Composition: The Abstract Landscape – Artist Talks and Opening Reception

July 8, 2017 @ 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
BYRDCLIFFE Kleinert/James Center for the Arts
36 Tinker Street

Exhibition Dates: July 7 – August 20, 2017
Artist Talks: Saturday, July 8, 2017, 3:00 – 4:00 pm
Opening Reception: Saturday, July 8, 2017, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Location: BYRDCLIFFE Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY
Gallery Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm, or by appointment on Tuesday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Opening on July 7, 2017 at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild’s Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, the exhibition Composition: The Abstract Landscape examines the ways in which abstract paintings rely on spatial relationships in nature. Not all works in the show are identified by the artist as landscape (that is, depicting a real or imagined outdoor locale); but all of the work is structured in ways that reveal how the compositional tools of landscape painting remain guiding principles in the creation of abstraction. The opening reception is on Saturday, July 8, preceded by a 3:00 pm panel discussion with participating artists and the show’s curator, Derin Tanyol.

Woodstock is at the heart of where American landscape painting was born. Hudson River School paintings, and earlier European prototypes by artists like Nicolas Poussin, are predicated on compositional aesthetics rather than topographical accuracy, using a vocabulary of raised viewpoints, penetrating space, and pictorial divisions into horizontal layers, with skies of an often devotional grandeur occupying half the canvas. Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, and other painters of classical landscape also frequently used a device called the coulisse, a dark, vertical object—often a tree—in the foreground, at one or both edges of the canvas, creating a natural frame around the landscape, like curtains drawn to the side of a stage set.

This kind of theatrical space in landscape is paramount to the abstractions in the exhibition at the Kleinert/James. Through the use of the coulisse, strong horizon lines, or—in the most abstract examples in the show—compositional distinctions between a thing and what’s around it, the works of art comprising Composition: The Abstract Landscape are serene exemplars of visual organization, underlining the commonalities rather than oppositions between abstraction and naturalistic representation. If landscapes by Cole or Church are harmonious spatial entities intent on inviting and absorbing the viewer rather than imparting geographical information, the exhibition at the Kleinert/James demonstrates how creating a visual and emotional immersion in pictorial space—what the late Jake Berthot, an artist in the show, called a “space-place”—underlies the aesthetics of abstraction.

Composition: The Abstract Landscape includes work by Gregory Amenoff, Milton Avery, Sally Michel Avery, Jake Berthot, Josephine Bloodgood, Donald Elder, Yale Epstein, Philip Guston, Jenny Nelson, Thomas Nozkowski, Sandra Nystrom, Robert Ohnigian, Thomas Sarrantonio, and Roberta Sickler. Amenoff, chair of the Art Department at Columbia University, has also curated the primarily landscape-based exhibition Entre chien et loup, running concurrently at the Kleinert/James’s neighbor, the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM). WAAM and the Kleinert/James will host a Family Day in their galleries on Saturday, July 22 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm, where children (all ages) and their guardians will have the opportunity to create artwork based on the exhibitions.

The show’s curator, Derin Tanyol, is Director of Exhibitions and Programs at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. She has a doctorate in art history and has published on nineteenth-century art and Surrealism. Tanyol has taught Art History at Wesleyan University and SUNY New Paltz.

Exhibition generously sponsored by Five Partners Foundation and the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation.