5 Shows to See in Upstate New York, February 2024

The glory of seasonal changes in the Hudson Valley in Upstate New York inspires a distinct mood for art-adventuring each month. This February, there is a diversity of exhibitions that will warm art aficionados across the region, including Tony Cokes’s poignant video-work commentary on Black culture and American society at Bard College and Caitlin MacBride’s graphic paintings in celebration of Shaker materiality at the Kinderhook Knitting Mill. Several group shows flirt with quasi-surrealist expressionism, from paintings and sculptural works by Gretta Johnson and Christine Stiver, respectively, at Headstone Gallery in Kingston, to fun-loving mixed media artworks by 11 artists across seven floors at Wassaic Project. Scattered along both sides of the wintery Hudson River, these gallery and museum shows defy the colder temperatures, highlighting the year-round hearth of the area’s thriving arts ecosystem.

Tony Cokes: Two Works and an Archive 

Curators Hannah Mandel and Tom Eccles present two video works by consummate disruptor Tony Cokes alongside archival materials from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. An artist, director, DJ, writer, and educator, Cokes explores themes related to popular culture and entertainment through text-heavy video art. In early video works such as “Black Celebration (A Rebellion Against Commodity)” (1988), Cokes combines news footage of uprisings in urban Black communities of Los Angeles, Newark, Detroit, and Boston during the 1960s, set against industrial music from the ’80s as well as appropriated text. Taken together with a work from 2019, this show is a glimpse into Cokes’s steadfast gaze, which has fixed upon the struggle for Black liberation for decades now.

Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College (ccs.bard.edu)
33 Garden Road, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Through February 25

Gretta Johnson & Christine Stiver: Rumor Mill

This radiant two-person exhibition at Headstone Gallery presents quasi-surrealist paintings by Gretta Johnson and expressive sculptural works by Christine Stiver. Johnson’s practice evolved from video and animation; this latest work reflects her experimentations with saturated, fairytale-inspired combinations of color. A series of Stiver’s unconventional three-dimensional pieces, which recall biomorphic forms such as cochlea, oysters, or feathers, are carefully arranged on the wall, reflecting her affinity for exquisite forms. The loveable energy of the Headstone duo of Lauren Aitken and Chase Folsom makes this charming locale a go-to destination when art-vagabonding Upstate. 

Headstone Gallery (headstonegallerny.com)
28 Hurley Avenue, Kingston, New York
Through February 26

I Should Have Been a Pair of Ragged Claws

Taking its quirky title from the writings of TS Eliot, this group winter show — curated by four seasoned Wassaic Project staff members — includes a range of fun-loving mixed media artworks by 11 artists spread out on seven floors including Gabrielle Banks, Davina Hsu, and Ayumi Ishii. The creative reverberation among them is playful and lighthearted: A colorful ceramic object resembling a towering cupcake by Susan Klein seems to be in an amusing conversation with an organic, graphic quilt work by Katie Kaplan. Fabric works by Gherdai Hassell and Natalie Baxter are particularly animated and joyous. 

Wassaic Project (wassaicproject.org)
37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, New York
Through March 16 

Barrow Parke: Systems and Mythologies

Artist duo Mark Barrow and Sarah Parke explore the intersection between art, craft, and technology through their collaborative weaving and painting practice. This show demonstrates the intelligence of their chosen medium: The artists consider weaving to be a form of thinking that reveals a divine system of patterns. Their hand-loomed textiles and paintings address a range of themes, from creation myths and the cosmos to computer science and the mathematical process endemic to the act of weaving. Among the artworks on view are textile paintings that soothe the eye with tranquil grace and a tremendous vinyl window installation that recalls stained-glass cathedrals. 

University Art Museum at the University at Albany SUNY (albany.edu)
1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York
Through April 3

Caitlin MacBride: Palm to Poplar: Devotional Labor

Hudson-based artist Caitlin MacBride explores the intermingling of creed, labor, and desire through her painterly examination of classic Shaker material culture. A pop-up show at the Kinderhook Knitting Mill presented by the Shaker Museum showcases her richly painted canvases of stoic objects such as looms, knives, and furniture. Contrasted with objects from the museum’s archive that inspired her, Macbride offers a contemporary look at these historical artifacts by revisiting their prosaic charm and infusing them with a graphic, psychological edge.

Kinderhook Knitting Mill (shakermuseum.us)
8 Hudson Street, Kinderhook, New York
February 3–April 29 

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