With over a hundred museums and galleries stretching from Nyack to Hudson and everywhere in between, the Hudson Valley has become a world-class visual arts destination all its own. If you’re the kind of art lover looking for boundary-pushing curatorial work, there’s no better place to visit than the Hessel Museum of Art at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard) in Annandale-on-Hudson.
Right now, CCS Bard has three exhibitions on view through autumn that each speak to important themes in the contemporary curatorial reconsideration of art historical canon, with emphasis on locating and highlighting marginalized or forgotten voices.
On view through November 27 is “Dara Birnbaum: Reaction,” the first US retrospective of the artist’s work, which, despite her groundbreaking work in video, has not been as widely known or recognized as that of her male contemporaries. The show explores how Birnbaum—one of the first artists to “talk back to the media” through her use of video editing techniques such as reediting found material or inserting remixed footage back into public networks—used her art to study how mass media reflects and perpetuates the destructive dictates of normative sociopolitical structures, from gender issues to state-sanctioned violence.
“Most of my works, from the earliest to the present, involve the act of appropriation,” said Birnbaum in a recent interview with Widewalls. “I felt the need to break through the dominant communication systems in our culture by altering the syntax and recontextualizing images that are readily available in popular culture.”
“Black Melancholia,” on view through October 16, brings together the work of 28 artists of African descent in a necessary examination of Western art’s conceptions of melancholy—often solely reserved for white, cis (fe-)male subjects. The show, which the New York Times described as “a stirring group show” that “celebrates Black endurance,” includes new commissions as well as painting, sculpture, film, photography, works on paper, and sound from artists from the late 19th century to the present day whose careers never reached full recognition or potential during their lifetimes due to systemic erasure.
“Martine Syms: Grio College,” also running through November 27, explores new and recent videos and installations from Syms, a contemporary artist whose work across multiple forms of digital media explores representations of Blackness and its relationship to vernacular, feminist thought and radical traditions.
Syms’s “Grio College”—the name of the fictional school in her feature film The African Desperate (2022), in which an artist attends a heady and heated MFA program in a pastoral setting—explores the idea of a “curriculum” as a concept not just belonging to higher education, but which draws on the theories, thinkers, culture, music, ideas, and teachers that influence us, formally and informally, throughout our entire lives.
The Hessel Museum of Art at CCS Bard is free and open to the public 12-6pm Wednesday-Monday through Labor Day, then 11am-5pm Wednesday–Sunday. Guided tours are available—for more information, visit ccs.bard.edu.