Damn it, I left my contacts in: Jennifer
Hines’ Anger & Frustration: A Personal Inventory.
Fulton Street Gallery, through Jan. 29
Troy has been full of sur-prises lately, and here’s another:
an international juried art exhibition at Fulton Street Gallery.
The unsinkable member-supported gallery has survived 10 years,
and this show is a good indicator of its continued vitality.
Juried by Albany performance poet Kevin Thayer, Visual-Text:
The Other includes 18 artists from as far away as Chicago,
California and Australia and as near as Delmar, Rensselaer
and Castleton. Unlike many such diversified offerings, Visual-Text:
The Other holds together rather well; though the theme
helps (all the work incorporates both words and images), it
could just as easily have been a disaster (think bad art plus
bad poetry equals horrible exhibition).
No, this is good art, some good text and a nicely handled
installation that uses the space of the gallery well without
overcrowding (another common pitfall of juried shows).
Not surprisingly, much of the work in this show is mixed media,
and there is a lot of collage in particular. Among those I
like best are Berkeley, Calif., artist Heidi Tarver’s two
news-inspired pieces, titled Weekend News and Mind
of a Terrorist. In both, Tarver employs skill and curiosity
to open up interpretations of what we see in the mainstream
press (in this case, The New York Times). In one, she
delves into one of the harshest realities of our era; in the
other, we get a child’s fresh perspective. Both are outstanding.
Equally strong are a set of digital collages by Chicago-based
Naomi Pridjian titled Pailoun’s Story. Selected from
what must be a magnificent long-form visual diary, these six
images combine real and imagined scenes to evoke the almost
universal tale of immigration and family history that Americans
experience century after century. They are complex yet clear,
lush and beautiful personal images.
Another collage artist with just a few pieces out of a much
larger body of work is also from California. Stephen Anderson,
of Huntington Beach, presents five collages out of a series
of 1,000 on very small (3 1/2-by-4-inch) blocks of wood. This
“burned fingers” series favors surrealist-style details taken
from old engravings, combined with more current visual sources.
They are worthy of the close attention they demand.
Also striving to create a larger story out of linked images
is New York City-based Ronald Parisi, whose three L’Histoire
de Jillian photographs illustrate a fantasy biography
of a princess born without legs. His model, a striking legless
woman, appears to be a full collaborator in this quirky, ambitious
project in which she dresses up in tastefully bizarre Elizabethan-era
garb and gear. The text panels tell the story; the pictures
are hard to ignore.
Among the three-dimensional work in the show, local artist
G. C. Haymes’ Your Mother Loves You is a witty, tender
assemblage of a rusted metal box containing a child’s wooden
blocks that spell out the contents of a lunch lovingly packed
by Mom. Also evoking family is Chicago-based Jennifer Hines’
Closet: password(s), an airy vertical construction
of handmade-paper letters descending from above a pile of
shredded documents. Careful perusal will reveal the sibling
rivalry spelled out in this piece.
Hines’ other piece in the show, Anger and Frustration:
A Personal Inventory, features a long handwritten scroll
listing every little thing that ever bothered the artist (or
any one of us). Her complaints run from the personal to the
universal: “falling asleep with my contacts in,” “when someone
parallel parks, taking up 2 spaces” and “conspiracies, or
conspiracy theories” among them. Below this list lies a pile
of hardened dough blobs bearing the impression of a squeezing
hand—gallerygoers are invited to pick them up and repeat the
gesture, sharing in the artist’s sense of frustration and
In a similar personal yet playful vein, Stockbridge, Mass.,
artist Ali Herrmann has included two artist’s books in the
show. One, A Waitress’s Diary, cleverly employs an
American Express padded check/credit card holder from a restaurant
as its covers, between which unfolds an accordion of customer
and insect aggravation. Her other book uses reductive and
additive processes to alter the text of a potboiler romance,
adding a postmodern twist but leaving in the stickiness.
Three paintings by local artist Robert Longley (whose studio
is just upstairs from the gallery) are less explicit, and
gain from the mysteriousness of their quasi-legible texts.
His red-tinged large canvas Fancies and Goodnights (Ghosts
in the City) has been given pride of place on the gallery’s
back wall—and it deserves it. Longley has mastered the use
of wax to give his images a great degree of depth and translucency;
this new painting extends a wonderful body of work.
On the furthest edge of this show’s offerings (geographically
as well as technically) is a pair of DVD films by Australian
Christopher Holton. The one titled Rendezvous takes
the annoying bumpings and scrapings of cheap chairs on a hard
floor and turns them into a hilarious dialogue, complete with
subtitles. This may be the most “other” insight of the show—a
window, perhaps, into the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic.
I confess, I hadn’t heard of Thayer before this, but he deserves
a lot of credit for choosing a broad range of work in many
media with a consistently high level of quality. He also apparently
did a pretty wild performance at the opening; his pedestal-mounted
sculpture with jars of pigs’ feet and a window installation
remain as vestiges of that event.
Arts Center of the Capital Region, through Feb.
Arts Center curator Gina Oc chiogrosso has put
together a fairly diverse group of eight artists
who “study, capture and comment on the real world.”
Not surprisingly, photography is a significant
presence, but painting dominates this selection.
In usual ACCR fashion, there is a combination
of artists from near and far (including Chicago
and Los Angeles)—and, as usual, the hometown team
more than holds its own. Hudson Valley painters
Deborah Zlotsky (Delmar), James Dustin (Coxsackie)
and Phyllis Palmer (Tivoli) each apply sound thinking
and consummate technique to their respective series
of a child’s drawings; architectural space and
light; and back-view portraits. All three are
first-rate bodies of work.
Also in usual ACCR fashion, there are pedantic
exhibit notes written by the curator that attempt
to instruct the viewer in how to interpret the
art. I suspect I am not the only one to find this
practice particularly annoying.
Yet another fine local painter, Dave Austin, is
represented in a sidebar solo exhibition in the
President’s Gallery as 2003’s selected Fence
Show artist. Austin’s prodigious 2004 output
shows he’s growing into an intriguing and skilled
interpreter of paranoia and alienation in contemporary
America. Definitely one to watch.