New exhibits to see in-person this month

Finally, art lovers have the opportunity again to see exhibitions in person. Not to be missed is the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art’s New Folk exhibition, Jim Holl’s solo show of paintings and sculptures at Lockwood Gallery, a four-person exhibition of paintings at Green Kill, and works by Judy Pfaff and the three prizewinners of the Midtown Arts District’s first annual group show at the Arts Society of Kingston. All the shows are up through October. 

New folk art at the Dorsky  

After months of peering at postage-stamp-size paintings on my screen, “New Folk,” an exhibition of work by 29 artists at the Dorsky at SUNY New Paltz, proved a sensory adventure. Kate Hamilton’s Humble Monument, consisting of a gigantic drooping bonnet that memorializes a clothing anachronism with both Pop humor and mournful impotence, loomed over me, while Julia Whitney Barnes’ curving brick floor piece, a tribute to the Hudson River industry that once flourished along its banks, beckoned like the Yellow Brick Road. It’s as if my eyes took on the properties of touch —I  was beguiled by the thick, nubby texture of Sharon Bates’ series of four richly colored hooked-rug wall pieces, of the soft, cascading folds of the mural-sized, woven kimono-like piece of Michelle Batho, of the uncanny transition in Katie Grove’s sculpture of a tree trunk seamlessly morphing into a basket, in which the piece’s smooth, rounded surface of wood break up and splinter into permeable woven strips, suggesting a shift from object to process. 

The exhibition “offers a vision of what folk art can be — highly skilled, locally sourced, idiosyncratic, and resourceful,” writes Dorsky curator and exhibitions manager Anna Conlan in the online catalog. It’s “a catch-all for the long history of visitors and immigrants to the Hudson Valley, from early European colonizers, enslaved people, and settlers, to agricultural migrants, Catskill tourists, city weekenders, and many other kinds of ‘new folk’ who have journeyed to this area.” Conlan noted that the theme of this year’s annual open-call group show of regional artists was particularly timely, in that it also relates to domesticity and the handing down of traditions learned at home, the place many of us have been spending nearly all our time these last seven months. 

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New Folk” is an investigation into how contemporary artists are using traditional hand-crafted methods and materials to create post-modernist works of art or applying those methods to nontraditional materials. It examines how they are incorporating the storytelling of folk traditions, some related to immigration and others to local history, into their work. It illustrates ways in which they are embedding those traditions into their art through locally sourced or found materials. They are re-examining folk notions and traditions in a changed world. The show is evidence that folk traditions are not only relevant and essential purveyors of information but also that they adjust and survive, in a kind of perpetual cultural pipeline. 

Annie Raife, Untitled, 2018, on view at the Dorsky Museum;

There are many pictorial delights from stylistic and material disjunctions. The cartoony, graphic forms of a ladder and clouds in Annie Raife’s latch hooked-rug crafted wall piece is code for a playful landscape, while the billowy, dreamy quality of Katie Ford’s delicately hued patched-quilt abstractions relate to bedspreads, curtains, and other bedroom-associated fabrics. Harry Leigh constructs minimalist wood wall pieces from bricks and other locally sourced detritus, while Donise English’s 13-foot woven hemp piece Choker is a beautifully crafted Surrealist oddity. Vivien Abrams Collens’ vertical sculptures are whimsical scaffoldings that ingeniously translate the floss of embroidery into free-standing welded aluminum, while Charlie Smith’s geometric assemblage, entitled Carapace, is imbued with the meticulousness of woodworking, though it’s constructed of particle board and acrylic.

Jenna Annunziato’s spare painting of twin building facades in her native Beacon suggests a pared-down set awaiting the next act, while Aaron Hauck’s self-portrait spanned his move from Brooklyn to Ulster County, its refracted image capturing a transition that involves loss and the unknown. 

Other works speak of memories, spanning continents and generations. Irja Boden’s ceramic vessels commemorate her childhood in a Lapland town north of the Arctic Circle through inscriptions of narrative scenes. Doug Navara’s glazed ceramic pots were inspired by North Carolina sugar jars. Nancy Sadler’s depictions of houses are painted on wood pieces she salvaged from the floorboards of Grossinger’s, a souvenir of a once- vibrant Borsch-Belt resort. 

Other pieces address the intersection of myth with contemporary life. Ben Pindar’s video Beer-Pong Tailgate features the artist and two friends in masks and underwear cavorting to a mesmerizing musical soundtrack as they playfully subvert and caricaturize and entwine stereotypes of rural masculinity with that of urban millennials — while seeming to have a great time.

“New Folk” is on display through October 25 at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, 1 Hawk Dr, New Paltz.

