By Pam Barrett-Fender
Master Series: Marshall Arisman, Images for Everyday Use
College of Saint Rose Art Gallery, through Feb. 11
W hile Marshall Arisman may not be a household name, it is
safe to say that his work holds a place of some significance
in America’s consciousness. For more than 30 years, Arisman’s
illustrations have appeared regularly in (and on the covers
of) such publications as Time, Rolling Stone,
Penthouse, Esquire and The New York Times.
His work has also been published in numerous books and shown
in galleries and museums internationally. Through his distinct
and prolific career, Arisman has proven himself uniquely adept
at showing us the dark side of our civilization. His vivid,
unnerving images pervade our visual culture, accompanying
story after story of grief and tragedy, giving gruesome definition
to humanity’s most egregious capacities.
In his retrospective exhibit at the College of Saint Rose
Art Gallery (part of the School of Visual Arts’ Master
Series), Arisman’s distinctly grim perception hardly misses
a note. The work on view there spans almost 40 years, and
illustrates a broad range of topics including war, terrorism,
suicide, hunger, poverty, drugs, violence, child abuse, abuse
of power, pollution, mutilation, homelessness, cruelty, corruption
and unrest. In the context of published illustrations, we
are able to visit these realities, assimilate them with a
shudder, and turn the page. But a gallery full of these images
has a much greater power: In the collective, they read like
a visual diary of mankind’s ruin.
Arisman’s personal lexicon of imagery includes a nightmarish
quality that suggests a scientific experiment gone terribly
awry, or an ill-conceived marriage of nature and technology.
He combines human characteristics with those of both animals
and machines, creating monstrous hybrids with a distinctive
piercing gaze and tightly rendered eyes. Indeed, these characters
often represent the disastrous effect of misused knowledge,
as in The Last Tribe series, which references the potential
death of our world as the tragic result of nuclear war.
Just inside the gallery door—greeting the viewer like a sinister
host—hangs a painting of New York on Sept. 11, 2001. In this
piece, a ghostly giant, with a characteristically intense
and grievous stare, oversees the eerie (and all-too-familiar)
image of the broken skyline with billowing smoke. Around the
neck of the omniscient figure is a necklace of hanging files,
each bearing a portrait, presumably of the individuals killed
in the destruction. It hovers over the city, pausing perhaps
on its way up, representing our collective loss. The original
painting is presented along with a mounted copy of its publication
in Rolling Stone (tear sheet), a formula employed throughout
the exhibit in service of contexture.
In addition to the paintings and tear sheets, the exhibit
includes ink drawings, collages, digital and monoprints, interspersed
throughout the main gallery space. On the far wall hang three
large-scale (54 by 40 inches) black-and-white monoprints,
from Heaven Departed, one of the artist’s published
books. The apocalyptic compositions of the prints feature
repeated imagery of dark, loosely rendered figures, perched
atop receding lines of telephone poles, a huge amorphous sun
and a masked rider on a horse. Their rough organic forms are
a departure from the smooth blended surfaces characteristic
of the paintings, or the tightly rendered, linear quality
of the ink drawings. Their dark message of impending doom,
though, sits in perfect accord with the tone of much of the
Just around the corner, however, hidden in the back corner
of the room, is the exhibition’s first sign of potential for
redemption. There, behind the freestanding wall dividing the
gallery are six of the artist’s most recent paintings. The
four relatively large paintings of buffalo, and two smaller
paintings of “sacred monkeys,” though not frivolous, offer
a very welcome lightening of spirit. These animals are not
gruesome or dark. In fact, they have a radiant luminosity
that implies divinity, and though there is a consistency with
the other work in their fierce red eyes, in this work it feels
like the intensity of strength, not fear. They have an air
of power and magic that suggests that the artist, in the midst
of all the aforementioned realities, has found hope.
Tomorrow, (Friday, Jan. 30), the artist will present an illustrated
lecture at 7 PM. in the auditorium at St. Joseph Hall. There
will be a reception in the gallery from 5 to 6:30 PM.
2003: Photography of Christopher Morris
Public Library, through Feb.1
nice debut by a young photographer with a good
grasp of the fundamentals, especially in black-and-white.
Morris has put together a coherent body of work
emphasizing texture and composition, arranged
in groupings by subject. A series of close-ups
of junked cars yields the best results and plays
up Morris’ very individual eye. He also has a
penchant for architecture, using strong geometry
to draw in the viewer.
library’s Helderberg Room makes for a quality
public venue, with a professional hanging system,
good lighting and plenty of wall space. It may
be a space to watch, if this show is any indicator.
Massage Therapy Associates, through Feb. 2
is the pseudonym for Michael Sperduto, who has
been exhibiting his art for about eight years,
and who also has performed in a spoken-word context.
These paintings, exhibited under the auspices
of Albany Center Galleries’ Art in Public Spaces
program, reveal an artist with perhaps more energy
than discipline, but with flashes of real brilliance.
His color sense is almost completely over-the-top,
but works well when reined in a bit and tempered
with larger areas of black and/or white, as in
a small piece titled Schoolyard. Many of
the works recall the Fauves and pre-drip Jackson
Pollack; while there is subject matter, it is
usually rendered unrecognizable by McMonkgus’
chaotic brushwork and compositional sense.
to his background in writing, there are words
visible on many of the canvases, and the titles
are near works of art in themselves (The Schizophrenic
Cat Still Chases the Dying Flower and Paranoid
Couch Potato Blues struck my fancy). If you
like to revel completely in color, the carnivalesque
atmosphere of these paintings is for you.
in Bronze and Watercolor by Sister
Loretta Hoag, D.C.
Chapel + Cultural Center at RPI, Through Feb.
her vows make it impossible for Sister Loretta
Hoag to engage in art full time, she has shown
nationally and produces professional-quality work.
This solo exhibition collects mostly figurative
pieces of a modest scale, including framed drawings
and watercolors as well as a number of bronzes.
Some of the drawings have a powerful emotional
sense—one in particular appears to be inspired
by the style of Holocaust artist Kathe Kollwitz—but
others are light and sweet, including several
Though her two-dimensional work is competent,
Hoag really shines when working in cast bronze.
There is a freshness and directness to the bronzes,
despite the indirectness of the casting process;
some of the pieces derive from a collagelike additive
process while others are more stylized and worked
to a high polish. In all cases, Hoag’s sense for
powerful gesture and subtle, sleek form is very
well expressed in these three-dimensional pieces.
Whether harking back to the days of art nouveau
or mirroring more current styles, the work has
a satisfying theatricality while retaining a wide
vein of humanity.