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

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Pieced Together at APL

Henry Klimowicz - Large Collections of Like a Lichen #2
cardboard and glue 2021
Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets on the local gallery scene is the Pine Hills Branch of the Albany Public Library, where expertly curated exhibitions of regional artists have been mounted about twice a year for quite some time.* And the current show, Pieced Together, is one of the best yet.

Organized by staff at Russell Sage College's Opalka Gallery, Pieced Together features 11 artists united by the theme of assemblage, an often overlooked art form that came into its own during the height of Modernism, in particular among Dadaists, often in the unassuming clothing of paper collage. Most of the work in this show follows fairly closely in that tradition, while some of it feels more connected to later periods of contemporary art that grew out of Modernism.

Altogether, this is a particularly lively collection of very accomplished work by well-established local favorites and a few relative newcomers, including one recent Sage graduate, Chloe Harrison, whose delicate matboard constructions show promise, while confirming her self-described fledgling status.

Beth Humphrey - Mutual Aid, 2020
spray paint, gouache, crayon, film on paper
Highlights from the show are many, even if one must perform something of a treasure hunt to find them all in the two-level space which, though not designed for art exhibitions, still serves well to showcase the work. Installations here always exploit the big central staircase, this time featuring two of my personal favorite artists of recent times: Beth Humphrey, who presents a constellation of small framed works on a mid-level wall that delight with their shapes, colors, and layerings; and Kenneth Ragsdale, who offers a suspended wire laden with playful, oversized folded-paper objects from his own quirky personal vocabulary of memories and imaginings.

Paula Drysdale Frazell - Nap Time, 2015
acrylic paint and fabric on canvas
Another recent favorite artist, and one who I think deserves - and will get - more attention as time goes by, is Paula Drysdale Frazell. Her mixed-media works are less related to cut-paper collage than they are to painting and, in a sense, quilting, as they combine paint, fabric, and printed paper (such as maps) in colorful and playful compositions that draw from childhood memories and other family stories. Her works are both charming and thought provoking, making for a tricky balancing act that she handles comfortably.

Three of the artists in this show are strictly collagists of the cut-and-paste variety, forming a core for this selection, and being easily appreciated by any of us who have ever tried that medium (myself included); they are Niki Haynes, Juan Hinojosa, and Michael Oatman, all of whom have appeared in other local shows recently, and whose work remains fresh and fun.

Juan Hinojosa - Lava, 2020
mixed media on panel with plastic,
soda can, wall paper, jewelry, ribbon
Hinojosa is easily the flashiest of this group, delving into consumer culture with abandon, embracing the brightest of colors and materials and, in the case of two works in this exhibition, utilizing metallic surfaces as a background. Eye-catching, to be sure, but for my taste a bit superficial.

Haynes, in contrast, hews to the mystical. Here, she presents a group of six small collages that coolly spook you with eyes that are watching from on high. Her technique is almost alarmingly simple, but it takes a lot of experience to get to simplicity and have it work so well, and Haynes has it.

Oatman throws us a curveball by installing a body of 26 comic-book collages he made in 1983, during the summer after his first year in college. I'd glimpsed these somewhere before, and was delighted to see them again, as they are witty, well crafted, and totally consistent with the work he is making today, nearly 40 years later. It takes courage to reveal early work, and in this instance I think it pays off.

The other artists in the show, which opened on Oct. 1 and will run through April 17, are Fern Apfel, Danny Goodwin, Henry Klimowicz, and Melinda McDaniel.

*Full disclosure: I recently joined the board of directors of the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library, which has some input into programming at the branches, including arts programming.

Michael Oatman - three examples from the collage series A Boy's History of the World in 26 Volumes (+1), 1983
photo by Michael Oatman


John Rowen said...

David: Congratulations on joining the Board of the Friends and Foundation. Thanks for highlighting the effort that libraries make to share art with their patrons. You did a particularly good job of making the illustrations of the works in the exhibit "work" with your text.

david brickman said...

Thanks, John - I'm excited to be part of the library's volunteer corps.