edward Mayer - Walking A-Round, mixed media site-specific installation, 1994-2016
Note: The Albany International Airport Gallery is accessible to all without passing through security, and is open from 7 am to 11 pm daily. Parking in the short-term lot is free for the first half-hour - for more time, you can get your ticket validated at the Departure gift shop on the first floor of the terminal, no purchase necessary.


Roger Owen Green said...

I understand the IDEA, but going to the airport, just to see the art, is something I've NEVER done.

david brickman said...

Roger, there's a first time for everything. In fact, after doing just that, Karen and I stopped at the other end of Wolf Road for awesome dim sum at Hong Kong Bakery and Bistro. And, believe me, we would NEVER go to Wolf Road just to eat lunch!

Robbie-Bobulon said...

This definitely looks worth the Gander! and I don't mean the airport in Newfoundland...I'll recommend to all, next time you go to Trader Joe's for food....add on an extra block of time and head over to the Airport to view this Swan before it flies away!!!

George Guarino said...

Always love to see the art presented at the airport. I make sure to check it out each time I have to pick up or drop off someone. I've seen some wonder shows there. Can't say I've ever just gone to see a show just on its own. Thanks for reminding us of this fine venue... And the tip about validating a parking ticket to extend browsing time.

Anonymous said...

David, thank you for this wonderful review! Yes, yes, Kathy Greenwood is terrific and amazing and will be missed. Thanks too for including my work in your article. So sorry I couldn't make the opening. I would have liked to meet you and the other artists! All best, Barbara Takenaga