Looking back on the highlights of 2017 at regional galleries and museums:
‘Well-Dressed in Victorian Albany’ at the Albany Institute of History & Art
The Institute outdid itself in both of its namesake categories with this exhibition. It’s well-known that the Institute has a phenomenal costume collection, but it’s rare that the public is privy to its treasures. Forty-five dresses from the Victorian-era, ranging from decadent ball gowns and suits to wedding dresses are on the catwalks of the Institute.
Curator Diane Shewchuk wanted to show that it might not have been crowned the fashion capital of the world, but Albany had plenty of sartorial sensibility during the 1800s. Many of the dresses, owned and worn mostly by the upper class, were designed in New York City and Paris and shipped to Albany. Each garment has an interesting story, matched only by the stories of the previous owner, which are told within the exhibit’s label copy.
The exhibit will be up until Feb. 19.
‘When We Were Young’ at the University Art Museum, UAlbany
It sounds like a retrospective, but it’s more like a shmorgishborg of abstract art. For the University Art Museum at the University of Albany’s 50th-anniversary show, the exhibition brought viewers from modern abstract art in the late 1960s all the way through modern art today.
Works by Ellsworth Kelly, Chryssa, Donald Judd, Josef Albers and others give a peek into the vast collection of the Museum. “When We Were Young” also provided an opportunity to show works that have rarely if ever, have been shown.
‘Season’s Greetings: The Holidays Illustrated’ at The Norman Rockwell Museum
No other artist quite captures a classic New England Christmas quite like Norman Rockwell. With “Season’s Greetings,” his Christmas cheer (and humor) is on full display along with several other Golden Age illustrators who captured own sort of holiday scenes. Some of those included J. C. Leyendecker’s Baby New Year covers for the “Saturday Evening Post.”
The exhibition also gives a glimpse into the Rockwell family, with some of Rockwell’s family Christmas cards (which he illustrated) and even a few calendar pages with New Years messages to those who worked in his studio. The exhibit runs until Feb. 4
‘Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi’ at The Norman Rockwell Museum
Fairies, dragons, sprites and mogoraths don’t often take up residence in the Norman Rockwell Museum. But they burrowed in with this year.
The fantastical exhibition is a retrospective look at DiTerlizzi’s prolific career as an illustrator, an author, and world builder. It includes illustrations from “Spiderwick Chronicles,” “Spider and the Fly,” “Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-this-World Moon Pie Adventure,” “Kenny and the Dragon” and many others.
It took an at times humbling look at how far DiTerlizzi has come, from creating otherworldly drawings in grade school to his work for the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons to his illustrations for his children’s book series.
‘A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America’ at The Hyde Collection
Some forms of art ask viewers to think. Folk art begs to be felt. At least that’s how collector Barbara L. Gordon sees it. Over the past few decades, she’s collected and carefully curated what is now “A Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America.”
The expansive exhibition includes works like “The Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity,” which is attributed to Edward Hicks and “James Mairs Salisbury,” which is attributed to Ammi Phillips. But there are also sculptures, trunks, and drawings which shed a light on the vibrant folk art style, in a time before the rise of the trained artist.
Opening of Building 6 at MASS MoCA
On May 28, when MASS MoCA opened Building 6, the museum nearly doubled in size, leapfrogging from 120,000 square feet of art space to 250,000.
North Adams is now home to the largest contemporary art museum in America. If you put on a Fitbit and walk to every gallery, you will log four miles.
It sounds overwhelming but it’s not. Buildings, walkways and courtyards are connected and loop around. The summer visitor’s guide offers maps for each of the six buildings, the outdoor artworks and downtown North Adams.
Picasso and Helen Frankenthaler exhibits at the Clark
This summer, the main attraction [was] “Picasso: Encounters,” an exhibit the Wall Street Journal [said] is “a splendid sampler of the range of Picasso’s genius as a printmaker.”
The 35 Picassos, including his seminal “Self-Portrait” from his Blue Period, were seen on the main floor of the Clark Center.
“As in Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings” [was on] exhibit at the Lunder Center at Stone Hill, the Clark’s mountain-view gallery for contemporary art
Mohawk Hudson Regional at Albany Institute
At the Albany Institute of History & Art, you [could] get lost in the woods.
On the second floor, where the Mohawk Hudson Regional currently dwells, one large section of the annual juried exhibit [was] 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 [was] been placed in front of it so one [could] meditate or perhaps imagine walking into the space.
On other walls, three large charcoal-on-mylar scenes of birches and ferns by George Dirolf [hung] 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.
Feibes-Schmitt Gallery and exhibit at the Hyde
“To distribute material possessions is to divide them. To distribute spiritual possessions is to multiply them.”
When Erin Coe, director of The Hyde Collection, asked Schenectady architect Werner Feibes to describe why he was donating his $10 million collection of artwork to the Glens Falls museum, he sent her only that quote from artist Josef Albers.
To Feibes and his lifelong partner, the late James Schmitt, the 100 artworks that were entrusted to the Hyde were “spiritual possessions,” says Coe.
The Hyde [unveiled] the new Feibes & Schmitt Gallery, a 1,500 square-foot space devoted to modern and contemporary art. The two men knew that the Hyde, unlike a larger museum, would regularly exhibit the prints, paintings, drawings and sculptures, sharing them with the public and “multiplying” their reach.
Over six decades, Feibes and Schmitt, residents of Schenectady’s Stockade District, amassed one of the most significant collections of modern art in our region.
Walking the Steel at Iroquois Indian Museum
The next time you’re in Manhattan, a place where skyscrapers poke at the clouds, look up and think about this:
The men who built those giants were perched hundreds of feet above the ground and walked on girders less than 12 inches wide.
The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, the Time Warner Building. Haudenosaunee ironworkers from the Six Nations of the Iroquois, most of them Mohawks, raised and riveted the beams of New York’s iconic buildings.
From 1968 to 1972, the World Trade Center was built by 500 men, 200 of whom were Mohawks.
At the Iroquois Indian Museum, an exhibit, “Walking the Steel: From Girder to Ground Zero,” honored the Native Americans who proudly chose jobs in structural ironworking, one of the most dangerous occupations in construction.
Best of 2017: The full list
- Classical music/dance
- SPAC president reflects on 2017, looks ahead to 2018