“Winter in America” at the Jack Shainman Gallery’s amazing space in Kinderhook, the School, is described by the noted New York gallerist as being about our nation’s current “season of malaise” as it struggles with “war, intolerance, environmental degradation, fear, gun violence and alienation, all of which seem to quell any optimism and growth.” Yet it be could also be called a visualization of “Black Lives Matter.”
The exhibit, spread across three floors, includes a number of major world artists expressing their darker sides, from some rare versions of Andy Warhol’s electric chairs to pieces by early photographer Edward Curtis, hipster provocateur Matthew Barney, the amazing Italian Dolomite three-dimensional artist of represented angst Gerhard Demetz and surreal photographers Robert and Shana Parkeharrison. But what grow to dominate the senses are the various African American artists on view (including many from Shainman’s own collection) and the curated sense of what black experience means these days.
Highlights include Carrie Mae Weems’s loud, funk-soundtracked video of radical chic looks in black women; Radcliffe Bailey’s sculptures of a boat and Huey Newton’s iconic wicker cobra chair, created of a glittery black material that resembles hair; a grand portrait of Michael Jackson when he was a young man; and Shainman’s own “Black Panther Archives” of imagery tied to the movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It has a radical sheen about it, with plenty of sexual references and violence below and above surface textures and messages. Yet it also feels contemporarily chic, especially in the cleanly renovated European chill of the recreated old school building.
Up into April, the show is major, and it fits perfectly into the “quiet introspection” of the season – especially when one exits its chilly observations onto a grand American Main Street, where the sound of busy leafblowers and a few passing cars remind one of the disconnect between today’s existential angst about global problems and the relative comforts of “normal” lives today.
It’s augmented with a special show of drawings, maquettes and new sculptures by the great sculptor Mark di Suvero.
“Winter in America: A Multimedia Group Exhibition,” Saturdays through April 15, 11 a.m-5 p.m., the School, 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, (518) 758-1628, www.jackshainman.com.