This year, Capital Region residents were treated to a wealth of thoughtful, inventive, and enlightening exhibitions in Capital Region, ranging from Breathing Lights to the Albany Institute of History and Art’s Masterworks: 225 Years of Collecting to The Tang’s spectacular Alma Thomas to The Hyde’s Durer & Rembrandt. Also, a stone’s skip away, there was Milton Avery’s Vermont at the Bennington Museum, Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado at the Clark, and Nick Cave: Until at MASS MoCA, just to name a few. In other works, it was an extraordinary year. In preparation for the last issue of 2016, I reached out to several local leaders in the field and asked what exhibition they most enjoyed. As you’ll read, a few patterns emerged. Needless to say, the visual arts are alive and well in the greater Capital Region.
“Other than the two exhibitions we curated this year at Albany International Airport–Folk Modern and Staying Power–I really admired the exhibition at the University Art Museum, Future Perfect: Picturing the Anthropocene. It was a fascinating exploration, in a variety of mediums and approaches, of the conflicted relationship we have to the natural world and the subject of climate change. Colin Boyd’s installation ‘Galleon,’ served as a mobile site for a stop motion animation studio. Throughout the run of the exhibition he would work in the gallery, constructing sets and creatures that were not clearly from the past or the future. Cameras, tripods, eccentric rigs and armatures were set up and visitors could watch the film in progress on a strange viewing machine.” —Sharon Bates, founding director of the Art & Culture Program, Albany International Airport
“I always enjoy regional exhibits. It’s a chance for the community to see a wide range of work, in many styles and mediums. For me, my favorite exhibit was the 2016 Annual High School Regional Juried Art Exhibition, which T.E. Breitenbach, Mary Pat Wager, and I juried at Albany Center Gallery. We exhibited over 100 artists from more than 20 local and regional high schools, which is an exciting way to get young artists involved, connect them to the arts, and inspire them to continue to create. Seeing the upcoming talent is always a pleasant surprise.” – Tony Iadicicco, executive director, Albany Center Gallery
“Along with the final show in Sharon Bates’ impressive tenure at the Albany Airport Gallery and artist Michael Oatman’s maximalist curatorial effort that included the first site-specific works in Hyde House at this year’s MHR (Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region), the highlight of this year was Breathing Lights–an unprecedented public art project for our region. Adam Frelin and a huge crew of collaborators catalyzed many great things this fall: parallel exhibitions at most of our regional art centers; dialogues with some of our region’s best artists; grants to writers, educators, and community projects–all in the spirit of raising awareness about housing and class in our region. It would be great to see more community building collaborations around art experiences like this in the future.” —Ian Berry, Dayton director, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery
“One exhibition sticks in my mind–Staying Power at the Albany International Airport Gallery, which was Sharon Bates’ swan song show. Many of these long-standing Capital Region artists (namely, Bruno LaVerdiere, Thom O’Connor, Margo Mensing, Ed Mayer, and Harry Orlyk) are so familiar to me that the exhibition felt like a reunion where the process of becoming reacquainted was accompanied by a flood of surprising revelations. Aside from the strength of the work itself, the reveal comes from a series of video interviews with the artists, which are presented on monitors in the gallery. These videos provide insight into the artists’ careers, their practice and process, and issues that have engaged them over time and space. The exhibition combines thoughtful retrospection with a loud proclamation: these artists are here to stay. It’s on view until Jan. 2, if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet.”–Erin Coe, director, The Hyde Collection
“Future Perfect: Picturing the Anthropocene was a fresh and provocative exploration of our complicated relationship with the natural world, as seen across a variety of platforms and through the lens of over 20 contemporary artists, alongside works from the museum’s collection. Co-curated by Janet Riker, director; Corinna Ripps Schaming, associate director/curator; and Danny Goodwin, associate professor (Department of Art), this exhibition at [University at Albany’s] University Art Museum came to life through weekly talks, performances, and conversations over climate change. This dynamic exhibition and programming raises the bar for how contemporary art can engage communities and spark dialogue. It was otherworldly, ever-changing, and poignant.” —Elizabeth Dubben, Executive Director, Collar Works