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Satire in miniature: detail from Roger Bisbing's Lecture.

Points of Departure


By Nadine Wasserman

2007 Mohawk Hudson Regional Juried Exhibition

Albany International Airport Gallery, through Sept. 30

Regional juried exhibitions are rarely visually or thematically coherent, because the only unifying thread is that the artists happen to live in the area. Also, it’s no simple task for a juror to look at slides submitted by 191 artists and create a cohesive show. Despite these challenges, this year’s exhibition, juried by Leah Douglas, has no unifying theme—but it is well-balanced in styles and mediums, and installed with some nice complements. Overall, the exhibition is enhanced by the space and no doubt by Douglas’s experience as founding director and curator of the Philadelphia Airport’s exhibitions program. She clearly understands the way airport galleries function, and her choices work well in the gallery.

When entering the exhibition either by the stairway or from the elevator, visitors will first encounter Soft Chandelier by Ginger Ertz. This piece is a site-specific installation that was commissioned by the Albany International Airport and will remain on display for one year. Made of pipe cleaners wrapped around a steel armature, the chandelier, with its baroque sensibility, is all warm and fuzzy. It presents a clever twist on the usual ostentation of crystal chandeliers, and is a sort of layman’s version of a Petah Coyne piece. Its cheerful quality sets the tone for several other lighthearted moments throughout the exhibition. Around the corner is a photograph by Ford Bailey called Troy, NY that depicts a toy robot dwarfed by the pink walls that surround it. Roger Bisbing’s Lecture re-creates an institutional room in miniature, complete with uncomfortable folding chairs and bland institutional floors and furnishings.

Richard Garrison’s Lot Walking (July 17, 2005—January 17, 2006) charts small daily journeys such as to the store, library, and doctor’s office, and represents each as a different colored line that emerges from a single point. Martin Benjamin’s print titled A Fascinating Money-Making Art Career Can Be Yours depicts an enlarged vintage matchbook with the above advertisement along with the additional enticement that “America’s twelve most famous artists show you how.” Torrance Fish’s Purge is like an updated version of Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of its Own Making. In Fish’s piece, the box is a fairly large crate used to ship artwork. A monitor is mounted above the piece on which the viewer can watch a video of the artist making the crate. The surprise at the end is humorous, but the work would have been just as effective without it.

Two other artists use humor to reveal themes that are ultimately more serious. Doretta Miller’s gouaches make reference to the rapid globalization that is changing the face of so many countries around the world, in this case China. In Rules of the Road: Tian’anmen Square, a small boy stands behind a velvet rope in front of the Forbidden City, his image framed by road signs and cars overlaid on a typically Asian pattern; car culture in China is growing at a rapid pace with detrimental consequences to both the Chinese landscape and the environment. Fast Food: Beijing makes a similar comment on how American fast food is growing in popularity and replacing indigenous cuisine. Gina Occhiogrosso’s Cinderella (revised) digitally manipulates the Disney version of the story. In this new one, the protagonist rejects the proscribed romantic version of “happily ever after” because it isn’t all that it seems to be.

Other works in the show run the gamut from realism to abstraction, and it seems no Mohawk-Hudson regional would be complete without a painter in the tradition of the Hudson River School. The representative in this show is Jane Bloodgood-Abrams’s Four States of Being, a small contemplation on Hudson Valley skies in a distinctively ornate frame.

While several painters in the show are more traditional, Laura Moriarty uses encaustic as if it was a sculptural medium. Her nothing big but the difference juts out from the wall like a coral outcropping. Not too far from this piece is Deborah Zlotsky’s Untitled, a painting of organic looking shapes in fleshy tones. Whereas Moriarty explores more geologic forms, Zlotsky’s abstractions are more human and organlike. There are other works dealing with the human body, but more compelling are those that contemplate human thought and action. In Studio Diary: Jan-October 1995, Peter Taylor obsessively marks time spent in the studio using dots and dashes of oil paint and ink on paper. While Taylor’s work looks inward, Michael Oatman’s Ventriloquist contemplates human desires to reach out into the cosmos. In this piece, Oatman uses audio from the Voyager Golden Record. Produced by Dr. Carl Sagan in 1977 and placed on the two Voyager spacecraft in an attempt to communicate with alien life forms, the record contains sounds that are intended to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

Just as no record can capture all of life on Earth, no juried exhibition can capture everything happening in the region. However, as one of the longest running regional exhibitions in the country, the Mohawk Hudson Regional is a great way to catch up on what some area artists have been up to.


-no peripheral vision this week-


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