Brian Cirmo’s Strategic Move.
Signs: Emerging Artists Show
Gallery, through Aug. 26
Some people would say there isn’t much of an art scene around
here. I would say they don’t quite get it: In fact, there
are probably five or six art scenes (with some overlap) which,
if all rolled into one, would be a lot easier to notice. Even
so, this summer’s activities in Albany alone provide ample
evidence that the local community of artists is pretty darn
Example: A group calling themselves Reno Bros. has taken over
Lark Street’s Firlefanz Gallery for most of this month, giving
the curator there a break and the audience something fresh
to contemplate. And a group of graffiti artists called the
Street Sweepers will commandeer Firlefanz from Aug. 26 through
Example: Yet another group, calling themselves Albany Underground
Artists, will open a weeklong show at the Albany Institute
of History and Art on Sept. 15; drawn from a broad call for
entries, this will expand on the one-night shows the group
has already put on in various venues to great audience response
in the past couple of years.
Example: Also at the Institute, the 69th annual Exhibition
by Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, on view through Sept.
4 (and reviewed in this space on July 7), features 71 works
by 70 artists from within 100 miles of Albany, most of them
well established or well along the way toward that position.
And, in addition to all that, Albany Center Galleries director
Sarah Martinez, along with her husband, graphic designer Jason
Martinez, has put together a show of 15 emerging Capital Region
artists at the Visions Gallery in the Roman Catholic Diocese
of Albany’s Pastoral Center on North Main Avenue that is well
worth a look (the current show at the ACG, by the way, is
a strong solo by popular realist painter David Arsenault,
who is also represented in the regional).
Signs: Emerging Artists Show is not going to rewrite the
history of art, but it does a fine job of representing a wide
variety of up-to-date media and approaches. Notably absent
is sculpture (which, conversely, has a greater-than-usual
presence in this year’s regional), but that probably has more
to do with the gallery’s space restrictions than anything
the photographs, paintings, installations and mixed-media
pieces in the show are works by at least nine current or recent
MFA or BFA candidates at the University at Albany, along with
a few—well, let’s call them “outsiders.” This may be an unrepresentative
mix, but it underscores the degree to which that program has
fed artists to the local scene over the decades.
Given that this group is mostly pretty wet behind the ears,
I’m not going to scorch the earth in this review: They’ll
have plenty of time to get savaged by the critics in the future
if they persist in this pursuit. Instead, I’ll tell you what
I liked and why.
Seana Biondolillo must be a favorite of the curator, as she
currently has a nice display of her constructions in the ACG’s
glass cases on the first floor of the Albany Public Library;
her single contribution to this show has the same arte povera
style—like a rummage sale come to life. She is definitely
one to watch.
Photographers Joe Putrock (a Metroland freelance photographer)
and Mary Spinelli each present small but coherent bodies of
work, Putrock’s in color, Spinelli’s in sweetly low-key black-and-white.
Putrock’s deadpan style owes a lot to 1970s pioneers of the
color medium like Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, and
they are equally as affecting and ennui-filled. The affection
with which he sees a sun-kissed can of obsolete film-splicing
glue, and the sadness that pervades his candy-colored view
of an abandoned carnival midway on a rainy day show Putrock
in full command of his medium.
Spinelli’s three images of lonely bulldozers—one lost in the
woods, one waiting by a storm-tossed field of corn, and one
festooned with Christmas lights—have all the hallmarks of
photography at its best: compassion, clear-seeing and a subtle
sense of the absurd. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more from
these two talents in the future.
Another photographer of note is Michael P. Farrell, whose
totem of three digital color prints is distinguished by what
is probably the best title of an artwork this year: Staring
out a Window with a Beer in my Hand Contemplating the Supremes.
Among the painters, Matt Tiernan, Nicholas Pella and Brian
Cirmo stand out. Cirmo is the only young painter I’ve seen
who has imitated late Philip Guston. The creepy, haunted,
cartoonish qualities are all there in these three skillfully
made but almost impossibly weird paintings.
Pella plays a lot with crackle, achieving complex textural
effects that he then adds to by layering highly detailed,
contrasty, graphic images on top. Mostly, he is teasing the
eye with color and pattern, but his work has an original look
that can hold the viewer’s attention.
Tiernan’s five abstract paintings in the show range from about
8 by 11 inches to about 3 by 5 feet. A triptych of small verticals
is, oddly, interrupted by another slightly larger piece—but
I liked the relationship this blasphemy created. The bigger
painting (untitled) has undulating ribbons of intense color
that swirl up out of darkness. Is it microscopic? Outer space?
Maybe, but it turns out that Tiernan is inspired by music—his
work is a successful attempt to capture sound in paint.
Justin Baker (one of two artists in this show also represented
in the regional—the other is Carrie Will) has two photos and
an installation on view. The latter is quirky and full of
intrigue. Titled Seedlings (Troy, New York), it is
a collection of 20 little twists of twigs and manmade stuff
laid out on a plain white pedestal; the subtle gestures and
colors of these natural/unnatural hybrids show a fascinating,
unique mind at work.
The two Martinezes have included themselves in the show. Jason’s
three small graphics on thick wooden panels use clip-art silhouettes
and a narrow palette of colors in gel medium to create miniature
dramas. Sarah’s installation of 38 handmade paper and wax
cups also features graphic elements, more as pattern than
image, and an obsessively gridded configuration. Both make
you want to see more so as to better understand these two
peripheral vision this week