When it comes to visual arts, the Capital Region wasn’t lacking in 2018. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the year:
"Women Artists in Paris: 1850-1900" at The Clark Art Institute
This sweeping exhibition held the spotlight on incredibly talented women who demanded an artistic education at a time when many institutions weren’t allowing women to matriculate.
Many politicians, authors, and others believed that the act of creating, of working on art, would inhibit a woman’s ability to become a successful mother.
Despite all these sentiments, artists from all around the world, like Anna Ancher, Kitty Kielland, Rosa Bonheur, Lilla Cabot Perry, and Eva Gonzalez traveled to Paris not only to study art but to become full-time artists. Many took their education back to their home countries and continued to paint, draw and sculpt.
Much of the art was done in impressionistic, neo-classical or rococo styles. Some of the standout pieces include “Echo,” a painting by Ellen Thesleff where a young girl is shouting into the world. Another remarkable piece is “Judgement of a Day’s Work,” by Anna and Michael Ancher, which gives a rare glimpse into the lives of a couple working together as artists.
“Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad” at The Hyde
The Hyde Collection introduced two exhibitions this year which complement the Clark's, including “Changing the Landscape: Women Impressionists from the Thomas Clark Collection,” and “Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad.”
Both highlighted female artists who have yet to receive the recognition they’re due, especially the latter. Jane Peterson exhibited every year around the country from 1908 to 1960, yet she is well known only among American art experts.
By revealing the sheer range of Peterson’s style, from impressionistic to expressionistic, with some elements of fauvism mixed throughout, and subject matter, from bright landscapes to bustling city-scapes, the exhibition made the case that Peterson is an artist who should not be left behind by time.
2018 Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Regional at the University Art Museum
The annual show is one of the longest running exhibitions in the area. Thus, it comes with history and high expectations. It exceeded those expectations this year with 77 works by 38 artists, culled from over 1,500 entries. It was juried by artist Jean Shin, who is known for taking everyday objects and transforming them into site-specific installations.
The exhibition brought together sculpture, works on paper, virtual reality, oils, video and a few mediums in between. This year’s Regional impressed in both variety and quality.
“Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell, and the Narrative Tradition,” at The Norman Rockwell Museum
Works of true masters visited the Home of American Illustration in 2018.
Curated by artist and professor Denis Nolan, the “Keepers of the Flame” traced back the influences of these masters from the illustrators of today to “Triptych of Madonna and Child with Saints,” which was created in 1440 by Neri Di Bicci.
His historical research was backed by incredible masterpieces from these artists, as well as those who influenced them and who they were influenced by. Some highlights included “The Lantern Bearers,” by Parrish, “In the Crystal Depths,” by Wyeth, and Rockwell’s “Shuffleton’s Barbershop.”
“Younger than Today: Photographs of Children (and sometimes their mothers) by Andy Warhol” at the University Art Museum at UAlbany
Polaroids have power. Beyond the fact that they’ve been trending for the past few years, especially among millennials and Generation Z, they were a key piece of many modern artists’ work, including Andy Warhol.
At the University Art Museum at UAlbany, visitors got an unusual view of Warhol’s works over the summer. Over 50 photographs were part of the exhibit, many of which were donated by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2008. Rather than show Warhol’s often iconic works of pop art, they revealed a more tender side of the artist. Most of them were taken in his studio, known as The Factory,” between 1974 and 1985, when he photographed people who came to visit him.
The photographs challenged visitors to rethink the way they perceived Warhol and his work.
“Transactional Days” at Collar Works
This exhibition invited not only observation but participation. Curated by Justin Baker, a Capital Region artist, the exhibition asked viewers to engage in a “transaction” of sorts. It was felt perhaps most directly with Valery Jung Estabrook’s “Hometown Hero,” a large installation that is quite literally a living room, complete with an easy chair, lamps, wall hangings (all made by the artist). A television placed in front of the chair plays a video that Estabrook made and is in.
