A sculpture by Bo Christian Larsson at the Vogt Gallery space at NADA Hudson 2012 (photo by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

A few of the locals intermingled with the art world of New York City and Miami in the huge Barn-like building of Basilica Hudson on the outskirts of the town where NADA held its 2012 Hudson art fair. The vibe is relaxed — detached from the frenzied energy of New York art gatherings — stirring genuine curiosity about the objects that lay throughout the Main Hall.

Works by Christy Gast, Mike Hein and Borden Capalino share a playful sense of materiality. (all photos by the author unless otherwise noted)

Unlike conventional art fairs this fair did not have booth walls to interrupt the space and did not have a mish-mash of work for visitors to try to make sense of. Instead, each gallery was confined to exhibit only one artwork shared the same free flowing smells of damp grass air as their neighbor exhibitors. This open format afforded the 32 artworks on exhibition enough space to be circumnavigated easily, sparking focused curiosity and a encouraging a deeper investigation of each piece. In addition, because Basilica Hudson is a historical building no one is allowed to use the walls, which interrupted a conventional hanging and moved the exhibition quite literally center stage. Many of the artists where challenged to take the opportunity to create an artwork specifically for the occasion, which meant the work for the most part shared in common a consideration of materials within a sculptural or installation format: from Christy Gast‘s burlap flag-like sculpture to Mike Hein’s palm tree in plastic acrylic encasing to Borden Capalino’s wittily titled “Stage Door Johnny” — a Plasticine covered plastic cat box atop an overturned and semi-dismantled chaise. Refreshingly the fair came together as a cohesive exhibition.

“Ravished” an image by Nadine Boughton at Davis Orton Gallery on the main strip in Hudson, New York.

This begs the question: Why do we need an art exhibition to be two and a half hours away to truly experience art as it is intended?

The Museum of the Imagination was closed and empty …

Adding to this pleasant feeling of being away, the “hottest little city on the Hudson” is home to over 23 galleries along the main drag of Warren Street according to its guide. Unfortunately, most were closed, but Davis Ortin gallery did offer a two-person exhibition of racy comic-like scenes by Nadine Boughton and a dark psychologically thrilling series of photomontage work by Fran Forman.

One door down BCB gallery took on an eclectic approach mixing a black and white photography, abstract painting and miniature limited editions by Julian Opie. However, the most tantalizing find along the strip was a large sign advertising “The Museum of the Imagination.” Well, it was closed and it looked very empty which led me to believe this may have been a local prank on unsuspecting visitors like myself. Regardless, I peered in through the musky window and imagined what the space could possibly one day be.

Then, during a quick coffee break I overheard this exchange between two Hudson residents at Swallow Coffee shop:

The work by JD Walsh of Daily Operation presumably the art work being referred to in the anonymous conversation I overheard while in Hudson, NY. Though it should be noted it does not contain any neon.

A: “How is the art thing going”

B: “Everyone is doing Neon triangles.”

A: “Oh, yeah.”

B: “Yeah … that’s art now.”

Perhaps it was the honesty of this exchange or the warm nostalgia of community spirit that made the return to NADA Hudson feel all the more upbeat. A number of playful outdoor installations including photo booths, a blow-up pool, a minimalist prefab light installation that used a Fontana-esque single cut in the ceiling to create an optical illusion, felt sweet and delightful.

The fair’s video screening room offered a wry and humorous video exhibition titled “Upstream” to be watched from an incredible collection of found chairs beautifully lined up before the screen. The 17 short form videos by 16 artists curated by Grela Orihuela bridged the gap between video art and entertainment, and in combination with the inquisitive set-up of the room offered a satisfying intermission between indoor and outdoor exhibition.

Anton Ginzburg’s “Flood” installation at the Braverman Gallery wins the day.

However, reintroducing the competitive side of the art world, if there were a NADA Hudson prize to be awarded it would go to Anton Ginzburg whose work “Flood” at Braverman Gallery flaunted a strong consideration of material and an unsurpassable conceptual premise. A single flowing tap connected to a pipeline along the inside brick wall of an alcove drenched the wooden floorboards. A modern, and somewhat twisted take on the age old symbol of the water fountain, Ginzburg’s installation felt paradoxically unsettling in its horror movie aesthetic and poetic in its fundamental references.

“I wanted to realize the installation ‘Flood’ for awhile, and the space in Basilica / Hudson seemed to work perfectly for that,” Ginzburg told me. “It was interesting to develop formal language that would interact with the site.”

Departing “Flood” to watch the river scenes speed past on the Amtrak ride home, I thought back on the work I had seen and could — to my surprise — recount actual artworks in their entirety. Coherent memories in contrast to what is ordinarily a post-art fair bombardment of imagery enough to spark an epileptic seizure. If anything NADA Hudson offered the ideal escape.

NADA Hudson 2012 took place from on July 28–29 at Basilica Hudson (110 South Front Street, Hudson NY).

Claire Breukel is a South Africa-born contemporary art curator and writer. Her interest is in contemporary art that falls outside of conventional modes of exhibition, and often affiliated with “developing”...