Hudson, New York
Local culture
22 April 2018 12:04PM
John Isaacs

Notwithstanding the quality of the art, its impact is invariably subject to the manner in which it is installed. The dictates of the space, the ingenuity of the gallerist and curator, and context provided are all essential to capture art’s intent, in both its didactic and experiential aspects.

The galleries at the renovated Hudson Opera House are now close to immaculate in both volume and finish, so no problem there with the space. The current exhibition, two series by the Ancramdale artist Stephanie Bernheim, explores her manipulation of images and materials to make sociological statements. “Pixels” consists of blown-up images of mostly architectural subjects taken on a mobile phone, superimposed with bands of hand-drawn color, to illustrate the impact of technology on how we absorb visual data in this information overloaded day and age. “Particulates” comprises six rather beautiful monochrome images, printed on clear mylar, that pay homage to the successful campaign, a decade or so ago, to stop the proposed construction of a mega-cement plant very close to Hudson. The trouble with both series as displayed is absence of context. The cement plant controversy, for example, was a vitally important process central to Hudson’s transformation from an industrial backwater to a thriving cultural center, but nothing in the exhibition connects those dots. What could have been a valuable educational experience is limited to aesthetics. More in this case would have been better than less.

At the other end of the spectrum, the claustrophobia of Tom McGill’s studio/gallery complex at 46 Green would be relieved by blowing out a few walls, so that, for example, Hudson resident Stacy Petty’s current show of compellingly whimsical paintings and constructions was given more room to breathe, and where fewer of them would be easier to digest. While “Flat Broke” integrates graphic virtuosity with formidable imagination (think Keith Haring meets Lotte Reiniger), the richness of such idiosyncratic imagery would be enhanced, in this case, if less was allowed to be more. The circus atmosphere of the show (Petty trained at the Ringling College of Art in Sarasota) hardly needs amplification.

A happy medium is hit, however, at Kristen Dodge’s simple but far from austere September Gallery, whose neat rectangular space has been subdivided by equally proportioned panels of medium-density fibreboard, upon which sit twenty or more chairs (many created by local artists) of variously impractical but consistently ingenious design. The sum effect is of a mysteriously inaccessible waiting room. For one who recently sustained a bad knee injury and has trouble standing for more than five minutes, this was somewhat disconcerting, but hardly detracted from my admiration for Ms. Dodge’s astute curatorial eye. Other elegantly whacky visual references to posterior support adorn the walls, the whole exuberant array bracketed by two sets of curtains, one opaque and deep purple, the other peach and diaphanous, both without any obvious purpose but to ponder the possibility of escape. SIT-IN requires no context — it succeeds precisely for that reason, and because it is as a whole, unlike most of the chairs themselves, perfectly balanced, and because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Photos (by Enid Futterman):
1 SIT-IN at September Gallery (installation view)
2 Stacy Petty at 46 Green Street Gallery
3 Stephanie Bernheim at the Hudson Opera House

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