recent explosion of fine-arts activity in the Capital Region
continued unabated in 2005. Even taking a hiatus from writing
for the last two months, I was able to review more than 40
exhibitions, and that still meant being very selective. Highlights
of the year’s events abound:
New and active venues popped up in places as off the beaten
track as Johnstown and Schuylerville, while the established
ones kept upping the ante. Underground artists went legitimate,
as proven by late summer’s Institute Show and a one-week
takeover of Firlefanz Gallery by the Street Sweepers. Blockbusters
included George Inness, Jacques-Louis David and Winslow Homer
at the Clark; Frederic Edwin Church at the Fenimore; Lake
George painters and Adolph Gottlieb at the Hyde; pop and post-pop
artists at the State Museum; Auguste Rodin at the Albany Institute;
and Richard Pettibone at the Tang.
Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery closed to make way for
a multimillion-dollar upgrade that will finally do justice
to its world-class collection. Ivan Karp of Soho’s OK Harris
Gallery chose 70 artists for inclusion in the Mohawk-Hudson
Regional. And, in Schenectady, the tech-oriented Cyclics Corp.
mounted its fourth and largest-ever annual exhibition of regional
The Photography Re gional, having returned to the Albany Center
Galleries for the first time in a number of years, lived up
to its controversial history by raising hackles over male
nudity and spawning a “salon des refusés” that the juror,
Anthony Bannon, praised at the opening. And Exposed, the region’s
first-ever gallery of art photography, opened in Delmar.
But not all the news was good, particularly the recent announcement
that the owners of Firlefanz have determined to close it after
a critically acclaimed three-year run. Alas, this is too often
the fate of private galleries that attempt to navigate the
treacherous waters of the upstate art market. Collectors—are
you out there? If so, I hope to see serious evidence of that
1. A Very Liquid Heaven
Teachiing Museum and Art Gallery
Brilliant concept. Awesome artists (and scientists). Flawless
execution. Need I say more?
2. Adolph Gottlieb 1956
Comprising most of this seminal artist’s output from one key
year, this exhibition sparkled with a freshness that showed
how the abstract expressionists rewrote art history and moved
the center of activity from Paris to New York. Kudos to curator
Erin Budis Coe.
3. Treasures From Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church
Aptly named, this trove from the private collection of the
dean of American painters was brought out from the darkness
of his mansion and into the light of a modern gallery. Simply
4. New York School: Another View
The culmination of a long-held dream for Opalka director Jim
Richard Wilson, this brilliant exhibition brought to light
some of the most overlooked but worthy painters of their time,
righting a wrong and honoring Wilson’s vision. Worth the wait.
5. Michael Oatman: A Lifetime of Service and a Mile of
Teaching Museum and Art Gallery
Another home run for the Tang. More than local boy makes good,
this was a tour de force of creativity, intelligence and just
plain hard work by a unique artist who deserves (and seems
to be earning) an international reputation.
6. Recent Prints and Sculpture by Allen Grindle
A rare solo by one of the area’s best-kept secrets, this collection
mostly of woodcuts combined graphic simplicity with potent
ideas and consummate craftsmanship. It even sold well!
7. Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony
Institute of History and Art
Absolutely stuffed with furniture, paintings, ceramics, drawings,
prints and photographs, this show celebrated and brought back
to life a far more innocent and optimistic time in American
art and cultural history. But the history lesson remained
secondary to the gorgeously crafted work.
8. Extra-Ordinary: The Everyday Object in American Art
York State Museum
Marvelous works from Man Ray to Andy Warhol to Fred Tomaselli,
courtesy of the vast holdings of the Whitney Museum and Bank
of America’s Great Art Series at the museum. The show lived
up to its name and then some.
9. Carrie Mae Weems: The Louisiana Project
Another home run for the Hyde. This primarily photographic
installation by one of the best American artists around had
a keen intelligence, biting satire and historical perspective,
all without losing a sense of humor. Weems walks a tightrope
10. Becoming Animal: Contemporary Art in the Animal Kingdom
Cracked concept. Some great artists—and some not so great.
Imperfect execution. But still well worth noting for its scope
and sense of wonder.
peripheral vision this week-