This year’s Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region, on view at the Hyde Collection, is a fresh take on the long-running show.
It’s sprawling and at times disorienting, with works from a mix of familiar and new names featured throughout the museum.
Appropriately titled “Split and Becloud,” the show was juried by Sophie Landres, whose task was anything but simple. With its 80-year history, the AMHR has long welcomed artists living and working within the 100-mile radius of the Capital Region to submit their work. Competition is high, this year alone there were approximately 900 works of art submitted by 324 artists.
“I liked the challenge of sifting through a huge amount of submissions, honing in on work that I thought resonated the most strongly, and then also trying to extract from that a curatorial throughline, so that the work would not only reflect what seems to be the most exciting forms of artistic production in the region, but also that all of the disparate, individual works of art would come together in a manner that was cohesive and part of a focused, singular conversation,” Landres said.
Landres, who is a professor at The New School as well as the director of the Hudson Valley-based River Valley Arts Collective, managed to narrow down the show to under 60 works by 24 artists. The two guiding themes she came away with were partition and conglomeration; motifs that seem to pull in opposite directions, though both reflect the contemporary climate.
“It was just a visual pattern that I recognized reoccurring in a lot of these strong works and then it seems that those formal qualities also opened up something very interesting conceptually,” Landres said.
The works are on view in several sections of the museum, though many are concentrated in the Feibes & Schmitt Gallery. One of the first pieces to catch the eye in that gallery is a bizarre sculptural work by Alicia Barton with foam, fuzzy fabric and epoxy clay mixed into a pink and purple amalgamation, embellished with pearls. A spiraled cord connects from one end of the piece to a phone, coated in a sticky-looking substance.
Another work from Barton, this one towering over most viewers, is on view a few steps away. Barton’s candy-colored creations helped the artist cope with existential anxieties, as Landres notes in her essay about the show.
Not too far away, a series of ornately framed photographs draw the viewer’s eye with its layered composition. In one, a skull, monkey and grapes dot the foreground, with an empty frame in the background. Created by the ORT Project (made up of Oona Nelson and Anna Noelle Rockwell), it takes the tradition of the Early Renaissance era still lifes and brings it into the 21st century, using it to critique the pervasive consumer culture of our time.
One of the largest, and perhaps most impressive works in the exhibit, takes up half of another gallery space. Titled “The Rainbow’s Remains,” artist Daniel Subkoff creates a swirling path of driftwood, that fades into crystals and rocks and then to shells, then bones, and, finally, dust.
It’s a mesmerizing meditation on the history of painting; the pieces are all placed on a large piece of canvas on the floor and the first piece of driftwood in the path rests against stretcher bars on the wall. Each piece of bone and rock is a reflection of our interconnectedness.
Nearby hangs a similarly layered piece by Peg Foley, a former Schenectady High School art teacher. Using paint, pencil and chalk pastel, Foley depicted a mountainous composition of figures, nearly archeological in form. Called “Pandemic Escapes” the piece reflects on Foley’s experiences of being inundated with news about the pandemic.
“Split and Becloud” (becloud meaning to become obscure or muddled) is thoughtfully curated and features a good, though not overwhelming, number of works, giving visitors plenty of space to view the pieces individually. How the works are related may not be immediately evident upon first blush, however, that’s intentional.
“It is focused, but it’s also quite open-ended and I think provides the visitors with a lot of freedom to form their own connections between the works of art and to understand each individual piece in whatever way is most meaningful to them,” Landres said.
It’s also a departure from other shows that have previously highlighted regional artists.
“I think this show looks very different from a lot of regional art shows. It looks really fresh and it’s going to be a great introduction to a lot of artists that are not just the usual suspects that you see making the rounds,” Landres said.
“Split and Becloud” runs through the end of the year at the Hyde. If you go, carve out some time to see the other exhibitions on view, including “Wall Power,” which features a collection of quilts from the American Folk Art Museum, and “Works of Jan Conners,” featuring intricately detailed embroidery work from the regional artist. For more information visit hydecollection.org.