“It’s like she’s inviting you to watch her with her,” Dubben said.
The exhibition included artist performances and other events, including a chicken dance and a rewilding performance.
“Thomas Cole’s Paper Trail” at The Albany Institute of History and Art
Museums and galleries from Albany to New York City and even Europe celebrated the life and work of Thomas Cole this year.
The year 2018 marked the 200th anniversary of the artist’s arrival in the United States. “Thomas Cole’s Paper Trail,” celebrates some of the rare works of the artist who is recognized as the founder of the Hudson River School.
Because many of the other museums and exhibitions around the country focused on Cole’s paintings, the Institute decided to focus on Cole’s sketches, along with some of his letters and other more personal ephemera. The sketches revealed the beginnings of some of his famous paintings or studies for other works.
“It’s interesting to look at the paper that remains . . . you get a very personal look at the artist,” said Douglas McCombs, the chief curator at the Albany Institute of History and Art.
“The Lure of the Dark: Contemporary Painters Conjure the Night” at MASS MoCA
This appropriately-lit exhibition explores the ways in which the night seems to play with our minds; making some scenes scarier then they would be in the day and others seem mythological, something out of a surreal dream.
Some standout pieces include the fairytale-like works of Wilhelm Neusser. In perhaps his largest work in the exhibition, called “Nocturne/Doublemoon,” an idyllic nighttime forest scene turns eerie when one notices the second moon that glows in a greenish-yellow light.
Another standout was Cy Gavin's "Idyll (Eclipse)," a sort of sci-fi piece painted on denim with the bottom-half of a figure floating across a treacherous-looking ocean of green. The upper half of the figure is disappearing into a dark mist, as a deep orange and blue-ringed moon glows in the background.
It’s an unsettling piece, yet one that is hard to look away from.
“The Lure of the Dark” remains on exhibit through February.
“Tonto, Teepees, and Totem Poles: Considering Native American Stereotypes in the 21st Century” at the Iroquois Indian Museum
It’s been said that art is meant to both comfort and disturb. This exhibition did both.
From the cheeky painting of Furbies waiting to be picked up by a crane and aptly named “Fur Trade,” to the subtle statue of a figure with blonde hair and blue-eyes wearing traditional garments from a mismatch of native American cultures (this one called “We Stereotype Ourselves”) there was a lot to unpack.
Some of the stereotypes shown in the exhibit have faded, yet others have risen up to take their place in the last decade or so. Some of the artwork explored the perception that reservations are dangerous and poor. Some explored the opposite view: that Indians are getting rich and that because of their native status they somehow get a “free ride.”
The exhibition took a hard look at some of the most insidious stereotypes and the ways in which they impact society.
“Give a Damn.” at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College
From the photographs and drawings of protests to advertisements about the AIDS crisis, the exhibition created conversation and challenged historical narratives, all in the hopes that viewers might be stirred to give a damn about one thing or another.
The title was inspired by the work of Corita Kent, an artist and Roman Catholic sister, activist and educator. Her work, which was often done in bright colors, was inspired by all the social and political strife she saw in the 1960s. She challenged people to not only care about the world around them but to continually consider their perceived notions of truth.
This exhibition made the same visual argument, asking viewers to rethink what they know about everything from social/political demonstrations to the Black Panther Party.
The Glove Museum
The country’s only freestanding glove museum opened up this year, not in New York City or another metropolitan area, but in the Leatherstocking Region.
Founded and run by celebrated glove maker Daniel Storto, the seasonal museum opened this summer with displays of Storto’s original designs, along with vintage glove making tools and ephemera from the industry.
The museum, located in Dorloo, was once a United Methodist Church. Storto maintained some aspects of the church, including the bell, the pews, and the stained glass windows. But there were plenty of exhibits and installations that marked its new purpose. Storto also installed a glove making studio, where he designs and creates some of his ready to wear gloves. The museum is located at 2155 Route 165, Dorloo. For more information visit theglovemuseum.com.