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26.10.09

Art Seen Upstate

If you've not had a chance to tour the Hudson Valley area of New York State recently, there's a lot of art to see. Last Saturday evening I made my way to Hudson for an opening of my friend John Ruppert's sculpture exhibit at the John Davis Gallery. Hudson is a cool little town, loaded with antique shops, restaurants, galleries, and a great number of New York City's diaspora. Interesting history, too: it was first settled by New England whaling captains from Nantucket and the New Bedford area.

The galleries were full and in party mode, with some good work to also mention. The Davis Gallery has a main townhouse with three levels of exhibition space, a gravel courtyard, perfectly installed with a signature Ruppert orb of formed chain-link, and a carriage house in the rear, also with three levels of exhibition spaces. It's often filled with multiple artists, seven this month, but thoughtfully displayed.

One of my favorite memories of last year's Olympic games in Beijing was an image of John Van Alstine assembling his sculpture. It reminded me of a medieval scene, soldiers preparing for battle, forging strange weapons. His work was chosen from a list of hundreds of artists that had made proposals for the site: it was quite an accomplishment and a good choice. I've always felt his work blended an East-West sensibility. In this case his use of natural materials, stone with industrial methods of grinding and welding, related in my mind to the bold surge of China from an ancient to a contemporary society -- the games were a proud showcase.


Some of Van Alstine's small-scale work occupies the top floor of the carriage house this month. As with his larger work, these small-scale pieces play with a tension between natural and forged elements. Since I recently went on a canoe trip, the piece pictured felt like a canoe navigating waters of stone. If you've ever been in a canoe you'll relate to the balancing act, especially when someone, whom I will not mention (Suzy), wouldn't sit still.

Ruppert has found a way to make a mass-produced industrial product, chain link fencing, commonly used to repel or restrict the unwanted, and form it into graceful orb shapes that adapt to whatever environment they inhabit. In this instance the gravel courtyard seemed to have a glowing otherworldly visitor.

Also check out Kathy Burge's paintings at Carrie Haddad for some very nice painting to get lost in.

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