ALBANY – There’s something in the artwork featured at Opalka Gallery that visitors might identify with.
“Unraveling,” the latest exhibition to open at the gallery, features abstract works that explore themes of coming undone and digging deeper.
Visitors are greeted with a sprawling installation with woven and crumbling strips of paper and fabric. Photographs interrupt the woven pattern of some pieces, and there are a few fly swatters dotted throughout it. The work is anchored by a spiderweb-like piece that seems to draw everything else toward it through some strange gravitational pull.
Called “E Pluribus,” (or “out of many”) the piece was created by Joan Grubin, who started working on it in March, during the onset of the pandemic.
“As this work grew, it took on meanings for me: of repair in a fractured time, of constructing dissonant ‘communities’ of visual color that inhabit the same space uneasily, that simultaneously come together and come apart, that unravel even as they strive to connect,” Grubin writes in an artist statement.
Sparse works from Christina Tenaglia are featured next, with everyday materials and objects placed in more of an abstract setting.
Further along in the exhibit, Yura Adams’ work takes things to a more subconscious level. With large-scale abstract works like “Brith of a Heartbeat and I Don’t Know Why,” The piece, made from acrylic and ink on Tyvek, is murky, with dark swirling wood grain-like patterns. The composition is divided by a pale, linear shape that loops at the center of the work.
Not too far away is “Spacewalk,” a more colorful work by Adams featuring deep red wood-grain swirls that fade into light blue and then grey.
“The isolation of the pandemic actually helped me make this work. The studio feels safe, and on lucky days it all comes together and I find respite in the exhilaration of making art,” wrote Adams in her artist statement.
Ruby Palmer’s works, which are juxtaposed with Adams’, are inward-looking, though perhaps they hit an eerier note. In Palmer’s sculpture “House Plans,” pieces of basswood are precariously stacked together, reflecting a sense of uncertainty and unease.
Then, there’s “Dreams of Deep Storage,” a piece featured in the corner of two walls. Odd angles and shapes in shades ranging from white to dark grey make up the work that echoes a strange scale model house.
Perhaps the largest of Palmer’s works in the exhibition holds that same sense. Called “Contraption,” it’s reminiscent of a house, with cut out or taped up windows and tiny blocks for rooms. According to Palmer’s statement, it was made during quarantine using materials from the artist’s recycling bin and studio.
“It’s a direct response to having limited space, looking for ways ‘out,’ both mentally and physically. The small openings provide glimpses into farther- away places; the tight corner slot is both safe and claustrophobic. The piece appears as though it could be folded up into a smaller, transportable form,” Palmer wrote.
While “Unraveling” features works that make everyday objects seem strange, there’s also a sense of restless joy woven into the exhibition, which was curated by Adams.
“I believe the searching quality found in the art throughout this exhibition reflects our unsettled horizon,” Adams writes. “Artists must maintain resolve to withstand and create in this climate, and I have confidence the combined brio of the ‘Unraveling’ artists expresses perseverance and even joy. This art does not provide answers but makes four strong statements about creation in the face of uncertainty.”
“Unraveling,” which opened earlier this week, will be up through Dec. 19 at the Opalka Gallery. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12, there will be a virtual artist talk with curator/artist Adams, followed by another virtual talk with artist Tenaglia at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. For more information visit opalka.sage.edu.