Not only am I feeling crazy-old lately, but there are definitely times when I feel like a dog. Since that concept is probably best left for another time (maybe Valentine’s Day?) the “old …
Not only am I feeling crazy-old lately, but there are definitely times when I feel like a dog. Since that concept is probably best left for another time (maybe Valentine’s Day?) the “old dog/new tricks” angle currently applies to my reluctance to change my mind about preconceived notions.
The phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is typically used to mean a person who doesn’t want to change due to habit or stubbornness, rather than anything to do with their age.
Take art, for instance. I have very strong ideas about what moves me, what makes sense to me—heck, even what I consider art to begin with—regardless of what is presented to the world as such. That said, I’m willing to go, observe and offer up commentary, regardless of any expertise I might actually possess.
I’ve been writing about art galleries quite a bit lately. One of the reasons is that exhibitions are often in large spaces that I feel comfortable strolling through without worrying about contracting the flu, much less you-know-what.
Such was the case last Saturday, when I went online and secured a reservation to check out Sullivan County’s newest gallery, ASSEMBLY. It’s billed as a contemporary art space, and is currently featuring an exhibition showcasing Mexican-born artists, among others.
The place has been open since May of this year, and I’ve passed by the former car dealership a number of times, but thought it kinda uppity that the gallery asks the public to reserve admission in advance. At present, only 15 people are allowed into the cavernous space each hour, which I now see as amazing (old/new), since it allows the observer to take it all in, without feeling crowded, or rushed. And so I went, Wonder Dog at my side.
Gallery director Ari Mir-Pontier greeted us at the door, and I jumped at the opportunity presented to get a personal tour, rather than saving my questions for afterwards. Ari is not only an artist herself, but I felt sure she could also offer insight into some of the pieces on display that I might otherwise “just wouldn’t get, or like, or both.”
Starting with the history of the gargantuan space itself, which is incredible—filled with fantastical light from floor to ceiling—Ari walked me through the different artists represented. She told me how ASSEMBLY was founded by international artist Bosco Sodi and designer Lucia Corredor, and informed me that the gallery is sponsored by the Foundation for Mexican Art & Culture, along with “generous public donations.”
The space is located in an old Buick dealership in Monticello, NY, but I learned that it was originally built as a bus station in 1950. It was restored by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach.
I had already read online that “ASSEMBLY is presented as a forum for the construction of dialogues between… international art production and the local community” by Sodi, who is known for his richly textured, vividly colored, large-scale paintings. Ari also shared that Sodi leaves many of his paintings untitled, “with the intention of removing any predisposition or connection beyond the work’s immediate existence.”
Casting predisposition aside, I observed, listened, and learned (go figure) so much, thanks to Ari’s astute observation of my somewhat rigid approach to new things.
The first room I entered houses an exhibit titled “Local Storage: Stone Masks.”
With Ari’s help, I learned that the stone masks are the latest in a line of expressive heads and faces that Ugo Rondinone has made over the last two decades, and that Rondinone finds stones that resemble faces, taking it to another level by drilling eyes into each one. I had to agree with the description that “the approximation of human recognition they achieve is stunning for its formal economy and existential scope.” Because stone examples are hard to fashion and can seem comparatively less expressive, the artist’s variations of “face of stone” became a “metaphor for the absence of emotion, and by extension humanity.”
I found the stone “masks” captivating and each seems to have the artists’ desired effect: unique personalities coaxed out of rock. Not sure I would have gotten it without Ari at my side, but I get it now. “Note to self,” I scribbled in my pad. “You can learn new tricks, just pay attention.” Hmmm.
The main room is described as a “selection of contemporary sculpture from Mexico reflects some measure of the diversity of approaches to object making and social engagement that have made Mexico a global hub of artistic and material culture production.”
I learned so much at ASSEMBLY—not only about contemporary art and sculpture, but I also learned something about myself somewhere along the way. “Maybe I’m not as close-minded as I thought,” I said to Ari on my way out. There is so much incredible art to take in at the gallery that I’ve run out of superlatives. This much is clear: Bosco Sodi has given the Upper Delaware a gift that must be seen to be appreciated, in my humble opinion.
ASSEMBLY is located at 397 Broadway, Monticello, NY, free to the public and open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Schedule your viewing at www.assemblyny.org/booking.
Ask the Google:
Q—Is the saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks true?
A—“Like most adages, this one has a following of folks who truly believe that old dogs cannot be taught new things, but this is not the case. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Dogs are innately good learners.”
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