Exhibition Review: The School in Kinderhook 2018
By Belle Mcintyre
Jack Schainman’s outpost in the Hudson Valley is such a brilliantly retrofitted space to display the work of his stable of artists, much of which has demanding and specific requirements. The success of the shows which I have seen there are seriously augmented by the possibilities which the space affords. The most recent one which opened on Sunday, May 20 is dominated by the work of Radcliffe Bailey, a survey exhibition called Travelogue, accompanied by smaller collections of ten other artists, including Nina Chanel Abney, Shimon Attie, Math Bass, Valérie Blass, Vibha Galhotra, Brad Kahlhamer, Margaret Kilgallen, Lyne Lapointe, Gordon Parks, and Leslie Wayne. It is a richly varied offering of compelling and visually stimulating work.
The first clue that this is no regular school is the Mark Di Suvero red-painted steel sculpture Chonk On, on the front lawn. Upon entering the front hall one encounters the first Radcliffe Bailey piece entitled Windward Coast - West Coast Slave Trade, consisting of a mass of piano keys which fill the floor in front of the facing wall. The thousands of keys form an ocean on which seems to float a black plaster head. The reference is powerful and is a recurring theme in the work of this artist. The concerns which his art expresses are those of ancestral loss, identity, displacement and racism. Bailey’s practice utilizes multiple mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography and collage to create works which are both potent, and elegiac and richly reward careful scrutiny.
Bailey’s concerns are also relevant to the work of the other artists whose work is on view. Most notably, is the significant collection of photographs by Gordon Parks, the iconic chronicler of the life and struggles of black Americans in the 20th century. The depths of his empathy for the whole spectrum of humanity has rarely been equaled and seems particularly germane at this time. Parks obviously spent time with Giacometti and there are some wonderful prints from that period. Also, new to me, were some color prints from the 1950’s. However, his images from Harlem remain my favorites, and there are some beauties here.
Brad Kahlhamer shows a curious mix of rough folk paintings along with delicate suspended wire sculpture inspired by American Indian wind catchers which are quite ethereal and lovely. Nina Chanel Abney’s vibrant, primary-colored images almost seem to want to escape their borders so energized are they. There is a primitive intensity to the stylized flattened figures with elements of graffiti in the shorthand symbols which syncopate the compositions and add a wry satirical edge.
The whole event was an enormous celebration of the art, the artists, the gallery and the locale. A huge tent was set up behind the school with tables and chairs, a live band, offerings of interesting food and libations from local purveyors. The setting was punctuated with three Hank Willis Thomas metal sculptures which inspired the guests to perch upon them or to go inside the Serra-ish Vesse IIII by Radcliffe Bailey. It was inclusive to the max as all of the local folks from surrounding Columbia County were invited and were happy to mix and mingle with the invaders from the NYC art scene. The sun came out and it was a beautiful thing to behold.