May 20, 2022

28-29 August. Foreland, 111 Water Street, Catskill, NY; forelandcatskill.com.

Summer isn’t quite over yet – you still have time to venture into the backcountry, and this weekend especially, the entire Hudson Valley is in bloom with art. The largest single event this time is the brand new NADA x Foreland of the New Art Dealer Alliance, a kind of art fair meets group exhibition, which is organized by curator Jesse Greenberg in a newly renovated building complex from the Civil War – entitled “Foreland” – in Catskill, NY The idea was essentially to get people back on the streets, and the 81 galleries and nonprofits selected from an open call will jointly install their largely sculptural work without booths. Although some exhibitors even come from Bucharest and Vancouver, most of them come from New York State.

As the name suggests, NADA focuses on younger galleries, and the work you see at a NADA event can be pretty raw too. Many galleries are making their art fair debuts there, such as International Waters, a year-long Bushwick space that is uniquely located in a former loading ramp with a sloping floor. “Normally I would not be enthusiastic about an art fair”, says the artist Matt Taber, who founded the gallery with his wife Trang Tran and a business partner Mark Brinda. “But a lot of the people we’ve been in contact with, a lot of artists we talk to – they all come together at this fair.”

Parallel to NADA x Foreland, but until September 12th, another group exhibition will take place in another Foreland exhibition space, shown by the New York galleries Mrs. and Rachel Uffner. Sara Maria Salamone, co-founder of Mrs., grew up near Albany and said she had conflicting feelings about joining the backcountry urban artist migration. “But in the end,” she added, “I found it wonderful for the capital region that this energy is finally being pumped into it. I really didn’t feel like I was growing up. “

Both shows are also part of Upstate Art Weekend, a festival founded by curator Helen Toomer last year after she moved to the Catskills and created art routes for visiting friends. Upstate Art Weekend now offers an incredibly rich hypothetical itinerary with a handful of special parties and performances spanning more than 60 museums, galleries, sculpture parks and other aesthetic destinations on both sides of the Hudson River from Garrison to Chatham.

In addition to flagship institutions like Storm King and Dia: Beacon, the festival includes several large college museums (SUNY New Paltz, Vassar, Bard) and a robust selection of cross-fertilization with the metropolis: there are galleries that have moved from the city like Toomer City (Elijah Wheat Showroom) or were run by urban gallery owners (Airfield), city galleries with outposts in the hinterland (Geary, Fridman) and two galleries in the hinterland with recently opened or soon to be opened branches in Manhattan (JDJ, mother).

WILL HEINRICH

Until September 11th. Montague Contemporary, 526 West 26th Street, Manhattan, (917) 495-3865, montaguecontemporary.com.

Pastime is a social form in the paintings of Elias Mung’ora, a Kenyan artist whose eye and emotions are aligned with the texture of everyday life in Nairobi. Each of his most recent paintings functions as a social vignette: a seamstress on the sidewalk, with no customers in sight, a friend sits next to her and keeps her company. Four men are talking, sitting on comfortable furniture – a wooden trestle and mismatched blue plastic chairs. Small crowds of people wait in line for some reason outside the frame or group to peek into a doorway. Inside, two men lean closer on a round sofa; their conversation is more compelling than their cups of tea.

Mung’ora, born in 1992, is largely self-taught, a product of a dynamic Nairobi scene that is gradually gaining international attention. His first solo exhibition in the US, “Gathering of Small Fires”, is now on view at the Montague Contemporary gallery in Chelsea, which is focused on Africa. He grew up in a provincial town and studied real estate after moving to Nairobi. His images are bursting with curiosity about the metropolis as a large, constantly changing organism and the way ordinary people overcome their obstacles and shape their lives amidst its inequalities.

In previous work, Mung’ora sometimes relied on maximal urban scenes that are chaotic and sometimes gloomy. These new paintings, created during the pandemic, benefit from the embrace of the doldrums of big city life and the emergence of its characters as realized character studies. In brilliant acrylic colors, with a fine control of strong, contrasting colors, he now also integrates photo transfers from archive images of Kenyan history. Multi-layered, often finely balanced, careful details and blurred both in the figures and in their settings, Mung’ora’s canvases become distillates of the city itself as well as lavish portraits of its people.

SIDDHARTHA MITTER