Best of 2011: Exhibits gave insight into artists, our time
From the Berkshires to Glens Falls, in Albany and Schenectady, there were impressive exhibits in our museums and galleries in 2011, even though the economy stumbled and funding faded.
With so many venues, it was a challenge to see most of the shows, and yet a bigger task to pick the best in the bunch.
From among the exhibits visited by The Gazette, the top shows for 2011 are:
1. “Strange World of Albrecht Dürer,” Clark Art Institute. Devils, saints and trumpeting cherubim created more than 500 years ago. It was a rare visit with the Clark’s deep collection of Dürer prints and relevant to society’s current gloomy mood.
2. “Pissarro's People," Clark Art Institute. This big summer show opened new avenues of thought about Camille Pissarro. Beyond his landscapes, we discovered his intense interest in figures, his family and the human condition.
3. “Of Weeds and Wildness,” Mandeville Gallery, Union College. Curated by Rachel Seligman and Sally Apfelbaum, a subtle gathering of photos, prints, drawings and digital images with a nature theme by an impressive group, including Louise Bourgeois, James Siena and Kiki Smith.
4. 75th Annual Mohawk Hudson Regional Exhibition, Albany Institute of History & Art. Painter Holly Hughes was the juror for this supersized Regional, with 163 works by 85 artists, including six video works.
5. “Afterschool Special: The 2011 Alumni Show,” University Art Museum. Ken Johnson, alumnus and accomplished art critic, not only invited the 72 artists, he put every piece exactly where he wanted it. The salon-style wall upstairs was fascinating, dense with female themes in works by Lillian Mulero; Sara Di Donato; Jackie Skrzynski; and Gayle Johnson, Ken’s wife, who died of cancer.
6. “All Utopias Fell,” MASS MoCA. Michael Oatman's make-believe spaceship, installed outdoors on a catwalk 40 feet above the ground, is far-out fun for all ages. It just closed for the winter, but you can visit again in the spring.
7. The International Acquisitions Exhibition for Artists With Disabilities, Fenimore Gallery, Proctors. Sponsored by Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital, the “Sunnyview show” was a welcome sight after a four-year absence. The wide-ranging show (artists from across the country plus Denmark) looked good in the Fenimore Gallery, an up-and-coming art venue in downtown Schenectady.
8. “New York, New York! The 20th Century,” The Hyde Collection. The Hyde remembered 9/11 with 60 artworks from Florida’s Norton Museum of Art, including a Jim MacMillan photo of the ruins of the World Trade Center, and reached out to the Glens Falls community with a host of related events.
9. 33rd Annual Photography Regional, Albany Center Gallery. A fresh look at our region's photo talents, with many new names, thoughtfully organized by new director Tony Iadiccico.
10. “Uncertain Spectator,” EMPAC, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The brainchild of assistant curator Emily Zimmerman, contemporary art intended to disturb and discomfort viewers. Zimmerman has got my attention and I'll be looking for more of her work at EMPAC.
Galleries, museums got new directors in 2011
2011 was a big year for changes in leadership at museums, galleries and art centers in the Capital Region and the Berkshires, with more than a dozen bidding adieu to their directors and ushering in new ones.
David Carroll, a Colorado native, replaced Christine Miles as director of the Albany Institute of History & Art; Tony Iadicicco is the new creative director at Albany Center Gallery, sharing duties with Operations Director Kris Sigsby; and Ray Felix is the new director of Fulton Street Gallery, succeeding founder Colleen Skiff.
At the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, Christopher Marblo will take the reins as president in June.
In Schenectady, Doretha Holmes was named the new executive director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, and Rachel Seligman left her post as director of Union College’s Mandeville Gallery for a new job as associate curator of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery.
The Southern Vermont Arts Center, Adirondack Museum, Berkshire Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, Visual Arts Gallery at SUNY Adirondack, Visions Gallery at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center and the Tri-County Arts Council in Cobleskill all changed directors in 2011.
— Karen Bjornland, Gazette visual arts writer