Henry Hudson perished amid the icy waters of Hudson Bay after he was set adrift in a shallop by his starving and frostbitten crew members, who could no longer tolerate the navigator’s relentless search for a northwestern passage to Asia and the attendant privations. More than a thousand miles away and four centuries later, he finally gets a memorial of sorts on terra firma at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. “Ahoy: Where Lies Henry Hudson?” is an outdoor exhibition consisting of 16 installations designed by architects who collectively leave no stone unturned: There are elegiac reimaginings of Hudson’s ship and re-creations of his journey that reflect on the hazards and dashed hopes of his quest, as well as ironic commemorations of his complicated legacy.
The pieces are located on various sites amid the rocky ledges, mossy woods, and grassy clearings of the guild’s grounds, which serve both as earthy ocean and literal burial place. Visitors embark on their own exploration through the terrain, destination unknown. “The whole show is a journey, and within each piece is a journey,” says curator Linda Weintraub, explaining that as installations constructed by architects, the works are navigated through space—as opposed to the object-in-space orientation of conventional sculptures. That said, the show includes plenty of beautifully crafted objects that, while they may allude to the architectonic or function as signposts in a spatial narrative, can be appreciated as compelling sculptures. They include the planked fragments representing pieces of a wrecked ship in Barry Price's decentralized monument, Scattering; Nicholas Goldsmith and Gisela Stromeyer's taut sail, which is staked to several trees like a tent and looks both ghostly and determined in its mysterious forest setting; and Evan Stoller’s Hudson Museum on the Ecliptic, a 38-foot-diameter aluminum ring with a cantilevered lattice of wood and aluminum that’s a futuristic imagining of Hudson’s Half Moon.
Some pieces conflate historical reference with contemporary artifact. For example, John Cetra and Nancy Ruddy’s Ice Shard has the sleek elegance of a Shanghai skyscraper, while Matt Bua’s Henry Hudson Mutiny Memorial Drive Thru Kiosk re-creates a sinking ship and has a plastic-roofed interior that functions as a kind of coffeehouse public forum with postcards, announcements, texts, and drawings by the architect, and other information posted on the walls and shelves.
Other works consist of conceptual passageways that are devoid of a destination. Solange Fabiao’s Path to Hudson resembles a plywood wall when first glimpsed through the woods. Scaling a ladder, one enters a V-shaped walkway, whose truncated ends lead to thin air; from the ground, the ends open to a tunnel-like passage. The structure itself is elusive; a wall, bridge, and tunnel wrapped into one. It hugs the Earth and stands apart from it, like a piece of engineering. Randolph Gerner’s Asiatic Allegoria Secondary Road Palisades Northwest Passage takes a different tack: It’s a curving path of pebbles and mounded earth that turns out to be a sprawling relief map of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. The Palisades, meadows, and western mountains that Henry Hudson passed on his journey up the river are pegged to a miniature-golf scale. The terminus of the pebbled path is adorned with a red pagoda-like tower with three brass bells, a monument to the explorer’s fabulous, unattainable goal.
Weintraub said that when she initially proposed the show, she was told it could never happen because of the lack of funds. At best, she might obtain some blueprints. As it turned out, the majority of the architects she approached did agree to participate, financing their works themselves. “Ahoy: Where Lies Henry Hudson?” is on display until October 12. (845) 679-2079; www.woodstockguild.org/ahoy.