Every year, the Mohawk-Hudson Regional checks the pulse of contemporary art in our backyard. This summer, it’s the viewers who might need to check their heart rate.
The excitement begins the minute you land on the second floor of the Albany Institute of History & Art and hear the sounds of falling water, animal squeaks and other peeps and pops.
John Knecht’s 2010 video, “Deluge: Studies to the Super Natural,” flickers on a small screen, and his hand-drawn digital animation beckons with its kaleidoscope of flowers and floating objects caught in what could be a nuclear rainstorm. From here, one can also see Barry Gerson’s “The Universe,” another video piece, which looks like a tall, pulsating electronic waterfall.
The silent sentry as you begin your journey through 5,000 square feet dense with artwork is “Mourning the White Nosed Bats,” a Phyllis Kulmatiski sculpture of a female figure with a babe on her lap.
This regional is a thrill because it is one of the largest in recent history, as juror Holly Hughes selected a whopping 163 works by 85 artists. That’s more than twice the number of works that were in the Institute’s 2008 and 2005 shows. And it’s a universe away from the 2009 exhibit at the University Art Museum, with 35 artists. Last year’s Regional debut at The Hyde Collection showcased 72 artists and 93 works.
The exhibit also boasts six video works, the most ever in a regional.
75th Annual Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region Exhibition
WHERE: Albany Institute of History & Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany
WHEN: Through Sunday, Sept. 4. Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $10, adults. $8, seniors and students; $6, children 6-12; free, children under 6.
RELATED EVENTS: Artists’ talks from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 2, with free admission from 5 to 8 p.m. as part of Albany’s 1st Friday.
MORE INFO: 463-4478, www.albanyinstitute.org
“There is something for everyone and something for everyone’s definition of art,” Hughes writes in the catalog.
Is it possible for a regional to have too much art? It seems blasphemous to make such a statement, especially when it was all arranged with such intelligence by Hughes, an obviously experienced curator. In each gallery and the hallway space, many of the artworks speak to us not only as individuals, but in concert with each other.
Then again, you might find that the initial heart-thumping sparked by the quantity of artwork slowed a bit as you move in closer. Not all the works seem deserving, and Hughes probably could have shaved it down a bit.
An internationally exhibited painter who is a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Hughes selected dozens of outstanding paintings.
Six by Nancy Van Deren and Susan Stuart hang next to each other in a compelling corner where the viewer can get pleasurably lost in their abstract colors and shapes.
Twenty-six artists in the 2011 Mohawk-Hudson Regional Exhibition were honored with awards.
-- Albany Institute of History & Art, host for this year’s show, selected “WC #6, 2011” by Paul Mauren and “Mail-able 2” by Abraham Ferraro for Purchase Awards.
-- University at Albany Alumni Association for the University Art Museum picked “Lady America” by Ray Felix for its Purchase Award
-- The Hyde Collection selected “Labyrinth 265” by John Hampshire for its Purchase Award.
Twenty-two artworks received juror’s awards:
“Pythagoras 4” by William Coeur de Ville
“The Painted Princess” by Pooh Kaye
“Mail-able 2” by Abraham Ferraro
“Spill Tree” by Charles Geiger
“The Neurotic” by Ken Vallario
“Stanton's Folly” by Edye Weissler
“WC #6, 2011” by Paul Mauren
“Trailers of Columbia County” by James Burnett
“Umatilla” by Kenneth Ragsdale
“MK #2189, 2/12/11” by Mark McCarty
“Former States IV” by Sarah Haze
“Empire Views With the Green” by Nedra Newby
“Field Notes Excerpt #1” by Lynn Schwarzer
“Waiting for the World to Change (Vezelay, France)” by Pennie Brantley
“Escape” by Susan Stuart
“Garden” by Nancy Van Deren
“Mr. Swifty” by Linda B. Horn
“Another Day I Could Fly” by Andrea Hersh
“Circular Color Scheme: Ocean State Job Lot, November 26-December 1, 2010, Page 1, ‘10 Hour Blockbusters!’ ” by Richard Garrison
“Adam Angerstein and His Wife” by Philip J. Palmieri
“Breakfast at Maggie’s” by Allen Bryan
“Anarchy in the Streets” by Marc Rosenthal
Stuart’s paintings have a three-dimensional depth, as “frames and windows” are frosted with muted color so thin we can see the texture of the canvas, while Van Deren’s vertical swatches of color tingle with the quick motion of her brush.
In the cerebral world of surrealism and symbolism, there is Ken Vallario, who, his website indicates, has a deep interest in science, mysticism and the philosophy of ancient poets and philosophers.
In “Picasso’s Widow,” a jarring aqua painting, eyes float like schools of fish across a distorted female face; in “The Neurotic,” a disturbing alien-like blue head inhabits a strange, barren landscape.
Charles Geiger’s “Spill Tree,” a large gouache and ink on paper, is a dizzying tapestry, an astoundingly complex tangle of decorative art and organic objects.
Among the video works, the over-the-top standout is Pooh Kaye’s “The Painted Princess,” a 12-minute stop-action film set in the alcove where visitors peek into the museum’s storage zone.
The twisted tale, Kaye’s interpretation of the Velazquez painting “Las Meninas,” is a 2011 restyling of a 2009 Kaye film that a reviewer for The Village Voice described as “animating swirls and strokes of gorgeous gut-grabbing colour with wit and style.”
The movement, dialogue, sound and character of the Princess, with pompous hair and dress that looks like molded papier-mâché, are bizarre yet so skillfully crafted that the viewer can’t stop watching, even for a second.
With every kind of media amply represented, there is memorable photography here, too.
Sebastien Barre, who captured an award in the recent Photography Regional, is here with “Ferris Wheel,” a 2010 print in which brilliantly colored discs in neat rows burn like lanterns on a field of black.
“Lady America,” by Troy’s Ray Felix, is an expertly composed shot of random beauty in an unlikely object, in this case an abandoned tractor-trailer, with its forgotten name reflected in a puddle of water.
Source of energy
Sculptural pieces, large and small, on the floor or on pedestals, energize this regional.
Two Paul Mauren sculptures, chunky and challenging conglomerates of metal and wood, hang from a wall.
Renee Iacone offers her “Spikes” series, ceramic forms that look like wooden fence posts fastened to the wall with gatelike pieces of black metal. Mounted in the most perfect spot, isolated on their own wall, the beautiful pieces might have been overlooked in another setting.
A final note about this supersized regional: It also raised big funds, breaking yet another record with more than $6,000 in cash prizes and gift certificates.
Many of the gifts honored the museum’s beloved director Christine Miles, who announced her retirement in January after 25 years on the job.
David Carroll, executive director of the Western Museum of Mininig and Industry in Colorado Springs will take over Miles’ post in September.