Jim Holl at Lockwood Gallery

Though abstract, Jim Holl’s paintings are grounded in nature at the most elemental level.  They incorporate motifs sourced from two images of the collisions of electromagnetic particles in the Large Hadron Collider. Holl translates the grainy collider black-and-white images into vibrating color harmonies, an effect he achieves in part by painting the ground in layers of complementary color, so that traces of red peep through the layer of green, orange through blue. Subtle networks of curved lines intersect the field of color, above which float small bars, elements that convey both movement (the lines) and stasis (the bars, whose shape confirms to the edges of the square surface). 

A piece from Jim Holl’s Particle Point Collisions on view at Lockwood Gallery.

The effect is analogous to the hovering of a ball thrown up in the air, Holl said. “The ball is motionless before it begins to fall down. Stasis and motion are in relationship and combination in one image,” which also reflect the very essence of a painting.

While Holl utilizes the most sophisticated technology on earth for his source material, his paintings are grounded in intuition. “The artwork should have a transcendent effect not achieved through some technical process,” he said. 

Each work reveals its own process of making. Besides works on paper and small sculptures in plastic, wax and dry pigment, which are models of eight of the twelve elemental particles, the show includes several large paintings. Their scale derives from the reach of the artist’s arm, and they function as environments of Holl’s luminous vision. 

A free catalog accompanies the show. The show is up through November 3 at Lockwood Gallery, 747 Route 28, Kingston. Visit thelockwoodgallery.com to make an appointment.

Kingston Annual 

The Kingston Midtown Art District’s first Kingston Annual, a stunning survey of work by 26 regional artists curated by artist Julie Hedrick on display the past month at the Arts Society of Kingston, included a special mini-exhibition of sculptures and prints by Judy Pfaff. Pfaff’s work remains on display through this month, accompanied by that of the show’s three prize winners: Pamela Blum, Betty A. Greenwald, and Frank Theodore. 

Pfaff, who once had a studio in the Cornell steamboat building (now occupied by Art Port), makes elaborate assemblages out of steel, fiberglass, resin, wire, branches and other synthetic and organic materials. The sculptures on display at ASK are illuminated by fluorescent lights and consist of a floor installation that commemorates recently deceased gallerist Elena Zang and two wall pieces. Pfaff’s work defies categorization, simultaneously evoking the cosmos, biological life, death, ritual, mutation, birth, creation, and many other big-picture associations. She is a maximalist. Also on display are her exquisite patterned oil-stick and encaustic paintings on vintage paper. 

Blum’s series of five wall sculptures, whose titles reference dolls, combine deprecating humor with a sense of the grotesque. Each form, crafted from a combination of encaustic, papier-mâché, plaster gauze, and aluminum mesh, is spare, consisting of little more than two horn-like protrusions. Much of their sensuous appeal derives from their white polished surfaces, speckled or painted black. With their hand-held scale, the pieces appeal to our sense of touch even as they seem to defy us. Suggesting bones or excavated artifacts, the sculptures are difficult to pin down and therefore unsettling, as though they were beyond our current systems of meaning.

Greenwald’s mixed media and watercolor paintings are lyrical abstractions whose biomorphic shapes, tiny jiggling triangles and exuberant penciled lines suggest a musical animation and mystical anticipation. 

Theodore’s photographs, one depicting the head and shoulders of a blind-folded black woman suspended upside down, convey a sense of suffering as well as elegant beauty and speak to the universal. 

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The Arts Society of Kingston is at 97 Broadway, Kingston. 

Stars and bars at Green Kill

Stephen Lewis, Regret, 2020, on view at Green Kill.

Curated by Stephen Lewis, “Stars and Bars: A Survey of Four Artists with Ties to Washington DC” at Green Kill gallery in Kingston features paintings by Lewis, John Figura, William Hill, and Tim Vermeulen. 

Lewis’ thick application of paint and Expressionist style is well suited to his series of Tarot-card like images of Trump, Barr, Kushner and the like, whose grimacing and grinning visages are surrounded by skulls, ghouls, burning cities, a hooded Klan figure and other attributes suggesting a Medieval-era hell. Lewis can really paint — the show includes an impressionistic river landscape — which gives his images a palpability.

Tim Vermeulen’s series of narrative paintings resemble ffteenth-century Flemish miniatures. Their meticulous style chronicles the messiness of the self — specifically, the artist’s personal anxieties. Intertwined, which depicts a man hugging his dog while scrunched on the stump of a recently felled tree in a bleak landscape, is a compelling image of despair. Mask, in which a naked, aged man confronts himself in the bathroom mirror, connotes a powerful sense of shame. 

William Hill portrays not so much the landscape as its space in veils of effervescent color, while John Figura’s moon-lit fantasies, some containing mysterious narrative elements, portray the nighttime landscape as a portal to dreams, ghosts, and the imagination.

The show is up through October 26. Green Kill is located at 229 Greenkill Avenue, Kingston.

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