Sponsored by the Arts Society of Kingston and entitled “Insight/Onsite,” this year’s biennial was curated by Robert Johnson, a sculptor and painter from Stone Ridge who’s participated in shows in the past. While many of the 23 participating artists are from the region, a few were selected from points farther afield, such as Saratoga Springs and Westchester County. Johnson met with each artist and spent a lot of time walking the Rondout to figure out the best placement for each piece, moving two works at the last minute to optimize their impact. He also worked with the artists on the installations, which in some cases were a bit tricky. For example, Kurt Swanson’s Blue Chain, consisting of a string of blown glass forms whose color and shapes suggest Baroque-era splendor, is suspended over the entrance to the Downtown Visitors Center; it required a climb up into the cramped faux attic of the building. In essence, curating the show was a “mini part-time job,” said Johnson, who is on the ASK board and works as an art director at SUNY Ulster.
One of the most striking pieces, which serves as a kind of gateway to the exhibition, is located on the median of lower Broadway. Entitled Man in the Middle, it consists of giant photographs—printed on durable bus wrap—of the surrounding streetscape on a four-sided plywood structure topped by a fractured representation of a man bending over backward, clusters of rocks (or rather, photographs of rocks) suspended from either arm. “It’s like Fiddler on the Roof,” said artist Bennett Wine, who pointed out that the pose mimics the form of the neighboring lamp post. Wine’s piece acts like a prism of the surroundings, a multi-dimensional funhouse mirror that echoes, distorts and dramatizes the mundane setting. (It also has a top image, visible from the neighboring roof tops.)
Other highlights are Tatana Keller’s Blue Line, which scales the incline of Company Path for a substantial distance and consists of crocheted blue plastic bags; Patty Mooney’s Navigating Change, a fin- or sail-shaped assemblage of wood, steel and concrete that simultaneously suggests movement through space and time; and Paul Bouchard’s High Modernist yet light-hearted Converging Arcs #7, located on the Broadway median in front of Mariners Harbor, and R. Jane Bouchard’s Circle, whose curved rusted metal strips hints at the waterfront’s industrial past and meanwhile lends the intersecting spheres an engaging warmth and tactility (the Bouchards are married and reside in Saratoga Springs). Susan Togut’s Waves of Transformation is a park-like installation, complete with seating, at the foot of the new walkway constructed out of distressed boat parts. It punctuates the space of an otherwise vacant stretch of lawn and would be a nice permanent addition to the waterfront.
That’s just a sampling of the rich assemblage of art. So as not to miss anything—works are also exhibited at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, Gallo Park, and in the ASK building—pick up a free map at ASK, 97 Broadway. The sculpture show is an outstanding example of how imagination can transform a cityscape; it doesn’t always take a lot of expensive brick and mortar. The show will be up until the end of October.