This summer, at the Albany Institute of History & Art, you can get lost in the woods.
On the second floor, where the Mohawk Hudson Regional currently dwells, one large section of the annual juried exhibit is an ode to Mother Nature.
It took artist Richard Barlow four days to create the 27-foot-long, site-specific, chalk-on-blackboard mural of a forest trail, and a bench has been placed in front of it so one can meditate or perhaps imagine walking into the space.
On other walls, three large charcoal-on-mylar scenes of birches and ferns by George Dirolf hang side-by-side like a sacred Druidian triptych; and Dave Waite’s photographs expose the curious bare roots of massive tree stumps that grip the edge of a river.
Eleven of the 20 artworks in this space depict trees, but you’ll also see ethereal and evocative paintings of clouds by Jane Bloodgood-Abrams and Emily Dorr’s watercolor-and-ink images of animals in somewhat surreal situations.
Jack Shear, this year’s juror, has put together an unusual Regional.
With 87 works by 32 artists, this exhibit is nearly half the size of other Regionals at the Institute. Apparently, the idea is to show more than one work by each artist. By comparison, there were 142 works by 75 artists the Institute’s 2014 Regional; in 2011, it was 163 by 85.
Unlike other Regionals, the work is clearly divided by a medium or a theme: sculpture, photography, abstract, painting and the aforementioned “nature room.”
It’s sophisticated, uncluttered and noticeably quiet.
At nearly all Regionals, whether they are here, at The Hyde Collection or University Art Museum, we hear sounds from video works or installations with moving parts.
Shear, president of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, apparently decided not to select video from the 600 submissions by 268 artists.
A photographer, curator and collector of Tibetan Buddhist paintings and 1930s Danish furniture, Shear proposed that this Regional include a quick look back at its 81-year history.
Just beyond the main doors, we see 23 artworks that appeared in past Regionals and were purchased by the Institute. You’ll recognize works by Harry Orlyk, Sharon Bates, David Austin, Martin Benjamin and many others. The oldest are paintings from the 1940s.
In the space Shear designated for sculpture, Janet Cooper shows us her colorful totems. Made of wire covered with patchworks of found fabric, they rise from the center of the floor.
Jake Fallat, a Schenectady artist, tricks the eye with three small forms that appear soft and malleable, like mounds of sherbet, in playful colors of cranberry, blueberry and bubblegum.
Read the label and look again. These sculptures are made of cast aluminum.
Paul Mauren’s three sculptures are muscular conglomerates of wood, aluminum, glass and plastic pieces that thrust forward from the wall at eye level. Spiky, like crystals, they would seem dangerous if they weren’t so impossibly balanced and harmonious.
We find works by Mandi Coburn of Rotterdam; Vermont sculptor Kerry O. Fulani and Paul Sattler of Saratoga Springs in another section where color and narrative dominate.
Coburn’s ink and Sharpie images are watery and amoebic, with forms that are somewhat biological but also Dr. Seuss-like.
“Pegasus,” a small limestone sculpture by Fulani named for the winged stallion of Greek myth, is powerful in its pure simplicity as her carving elevates the heavy material.
Sattler’s three large oil paintings, lush and dreamy, each tell a story, as the titles indicate.
“Letters to Cross” depicts a scene in which the French artist Henri Edmond Cross, on the porch of a stately home, reads a letter from the artist Matisse.
That painting inspired this writer to read more about the life of Matisse.
2017 Exhibition by Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region
WHERE: Albany Institute of History & Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany
WHEN: Through Sept. 3. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., Fri. and Sat.; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thur.; 12-5 p.m. Sun.
HOW MUCH: $10, $8 for seniors and students, $6 for children 6 to 12. Free for younger children and active military and their families. Admission is free from 5-8 p.m. every Thursday and from 5 to 8 p.m. on July 7, Aug. 4 and Sept. 1, as part of Albany’s 1st Fridays
RELATED EVENTS: Artist’s Talks: 6-7:30 p.m. July 7, Aug. 4 and Sept. 1
MORE INFO: www.albanyinstitute.org, 463-4478, Facebook
Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase Awards: Tatiana Klacsmann, “Raptor and Automata” and Victoria Palermo, “Reds” and “Prop Up”
The Hyde Collection Purchase Award: Niki Haynes, “To What End.”
University Art Museum Purchase Awards: Jake Fallat, “1997568-H1” and “1997568-H2”; Katria Foster, “Domestic Affair 5” and “Domestic Affair 6”; Marilee Sousie, “Sousie 3.”
This year, the jurors’ awards honored the artist instead of individual artworks.
Juror’s awards: Tatiana Klacsmann, Richard Barlow, Tatana Kellner, Niki Haynes, Dave Waite, Mame Kennedy, Janet Cooper, George Dirolf, Katria Foster, Jake Fallat, Victoria Palermo, Allen Bryan, Marilee Sousie, Theresa Swidorski, Peter Crabtree, Tom Santelli, Susan Berger
A different perspective
The wings of an angel, the cap of a peasant girl, the bare shoulders of female nude, a twirl of hair on a woman’s head.
At the Albany Institute of History & Art, the 19th-century figures by Erastus Dow Palmer have been turned around so that we look at the backs of their heads and bodies.
Jack Shear, juror for the 2017 Mohawk Hudson Regional, asked the Albany Institute to change the positions of the sculptures. The idea is that sculpture is meant to be viewed from all angles but often isn’t.
On the second floor, adjacent to the Regional exhibit, five figures, including “Angel at the Sepulcher” are turned around. Climb the marble staircase to the third floor, and you’ll see bronze busts with their faces averted, as if they were snubbing the visitor.
“Back: A Re-Installation of 19th-Century Sculpture by Jack Shear” runs through Sept. 3.