Heading up to Olana and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site usually means taking a trip into the past: viewing an art exhibition or listening to a lecture shedding light on the art/historical tradition of the Hudson River School. But now, for the first time ever, the two institutions, in their first collaboration, are taking a fresh approach with an ambitious exhibition and lecture series focusing on contemporary art.
Titled “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home,” the exhibition, which opens on May 3, will feature the work of 30 artists, including such renowned names as Romare Bearden, Chuck Close, Will Cotton, Maya Lin, Elizabeth Murray, Thomas Nozkowski, Martin Puryear, Cindy Sherman and Kiki Smith. Paintings, drawings, prints, installations, photographs, sculptures, collages and the like will be displayed within each historic home as well as on the grounds, intermingling with selected works by the two 19th-century artists as well as elements of the iconic 19th-century Romantic landscape preserved at both of the properties.
The accompanying lecture series will feature contemporary Luminist painter Stephen Hannock on April 12 and a talk by Hannock and Jason Rosenfeld, who together curated the “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home” show, on May 17.
Hannock’s landscape paintings serve as a kind of pivot between the original Hudson River School painters and the contemporary artists, although the artist said that 20th-century British film directors, not the 19th-century landscapists, were much more of an influence. Rosenfeld, who is professor of Art and chair of the Art History Department at Marymount Manhattan College, brings a sophisticated curatorial sensibility to the project, having co-curated exhibitions at Tate Britain in London and at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
While all the participating artists were or are in some way connected to the regions so integral to the iconic imagery of Cole and Church – i.e., greater New York City, Lake George, Niagara Falls and New England – that link is not necessarily obvious, said Hannock. “Nineteenth-century homes and museums like to connect the dots from specific painters to contemporary artists in a straight line, but art-and-life is not like that,” said the artist, who paints mammoth-size canvases of grand vistas and Whistleresque nocturnes and was the first artist to receive the Frederic Church Award, in 2014. “There’s a lot of mystery.”