HUDSON, New York — I am a sucker for exhibitions with the word “poetry” in the title. While I was doing research at Olana, the palatial home of the Hudson River artist Frederic Church, I went to see Still Life and the Poetry of Place at Pamela Salisbury Gallery (September 3–October 16, 2022), consisting of more than 100 modest and intimately scaled artworks spread across six floors in two buildings. There were pieces by artists I have been following for years as well as artists whose names I knew but whose art I had never seen, and others who were completely unknown to me. 

Jane Freilicher’s “One Cat, Two Fish” (1974) is one of the largest, most idiosyncratic still life paintings the late artist made throughout her career. The unlikely scenario — a cat lying on a table, hemmed in by flower-filled pitchers and bread rolls, with a platter of two large fish set near the puny enclosure — is funny and atypical. Other standouts include Peter Aron’s archival inkjet print “The Pantry in Olana” (2022), Susan Jane Walp’s two muted still lifes, Judith Linhares’s paintings of flower-filled vases arising from juicy bands and daubs of paint, Trevor Winkfield’s preposterous arrangements of various items, Brenda Goodman’s haunting autobiographical studio views, and Catherine Murphy’s large painting of a magazine’s two-page spread depicting an opulent domestic interior. 

Harry Roseman, “Room with a View of Hoboken” (1976), cast painted aluminum, electrical light, 19.25 x 30 x 27 inches

Many of the artists who were new to me are represented by more than one work, giving me a sense of what they can do with paint and/or subject matter. Some standouts are Scott Brodie’s images of a single object (different bars of soap and an egg carton); Phoebe Helander’s cropped aerial views of fruit, vegetables, and unexpected items such as flattened bungee hooks; Elisa Jensen’s moody depictions of windowed interiors; Ron Milewicz’s isolated views of kale on a table; Donna Moylan’s homey interiors populated with objects; and Kathy Osborn’s weird, interesting portrayals of a woman in the midst of a banal activity. 

The real surprise, though, came with two early works by Harry Roseman, whose previous exhibitions I have reviewed. Made of cast, painted aluminum and electrical lighting, and placed in what may have been a small storage closet, “Room with a View of Hoboken” (1976) is bleak and haunting, humming with a sense of isolation. 

Lothar Osterburg is another artist whose work I did not know until seeing this show. He repurposes boxes to create containers with a lensed aperture that we peek into; inside is a shadowy, mysterious room. In “Card Catalog’ (2022), we see an aisle lined on both sides with card catalogues neatly stacked from floor to ceiling. At the far end, a perpendicular aisle suggests a larger, visually inaccessible space. We are lost in the basement of Jorge Luis Borges’s infinite library. Osterburg’s works are just some of the delights in this wonderful show.  

Installation view of Still Life & The Poetry of Place at Pamela Salisbury Gallery. Pictured: Lothar Osterburg, “Shoebox Archive” (2022), shoebox with optical lens, wood, paper, LED light, 11 x 11 inches; Lothar Osterburg, “Research” (2021), photogravure with surface roll on Hahnemuhle White, 10.75 x 10.75 inches
View looking into Lothar Osterburg, “Shoebox Archive”

Still Life and the Poetry of Place continues at Pamela Salisbury Gallery (362 1/2 Warren Street, Hudson, New York) through October 16. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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John Yau

John Yau has published books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. His latest poetry publications include a book of poems, Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and the chapbook,...

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  1. I love Osterburg’s “Shoebox Archive” but I’d like to point out that this is a shoeshine box, not a shoebox. The angled piece of wood on top is where one places their foot, sometimes it is made of cast iron. Inside the box would be shoe shining tools and materials, not shoes. They’re wonderful; each is quite unique. I own several. Thanks to John Yau for reviewing this show.

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