Teaching Gallery, Hudson Valley Community College, through
sites, Hudson Valley Community College, through April 30
and engineering: study for Amphibia by MateriaLab.
a tribute to the 50th ann-iversary of Hudson Valley Community
College, the school’s administration made an unusual commitment
to support a nine-artist installation called Open(ed) Spaces.
The project placed 10 works of art at sites around campus,
indoors and out, beginning this fall and continuing to next
In conjunction with Open(ed) Spaces, a four-part series
of exhibitions highlighting the artists included in Open(ed)
Spaces was planned for the college’s Teaching Gallery,
located in the Marvin Library. Open(ed) Processes 3,
featuring the work of Anna Dyson and Karen Mirza, is the current
installment in that series.
Gallery director Tara Fracalossi conceived and organized the
Open(ed) Spaces and Open(ed) Processes initiative.
She carefully explains in an essay accompanying the installations
that there is a difference between work that is site-specific
and work that is merely site-related: The former exists for
the site chosen and, once removed, is in effect destroyed;
the latter takes existing work and places it in a carefully
chosen setting—a “site-sensitive” application.
Looked at as a whole, the college campus is in itself a site
both fertile and challenging in which to install contemporary
art. One could fairly assume that the educational community
provides a ready and eager audience for the work—but it also
provides a relatively sterile environment of institutional
architecture and parking-lot-pocked grounds, far less conducive
to siting than, say, a natural setting like the Storm King
art park near Poughkeepsie.
This challenge was met head-on by the artists involved. Sculptors
Chris Duncan, Jeanne Flanagan and Paul Mauren chose outdoor
locations; painters James Cullinane and Christa Donner found
conducive indoor locations, as did sculptor Edward Mayer and
media artist Karen Mirza; and Anna Dyson and Thomas Lail took
advantage of the relationship across boundaries by siting
their works in connection to glass walls dividing inside from
All succeed to varying degrees by engaging the viewer in an
exchange with the space around the artwork. Cullinane’s mosaic-like
painting on metal tags is so accurately suited to the long,
overhead, horizontal space it fills that he has donated the
piece to HVCC so it can stay there forever. Drawn from a historical
source in the form of an instructional fitness manual out
of the Spanish Fascist era, Cullinane’s witty, open-ended
Jumpswitch-frieze is right at home conceptually as
well, placed as it is in a media-intensive research room in
Across the cubicles from Jumpswitch-frieze is Lail’s
Pane Interrupt for Silent Fringes, a very large-scale
painting on the study center’s windows with metal and plywood
construction in the exterior space beyond them. Based on architectural
floor plans for the library, Lail’s piece stretches and distorts
them almost beyond recognition, and then translates them into
three dimensions in a manner not intended by the designers.
His intention seems to be to engage the viewer’s attention
as to the building, its materials and spaces, and most of
all to the forgotten space outside.
Edward Mayer, a professor at the University at Albany, has
also created a piece that interacts with architecture, in
this case with a rather fetching steel-and-glass construction
called the Gunther Enrollment Services Center. A poet of modest
materials, Mayer creates a dialogue between rolled tubular
mesh-steel towers and the fabricated steel columns that support
the building. His feather-light imitations of the bearing
units form overlays of pattern that tease the eye, and rise
up toward—but do not meet—the gracefully sloping ceiling of
their atrium setting.
For logistical reasons involving enrollment, Mayer’s piece
is scheduled to be removed soon—possibly as of this writing—but
he will be re-represented in the last of the Open(ed) Processes
exhibitions when it goes up on Jan. 29.
Donner and Dyson have sited their works in the same building
as Mayer. A professor of architecture at RPI, Dyson, working
within a collaborative known as Materialab, skirts the boundaries
between art and engineering with her piece, Amphibia.
Mounted inside a Lucite box along a stairwell window, Amphibia
is an accordion-folded piece of colorless plastic about 3
feet square; eventually it will be released from its box and
expanded to occupy greater and greater portions of the stairwell.
In a statement, Dyson explains that the piece “is part of
a series of experimental investigations into notions of a
flexible sustainability that is responsive to the increasingly
nomadic and fleeting aspects of contemporary life.” By this
I think she means to be exploring the concept of portable,
expandable shelter, as with a tent, but employing modern materials
and design. The part of the gallery show currently featuring
Materialab’s project helps in this understanding by presenting
computer drawings and diagrams as well as photographs of the
piece in various configurations, with and without human figures.
It is both conceptual and material, lofty and basic.
Donner has taken advantage of a pair of walls intersecting
at an oblique angle to paint a mural that compares and contrasts
the role of education in forming careers for women, specifically
in science. A very deft master of comic-book style, Donner
uses bright colors and simplified detail to tell a story anyone
could understand—much like fresco painters in the Middle Ages
who communicated in this way with the illiterate masses—and
she shows how long a way career women have come in the 50-year
history of HVCC.
Mirza’s installation of three overlapping cycles of projected
images takes up a neglected piece of hallway near the college’s
photography labs. It is a complex and elegant meditation on
light and the act of seeing. Her two still images in the gallery
are exquisite in their sharpness and simplicity; she also
presents excerpts from numerous short films by means of a
video setup in the gallery.
The remaining three artists, Mauren, Flanagan and Duncan all
present sited outdoor sculptures. Mauren’s 1999 piece titled
22 Links is a re-creation in concrete of a section
of enormous anchor chain from the Queen Mary. Its understated,
mute presence attests to the enormity of that vessel. Duncan’s
two pieces, Rooster and Eastern Shore were included
in a recent solo exhibition at Union College (where he teaches)
that was reviewed in this space. They are first-rate small
monuments that shine in the setting he chose, among trees
that mirror the sculptures’ colors and textures. Flanagan’s
site-specific slate piece, Oozula, was also written
about in this space during a recent two-person show in Albany
that featured photographs of it. Lying close to the ground,
last week it was nearly covered with snow, but slowly emerging—inevitably
to be covered again and re-emerge as winter waxes and wanes.
It occupies a grassy slope that, come spring, will surely
be very inviting.
Altogether, Open(ed) Spaces is an ambitious, impressive
project for little HVCC to have taken on. The region’s other
more lavishly funded liberal-arts institutions should take
note and be inspired.