- "Untitled" by Yutaka Sone
If you're a fan of the Hall Art Foundation who eagerly awaits its opening in the spring, your wait is over — early. This winter, one of the buildings on the Reading campus is open for a timely exhibition titled "Snow Show." Even while rejoicing in the actual show of snow this week, flake aficionados can appreciate artistic renderings of the white stuff.
"Snow Show" is a modest exhibition of 11 paintings and one photograph. It's almost a given that any Hall exhibition would feature international artists, and that is the case here: Swede Anna Bjerger; Tokyo-born, Los Angeles-based Yutaka Sone; German Georg Baselitz; Americans Neil Welliver, Lee Friedlander, Dan McCarthy and Neil Jenney; and the rather peripatetic Peter Doig, who was born in Scotland, formerly lived in Canada, currently lives in Trinidad and has traveled extensively. All but Welliver are living artists.
Sone, represented here by three paintings, might be called a conceptual descendant of Vermont's Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. According to a gallery description, Sone took a homemade microscope and an assistant photographer to California ski resort Mammoth Mountain and methodically studied snowflakes and their patterns. Then, with a chilly palette of whites and blues, he painted variations of his own.
Sone's 18-by-24-inch "Untitled" depicts a very large snowflake and several smaller ones hurtling toward the viewer like asteroids, only prettier. A mountainscape with numerous trails appears in the background, beckoning skiers.
Doig's painting "Alpine Hotel" could not be more different. Gallery text notes that his work frequently incorporates autobiographical details inspired by the many places the artist has lived or visited. This work includes a swath of brutalist architecture — referencing Le Corbusier — a mountainside and a shadowy figure at the bottom. Though painted in a sunny yellow, "the setting may be reminiscent of the long Canadian winters of Doig's childhood," reads the gallery text. It offers this quote from the artist himself: "I often paint scenes with snow because snow somehow has this effect of drawing you inwards."
Friedlander's black-and-white photograph differs distinctly from his more characteristic urban scenes. "Tetons" features a snow-covered birch grove at close range and in overcast light. The netlike tangle of branches, frozen in a silver gelatin print, can read as an abstraction — or as a view privy only to an off-piste skier. "Friedlander seemingly encourages the audience to step into the frame, push the branches aside and explore what lies beyond," the gallery surmises.
McCarthy's painting "Wasatch" offers a somewhat more comical take on winter. As the gallery text notes, the New York artist's works often feature "childlike, smiley-faced creatures that are slightly unsettling." Here, a presumably human figure stands at the bottom of the picture plane, visible from the chest up. He or she is encased in a brown hooded snowsuit and goggles — unless those are very large eyes. In the background, pointy mountains streaked with white ski trails jut into a pink sky.
The Hall Art Foundation presents these and other inventive takes on winter through February 26. "Snow Show" invites coming in from the cold.