Light and Shadows at The Hyde
Two Exhibitions Explore “The Shadow Aesthetic”
A voice wafts through the gallery, but as I turn to the left, the face that greets me is that of Che Guevara. Next to him is Mao Tse Dong. The sound emanates from a small screen playing a video of Larry Kagan, whose one-man show, “Lying Shadows,” is now on view at The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls.
Nathan and Thaddeus Kellstadt listen to the documentary. They’ve come here to see the Hopper exhibition in the Hoopes Gallery, but it is contemporary artist Larry Kagan who captured their attention first.
“Any art that can show you the trick at the same time as mesmerizing you is a winner” says Thaddeus, an artist himself.
There are only three of us in the gallery, but Kagan’s presence is everywhere. Quotations from the artist hang next to each piece, allowing the viewer a glimpse of his thought process and enriching the narrative feel of the exhibition.
The steel sculptures alone appear to be tangled abstract clumps. On the ceiling above them are lighting fixtures as careful and intricate as the sculptures themselves. By shining through the sculptures, they introduce a third medium: shadow. The shadows around the room depict a number of different images with an almost cartoonish clarity. A shoe, a chair, the face of George Washington. The piece “Hoop I” uses an elaborate mass of curling, twisted wire to cast the shadow of a simple ring. Inspired by a shadow in Kagan’s studio, he says it was “interesting to create an image of a shadow casting a shadow.”
“Lying Shadows,” as well as the Hopper exhibition, “Emerging from the Shadows,” were curated by Erin Coe, chief curator at the Hyde.
Coe has been with the Hyde for almost fifteen years, and her work has earned national recognition for the Hyde.
“As someone who frequently hikes in the Adirondacks, I was always coming up here to go hiking and enjoy the natural beauty” she says, explaining how she came to work at the Hyde. “It wasn’t really the exhibition program that drew me here at the time; it was the caliber of the collection and its reputation. Since I’ve been here I’ve been very interested in developing the exhibition program. A big part of my job is developing the exhibition schedule. I clearly enjoy the work.”
Starting in 2012, Coe came up with a system for building the audience at the Hyde, while simultaneously introducing new contemporary art.
“We did a show of contemporary artist Stephen Knapp, who does light paintings, similar to Kagan,” Coe explains of the 2012 exhibitions. “We had Knapp in the Wood gallery, and he’s not a household name. So how do you get people to come in and see a contemporary artist? You need a big name. So I came up with the idea to do “A Summer of Light.” In the Hoopes Gallery we did an exhibition of Tiffany glass. Tiffany glass brought people in. That kind of launched the idea of having our summer shows more thematically paired to help build an audience base and attract people to the Hyde.”
Coe says that the Kagan exhibition was decided upon first, and she chose Edward Hopper in order to continue using “the shadow aesthetic.”
“It’s really through Hopper’s manipulation of light and shadow that he was able to instill what we would describe as being rather ordinary scenes with the extraordinary, and that, to me, is his genius.”
Both Kagan and Coe are Hopper fans. Their favorite in particular is “Night Shadows.”
“We both agreed if we were going to take one home, it would be that one. It was just iconic,” she said.
“Night Shadows” an etching, is relatively small when compared to three watercolors on the left wall of the Hoopes Gallery.
The watercolors are on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut, but “Night Shadows” and most of the other pieces in “Emerging from the Shadows” are on loan from private collectors.
For Coe, the greatest challenge to curating the Hopper exhibition was “making sure these other artists were represented. I had to have Night Shadows. I had to have John Sloan. I had to have George Bellows. The Bellows was a bit of a challenge, but it worked out in the end with Thomas French who represents the Bellows estate in Ohio.” Other artists in the exhibition include Martin Lewis, Albert Flanagan, Louis Lozowick, Armin Landeck, and Isabel Bishop.
While putting together the exhibition, Coe says she’s gained a new appreciation for Martin Lewis. “He is not as well known as he should be. He taught Hopper etching and then Hopper gained all the fame and Lewis fell out of favor. His compositions are so cinematic and imbued with a sense of drama impending change. You have to admire the technique and skill that went into creating the piece.”
The Kellstadt brothers file out of the Wood Gallery to explore the Hopper exhibition they’ve been wondering about. I glance at the visitor’s book by the door to the gallery. The exhibition has only been open for two days, but already dozens of pages are filled with grateful notes from guests, thanking the Hyde Collection for bringing this art to the area. As I step from the air-conditioned lobby into the sun, I can’t resist making a shadow puppet of my own on the museum lawn.
“Lying in Shadows” and “Emerging from the Shadows” will be at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls until September 14, 2014.