rich inner life: part of Bruce Stiglich’s installation.
By David Brickman
Longley and Bruce Stiglich
Kremp: Landscapes and Other Visions
Arts Center of the Capital Region, through May 25
Layers of memory, personalized references, obsessions, linguistic
tics and the twin beauties of pure paint and markmaking: These
are some of the things that tie together the work of Robert
Longley and Bruce Stiglich, now showing in side-by-side exhibitions
at the Arts Center of the Capital Region.
But, despite such important similarities, these two mid-career
painters have produced bodies of work that reveal stark contrasts
as well—a testament to the wisdom of this particular pairing.
The show is presented in the Arts Center’s Troy Savings Bank
Gallery, originally designed as a gift shop with sidewalk-friendly
walls of glass, and hence my favorite space in the building.
Stiglich’s full-room installation takes full advantage of
the exposure, placing a glorious jumble of paintings on wood
or canvas against one wall and a curious constellation of
unframed works on circular paper on a second wall, which has
been tinted a deep indigo for the occasion.
Two small digital photos of Stiglich’s home studio reveal
a degree of eclectic clutter that makes clear to what extent
this arrangement represents the triumph of order over chaos;
equally, his titles read as a sort of personalized inventory
system, extending the impression of an artist interested in
closely examining just about everything he experiences.
As a case in point, take a pair titled Lk.Cls.Up and
LK.UP.CLs, both from 2002. The first reproduces on a plank
of found wood a small Polaroid photograph in same-size detail.
The second, a slightly larger canvas, re-creates the other
image, including the natural details of the wooden board and
the random paint marks on it. The image in the Polaroid includes
part of an eye seen through a magnifying glass, doing what
the title suggests.
All the other paintings in this section of the show, subtitled
Boxes, are of such Polaroids, either reproduced same-size
on various planks and blocks of wood or enlarged onto canvas.
In the case of all the enlarged images, they have counterparts
in the smaller set—but there are many more of the smaller
In those, there is a great deal of variety, both in subject
matter and approach. While all include the characteristic
white rectangle that surrounds this type of camera image,
some crop to the edge of the white border while some leave
great areas of space around it; others are presented in pairs
like a diptych; several wrap the image right around the block
The content ranges from close-ups of found or collected objects
to glittering landscapes captured from porch or window views.
The quirky titles, usually rendered in a shorthand like those
mentioned above, typically appear as letters handwritten on
the edge of the original photograph and then reproduced in
The effect is unique in my art-viewing experience. Though
Stiglich’s obsessive markmaking habits occasionally overshadow
the rendering of the image, most of the paintings are coherent
enough to be read literally, just as the titles are. However,
Stiglich is not the most skillful of painters, and this deficiency
becomes apparent in some of the larger-scaled pieces.
Still, one comes away from the Boxes with a strong
impression of his actively lived and imagined life and the
beauty that he finds therein.
The circular pieces on the other wall, subtitled Clks.
(Clocks), are less effective. All of them present two
objects drawn or painted on variously white, yellow, gray
or black paper, hanging from paper clips. For me, the self-referential
system they seem to represent is too obscure to lead to any
great revelations, though the overall look of the installation
Longley’s work is also rather obscure, but the force of his
painterly ability overcomes the need to interpret its meaning.
In a separate room next to Stiglich’s, he has presented 11
pieces, all but two of them dated 2003.
By layering images and handwritten text (not always legible),
Longley explores the reliability of memory, whether visual
or linguistic. He employs a technique of cold wax in combination
with oil paint and pencil, sometimes also scratching through
the surface with a pointed tool.
The resulting pieces are more complex than they seem at first.
For example, while they all appear largely monochromatic,
several of the pieces upon close inspection reveal a rich
palette of colors buried in the wax. The images are shadowy,
atmospheric and difficult to discern, but can be read as landscape
or cityscape in several instances.
Ranging in size from about 4 square inches to 3 feet by 6
feet, Longley’s paintings nevertheless hold together as a
group due to the consistency of style and technique. All those
produced in 2003 feature titles drawn from the scribbled text
that end in ellipses, such as What Strikes Me as Odd .
. . and I Lie in My . . ., while the other two
are titled simply Hawk and Explode.
Longley explains in his statement that “the pictorial elements
of the paintings are sometimes the stimuli for the text, and
are at other times suggested by the text, but there is not
necessarily a direct connection between the two.” It seems
that he is seeking, through layering and chance, to recapture
the complexity of memories, to simulate the resonance or recognition
we experience when we happen upon the familiar.
So the paintings attain a dreamlike quality that is, in my
opinion, entirely satisfying while remaining comfortably (or
perhaps uncomfortably) nonspecific. They also happen
to be lushly beautiful.
In another installation at the Arts Center, a nearly lost
artist is found. The story behind the life and work of Charles
Kremp is curious and incomplete, but the physical evidence
includes a collection of “outsider” art gathered by folk-arts
curator Mary Zwolinski and presented as Landscapes and
Other Visions in the Knisely-Ayers Gallery.
Kremp’s exhibition reveals a dedicated pictorialist who carefully
rendered landscapes, whether real or imagined, in a style
that grew clear and confident over time. Though unschooled
(he was a farmer in Greenfield Center), Kremp’s work is not
entirely childish, but it retains the freshness of a child’s
vision. I particularly like his color drawings on foam meat
trays, where the depth attained by pressing pen or pencil
slightly into the foam enhances the graphic style of his carefully
Most of the pieces in the show (which probably represents
only a small fraction of his output, the rest presumed lost),
depict parklike scenes of trees and mountains near rivers
and lakes, while a few venture, less successfully, into scenes
involving human or animal activity. The work is charming,
and well worth a look.
It seems the exhibition season is at one of those points where
a number of shows are ending and others are soon to open.
Here are a few shows still on my radar that you may want to
catch while you can:
The Fulton Street Gallery in Troy will end Fire and Ice
on Saturday (March 22), a theme show that includes local and
national artists in a variety of media, including a burned
pile of wire-and-paper houses by Jane Ingram Allen that lives
up to her strong reputation.
The faculty show at the College of Saint Rose Art Gallery
ends on Sunday (March 23), as does Concepts and Contexts
at the North Pointe Gallery in Kinderhook. It features regional
photographers Peter Donahoe, Robert Gullie and Julie McCarthy.
Another local photographer, George W. Simmons, has an outstanding
mini-show of 10 color photographs on view at the Ten Broeck
Mansion. Four other Simmons photographs were accepted into
the just-opened Photography Regional at Sage College’s Opalka
Gallery; all 14 pieces depict Arbor Hill residents in a fresh
and visually sophisticated way.