“Local” Self Portraits at the Opera House
Now - August 14
Lynn Davis, “Meroë, Sudan, 1998” toned silver gelatin print
The words “local artist” can cast a pall over an exhibition, implying, as they usually do, artists whose reach does not exceed their own neighborhood. But the current show at the Hudson Opera House proves that it really all depends on which neighborhood. An exhibition of self-portraits there, including Lynn Davis’ shadow, above, at the foot of a step pyramid in Sudan (the only known self portrait in the formalist photographer’s vast archive), in painting, sculpture and photography mirrors a similar event held at the same venue in 1864, when works by Frederic Church and Sanford Gifford of the Hudson River School were put on display to raise funds for the families of Civil War volunteers. The current show includes equally famous names from our own period—besides Davis, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Artschwager, Annie Leibovitz, R.O. Blechman, Marina Abramovic, Gerard Malanga—and 28 other artists, who have contributed their work, some created specifically for this occasion, some dating back 40 years or more.
Both Kelly and Artschwager, 87 this year, have been awarded the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Medal. In this show Artschwager shows a lithograph he created for the Archives in 2009. Kelly is well known for his stunningly simple lines and compositions, but he has also made dozens of self portraits in various styles and media since the 1940s; here he shows a two-color lithograph from 1988 with breaks in closely spaced vertical lines revealing a smiling face.
Kelly, Artschwager, Davis and many of the other artists in the show have lived in the Hudson area for years, but there are also new arrivals. One of the most recent is Marina Abramovic, who just completed a six-week live engagement at the Museum of Modern Art. Abramovic intends to establish a foundation and laboratory for performance art in what was once the 1,500-seat Community Theater in Hudson, with a special emphasis on works of long duration. Her self portrait, a photograph and drawing executed with the help of an airborne studio assistant, is from The Lovers, her 90-day walk on the Great Wall of China in 1988.
Annie Leibovitz, who has a home in Dutchess County; has contributed a bewitching black-and-white self portrait from San Francisco in 1970. Her friend Lynn Davis, also in the show, appears outlined in An 18 year-old Sedat Pakay, later a student of Walker Evans at Yale and producer of a PBS documentary on his legendary teacher, peeks out from behind mod sunglasses and a bunch of grapes in his native Istanbul in 1966 in a Tribute to Jean Shrimpton, who had appeared on the cover of Vogue that year in an identical pair.
Fundraising events such as the 1864 exhibition were not unusual at the time. Most of the paintings in the show were owned by handful of collectors, and their names appeared before those of the artists in the catalogue list. C.C. Alger, a founder of the Hudson Iron Company and one of the largest employers in town, loaned a Sunset by Frederic Church, a drawing made in Italy by William Louis Sonntag, and three paintings by popular 19th-century genre artists Meyer von Bremen, Constant Troyon, and Mrs. Lilly M. Spencer. Only four paintings were for sale, all by Arthur Parton, 22, who exhibited two more on loan from a collector.
Approximately half of the work in the current exhibition is for sale. A limited edition, full-color exhibition catalogue sponsored by Stair Galleries of Hudson includes a short poem by John Ashbery, The History of My Life.
Hudson Opera House