Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting Schooled in Kinderhook

 How perfect is this installation? Art by Lyne Lapointe, wall by years of overpainting and the ghosts of a chalkboard and clock. Dapper gent at right was a serendipitous element.
The Piano, left, and The Moon, both 2017, mixed media

For all the bad stuff going on in the country right now, indeed, the world, art is ever the antidote—even if it references our current situation. This is the lesson I came away with after visiting The School in Kinderhook, New York. The fabulous brainchild of Chelsea gallerist Jack Shainman, The School is a former high school repurposed, à la P.S. 1 in Queens, as a place to experience art. It’s about two-and-a-half hours north of Manhattan via the beautiful WPA-era Taconic Parkway. I drove up on Sunday, May 20, for the opening of this season’s exhibition. 

The opening on a cloudy-rainy-sunny day celebrated 11 artists with gorgeous installations and a schoolyard full of tents with food and drink, a performance stage, and a DJ booth. Four gallery-chartered buses drove up from the city. Rumor had it that Alicia Keyes was there (her husband, Swizz Beatz, was DJ-ing). I can’t confirm this, because while everyone was outside, I went inside to photograph the exhibitions. I did get to see powerhouse performer Toshi Reagon, though. More of that in a bit.

Eleven artists, most of them represented by the Jack Shainman Gallery, were each given a room in which to show. The spaces ranged from hallways to the gymnasium to the Girls’ and Boys’ Washrooms, as well as classrooms 

Formerly the Martin Van Buren High School, the building was reportedly purchased for $250,000 and refurbished for $1 million (I eavesdropped on a private conversation). The renovation, replete with air conditioning, was pristine in some rooms—classic clean, well-lighted spacesand beautifully incomplete in others, in which the remnants of tiles and chalkboards complemented and challenged the art in the best possible ways 

 Let’s enter:
Radcliffe Bailey was the featured artist with a large number of works created within the past decade. Travelogue, as this survey was called, was given the first floor, with hallways, and a basement gymnasium whose ceiling was removed to make it double height. There were so many people in the gym that photographing was impossible, but you can see a small selection of Bailey's work here

 Above and below:
Radcliffe Bailey, Windward Coast-West Coast Slave Trade, 2009-2018; piano keys, plaster bust, glitter. With a small replica of a slave ship and a head barely visible above the roiling ocean of piano keys, this work commemorates the Middle Passage, the lives changed by it and the lives lost to it

Radcliffe Bailey, Manumit, 2016, mixed media including iron rods and sculpted head, 72 x 54 x 14 inches

Radcliffe Bailey, Untitled (Mende), 2011, wood and mixed media

Radcliffe Bailey, Astro Black, 2018, mixed media and steel

. . . . .

Now we ascend to the second floor, where each of the other 10 artists had a solo show installed in one of the rooms

Leslie Wayne installation in the Boys' Washroom (we know it's the boys' room because the tile remants  are blue). The suggestion of windows with broken glass and the illusion of peering through them continues a theme from Free Experience, Wayne's Fall 2017 show at Shainman's 24th Street Gallery

Leslie Wayne, Boarded, 2017, oil and roofing nails on panel

Leslie Wayne, Boarded 2, 2017, oil on panel

Leslie Wayne, Blinded, 2018, oil on wood

Leslie Wayne, Breakthrough South, 2018, printed window film on the window in the building's south stairway

Vibha Galhotra installation in the Girls' Washroom (yes, the remnant tiles are pink)
Altering Boon, 2011; glass beads, wire, and wood

In the alternate view below, you can see the world map made of glass beads. I take this work to be a visual reminder that despite the divisions of land mass and politics, we are one worlda message that bears repeating, especially to those who would build more walls

Nina Chanel Abney installation in Southeast Gallery. A scrim of white fabric filters the afternoon sun

Nina Chanel Abney, #21, 2018, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

Nina Chanel Abney, All These Flavors and You Choose to Be Salty, 2017, pigmented print and spray paint on canvas, 92 x 92 inches

Brad Kalhamer in the Southwest Gallery

Above: For Gotham Girls + Boys Club, 2014, mixed media on bed sheet, 102 x 137 inches
Below: Super Catcher VI and V, both 2016, bells and wire

Valerie Blass in the Northwest Gallery

Above: Foreground, I See Your Nose Grow, 2013, laser print on granite
Below: Unknown, 2017, mohair and polymer

In the Hallway: Gordon Parks
Foreground, Untitled, 1941 (I believe this is a self portrait); Langston Hughes, Chicago, Illinois, 1941

From the hallway we walk into a large gallery in the middle of the floor, once the principal's office. Here, Gordon Parks photographs on north and south walls. On south wall: a series of  prints of Alberto Giacometti, shot in Paris, 1951
Sculpture: Math Bass, Crowd Rehearsal, 2017; wood, canvas, and latex paint

Margaret Kilgallen in Unfinished Classroom East
Above: Untitled (Saro), 1997; acrylic on paper, stitched; 21 x 14; and Untitled (Ever), 1997, acrylic on board, app. 21 x 21 inches

Below: Margaret Kilgallen, Untitled, 1997, acrylic on board

Lyne Lapointe in Unfinished Classroom West
Above: Installation with the ghost of a clock
 From left: La Fantoma/The Ghost, 2017; paper, wood, linen, straw, hay, oil paint, and ink; Piano (shown larger below); and The Moon, 2017; paper, wood, linen, oil paint, and hay

Below: Piano, 2017; paper, wood, linen, straw, hay, oil paint

 Performing: Toshi Reagon on acoustic with her band
If you don't know about Reagon, more here with a taste of her eclectic acoustic/electric music here 

The schoolyard transformed with a food-and-drink tent. Performance stage and DJ booth are farther back. When I left with friends sometime before 6:00 p.m., festivities were still underway. The buses were scheduled to depart at 6:00. I hope everyone caught their ride back to the city

The School is open through October 6, but only on Saturdays, 11:00-6:00. More info here


  1. Excellent report! Thank you, Joanne, for such extensive coverage of this show. The work is so strong and the setting so evocative. I’ve only been to The School once but it’s extremely memorable. I love the pentimenti and ghosts of its past life. And then the capper is Toshi! Wonderful!