and enigmatic: Weissglass’ Spaceship Picnic (2008).
Haddad Gallery, Hudson, through July 26
An upbeat trend has been no ticeable in several upstate exhibitions
these past few months. The recent MFA show at the University
at Albany felt carnival-esque, the 2009 Mohawk-Hudson regional
(now at UAlbany) is quirky and fun, Out of This World
at the Albany International Airport Gallery is lively and
colorful, and Frolic at the Carrie Haddad Gallery is
playful and animated. Like screwball comedies during the Great
Depression, these exhibitions are distractions from a gloomy
economy. But what at first glance may seem cheerful, doesn’t
always seem so on closer inspection.
is supposed to be a “playful and exuberant” exhibition that
offers “some amusement to keep our spirits up.” However, it
is a misnomer. Rather than offer levity, gaiety, and mirth,
this exhibition renders serious subjects in candy coating.
That is not to say that the exhibition is not sanguine in
appearance. There are funny and spirited pieces on display.
But overall the mood is far from Pollyanna-ish. Amid bright
colors, crafts, and Play-Doh, themes of war, 9/11, and the
The six artists included produce a variety of work, but there
are some compelling intersections among them. In the front
window of the gallery is Fernando Orellana’s Extruder,
which is a machine that spits out little Play-Doh cars that
fall to the floor in a spongy heap. Not only is Extruder
a commentary on the process of making art but it is also a
statement about the impact of cars on the world. For his other
work in the exhibition, Orellana has gathered and organized
his little Play-Doh cars in color coordinated rows and encased
them in clear epoxy. His wall pieces, in varying sizes, resemble
color-field paintings. They are whimsical and textured and
relate to the number of automobiles made by the Ford Motor
Company in 1947, the year Henry Ford died.
Colleen Kiely also uses vehicles as her subject. But while
Orellana uses a reductive and toy-like symbol of a car, Kiely
renders her vehicles in realistic detail. Inspired by her
many hours commuting, Kiely depicts the rear of cars, trucks,
buses, RV’s, and motorcycles from the view of a driver looking
at the road ahead. Kiely lends these machines a more whimsical
tone by drawing them on delicate white-paper doilies. Even
so, they exhibit a melancholy tone. They are always departing,
never arriving, and they leave the viewer with a sense that
time is fragile and fleeting.
Like Kiely, Sally Agee also uses a non-traditional medium
to confront more sober issues. Her hooked rugs deal with current
events, tabloid news, and political and social issues. Her
subjects range from JonBenét Ramsey to O.J. Simpson to HIV
to 9/11. In addition to her textiles, Agee has several small
collages that complement the large abstractions of Vince Pomilio.
Layered and complex, Pomilio’s work is loosely based on landscape
and cityscape, as well as on the destruction of 9/11. His
animated Taghkanic Creek is colorful and chaotic, with
patterns emerging from his various methods of rubbing, sanding,
While Pomilio focuses on his intuitive reactions to the natural
world, Gabe Brown and Jeannie Weissglass both combine the
outer landscape with an inner, dreamlike narrative. Brown’s
abstractions include birds, trees, plants, sunsets, and boats,
but they do not follow any rules regarding perspective and
horizon line. Instead they are flattened planes of multi-colored
swirls, drips, and squiggles.
Similar to Brown, Jeannie Weissglass paints dreamlike landscapes.
However, hers are peopled with enigmatic figures from the
colonial-revolutionary era. Like Brown, her swirling strokes
are multi-colored, layered, and patterned. In many of them
something unusual and ambiguous is taking place. In Solstice
a multi-colored spaceship hovers above a line of figures in
a field. In Mob Scene, two crowds face off under an
angry sky behind a general mounted on horseback. Weissglass’
paintings are nostalgic yet unsettling. They are a perfect
reflection of our current hopefulness coupled with anxiety.
In two paintings she surrounds the image of the White House
with bright laurels and ribbons, but the image is distant
and remote. It is both welcoming and beyond our grasp. It
is just this sort of paradox that runs throughout this exhibition
and makes it at once joyful and glum.
Park: Stan, Sara, & Johannes VanDerBeek
Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, through April 25, 2010
The best university and college museums present exhibitions
that are challenging, thought-provoking, and experimental.
Amazement Park is just that. Tucked into the tiny mezzanine
gallery, this exhibition is a year-long venture that will
change each month. As each new configuration unfolds, the
previous ones will be documented and the photographs displayed
on a long wall. At the end of the year there will be an archive
of each iteration that will then become a document of the
At its core is a dream by the avant-garde filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek
in which he envisioned an ideal exhibition space as a dark
room with “projected images, movies, and stills everywhere.”
In his grand vision, the viewer would experience the space
by flying past the images while suspended by a wire. While
never physically manifested, it is the spirit of his idea
that is embraced here. By presenting his work alongside the
work of his son and daughter, the exhibition demonstrates
their common interests in re-combination, collage, ephemeral
materials, and architectural forms and spaces.
Currently on display is a darkly comedic surrealist film by
Stan VanDerBeek entitled Breathdeath; obscured photographs
by Sara VanDerBeek; and barely perceptible images etched into
pastel and ink on aluminum foil by Johannes VanDerBeek. The
nature of the exhibition encourages repeat visits and reflects
the artists’ mutual interests.