cap: This looks familiar: Margaret Crenson’s Broadway,
Haddad Gallery, through Oct. 24
Try to remember (or imagine) Hudson 12 years ago, when Carrie
Haddad first opened her art gallery there in a near-cultural
desert. Then take a look at Hudson today, crammed with creative
and commercial enterprises (as exemplified by the just-ended
10-day ArtsWalk 2004 that presented 180 artists at 120 sites),
and you realize how far Hudson—and Haddad—have come.
And yet, the current exhibition at Carrie Haddad, somewhere
around the 10th annual installment in a series titled Painted
Cities, is a bomb.
Of the eight artists in the show, several seem to have real
merit—it’s conceivable that a better selection of work by
just two or three of them would have been a stronger exhibition—but
they have been subsumed into the sloshy theme of the whole.
And then there are the artists here who—how to put it delicately?—well,
But don’t blame the artists, blame the curator. As much as
it is an artist’s job to be rigorous, thoughtful, passionate,
critical and visionary, a curator must also exercise these
ruthless criteria or the show will fail. As in fail to inspire,
fail to communicate, fail the artists and just plain fail
to hold up.
There are a few highlights: Arthur Hammer’s paintings recall
the best of the Ashcan school, especially his Newtown Creek
1996, which is given pride of place in the gallery’s large
front room; Bill Artim’s American Street 2002 evokes
Hopper with its atmospheric twilight view of a sloping streetscape
pastel-colored pre-war houses; and Margaret Crensen, though
most of her work is barely pedestrian, manages a few pieces
that speak strongly, including Snowy Day, Kingston 2004
and Do Not Enter, Chatham.
After that, the pickings get slim. Paul Chojnowski, the only
person in the show not actually painting, presents burnt-paper
images of big-city avenues and lights that fairly closely
resemble sepia-toned photographs (apparently he draws from
photos with water on thick paper, then torches the dry parts).
They’re well-done and sort of interesting, but not enough
to transcend the gimmick.
James Gurney can paint—that’s readily apparent in his photo-realistic
and/or pre-impressionistic views—but the facile preciousness
of his subjects and style, combined with his really pricey-looking,
wide gold-leaf frames, make the paintings feel like nothing
more than commodities in a world hungry for antiques.
Tina Sotis has a certain style, in which lone figures wander
among sterile buildings (and, in one case, a red hot-air balloon
descends), that would have the power of a De Chirico if it
were any good. Instead, her panels look like illustrations
for Psychology Today. Dan Rupe also has a distinctive
style, one that seems to borrow its colors from the ’80s Southwestern
art boom, being garish almost to the point of day-glo, and
completely unselfconscious, funky fun—as well as totally forgettable.
Finally, Seth Nadel, who has the largest group of pictures
on view and whose work was also featured on the invitation,
presents a bunch of paintings that remind me exactly of tourist
art from Europe. Hastily but somewhat skillfully painted,
offering slight variations on the tired theme of speeding
taxis and flashing billboards in New York City (along with
a few local subjects), and framed in rather cheap-looking
gold frames, they represent everything that is wrong with
a show that is more about sales than art.
Ironically, though the show is clearly intended to produce
sales (in a groan-inducing coup de grace there are paintings
by four different artists of the same stainless-steel diner,
apparently a Hudson landmark—and so far most of them are sold),
there aren’t three things in the whole place I’d want to take
Meanwhile, upstairs in the photography gallery is a series
of prints unrelated to Painted Cities by New Paltz
grad and adjunct professor Joan Barker. Barker’s digital prints
on watercolor paper from 35mm black-and-white negatives are
elegant and refined visions created by capturing blur through
Mostly 24-by-34 inches, with a few just 12-by-18 inches, these
sweeping, swooping, jiggly images transform the subject (mainly
landscapes) into a misty, gray, dreamlike place. Those that
work, such as Walking West, Montauk NY 2001, retain
a compelling sense of mystery that draws you in. Those that
don’t, such as Dunes, Montauk NY 2001, just go flat
The one titled Seagull, Montauk NY 2001 goes the furthest,
by magically taking away the titular bird’s identity and replacing
it with that of a graceful modern dancer. It is a beautiful,
memorable and original photograph.
Peter Hoffman: Sculpture
Gallery, through Oct. 11
Though it ended Monday, this is a show that shouldn’t
be let to pass without comment.
Susan Hoffman is a painter whose medium just happens
to be fabric, though she also fully exploits the
possibilities of piecing and quilting. Ranging
in size from about 2-feet-square to queen bedspread,
these wall-hung masterpieces of color and texture
sustain repeated and lengthy viewing. From the
complex color juxtapositions to the sometimes
counterintuitive quilted patterns, Hoffman extends
her medium—and our joy.
Peter Hoffman is Susan’s brother, and an outstanding
artist in his own right (makes you wonder about
their parents). His low-relief painted wooden
constructions are witty, elegant and just plain
beautiful. If you think such things are created
by randomly throwing stuff together, looking at
these should convince you of how very sophisticated
the process actually is. Hoffman’s color and design
senses are classic and refreshing in equal amounts.
Yet another first-rate job of curating by A.D.D.’s
director, Jefferson Snider.