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Art Notes: Hood Downtown Emerges as Urban Outpost for Contemporary Art

  • A miniature workshop, part of Laetitia Soulier's exhibition, "The Fractal Architectures" at the Hood Museum Downtown in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 13, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • One of Laetitia Soulier's photographs waits to be hung for her exhibition at the Hood Museum Downtown in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 13, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Laetitia Soulier installs a series of miniature rooms corresponding with her photographs for her show "The Fractal Architectures" at the Hood Museum Downtown in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 13, 2016. . (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "Lure," a sculpture by artist Michele Ratte, is among the works on view in an exhibition of Ratte's etchings and sculptures at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden. The show opens Saturday with a reception from 3 to 6 p.m.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, September 15, 2016

When the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College shut its doors this spring to begin construction of its long-awaited renovation and expansion, with a re-opening date of fall 2019, one of the questions was how it would continue to exhibit art during the three years it is closed to the public.

In answer, Hood Downtown, a new gallery space in the former Amidon Jewelers store on Main Street, opens Friday with an exhibition by French photographer Laetitia Soulier.

“The Fractal Architectures” is the first of a planned 10 shows at Hood Downtown between now and fall 2019 that will bring some leading voices in international contemporary art to the red brick Main Street of a traditional college town.

Although New England villages have the reputation of rolling up the sidewalks on the early side, Hood Downtown will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

The point is to make the gallery accessible to all, said Hood Museum Director John Stomberg. On Mondays and Tuesdays the gallery will be used as a teaching space for Dartmouth students.

There will be a three- or four-month overlap between the reopening of the Hood and the closing of the gallery, which the museum is leasing for a three-year period, Stomberg said.

On a recent weekday morning, museum staff were readying the space for Soulier’s exhibition, which consists of seven large-scale photographs, each 40 by 80 inches, and two of the scale models that Soulier uses to stage her tableaux of human subjects posing against the backdrop of interiors that she has meticulously designed and built.

The colors are saturated and intense, the sets extraordinarily detailed, and the expressions of the models, who are both around 8 years old, convey both the delicate enigma of childhood and the infinite capacity of a child’s imagination.

They’re at the age, Soulier said, when they are poised to make a huge intellectual leap from the “fantastical mind of childhood to the rational mind.”

Her photographs evoke worlds within worlds within worlds, much as Russian matryoshka dolls nestle within each other, from smallest to largest.

In Soulier’s photographs — or perhaps one should call them alternate realities — miniature staircases spiral out of sight, a child’s eye is seen peeping through a keyhole, and a human shoe looks enormous, and somehow intrusive, against the background of a world in miniature.

The background designs are based on fractal geometry, in which patterns repeat themselves endlessly, no matter what the scale. Her photographs lead you farther and farther in, as if you are wandering into a labyrinth.

“There’s always more detail in your work than meets the eye,” Stomberg told her.

Stomberg, who was at the gallery with Soulier as she worked with staff to install the photographs, first encountered Soulier’s work last year at Art Basel, Miami, the international art fair held annually in Basel, Switzerland, Miami and Hong Kong. He was compelled, he said, by the way Soulier’s work pairs “visual power and intellectual heft.”

Opening Hood Downtown with Soulier’s show meets one of Stomberg’s stated objectives for the museum, which is to raise the profile of the Hood as a place to study art and documentary photography.

That goal was also advanced last week with the announcement that the Hood is acquiring the complete archive of the photojournalist James Nachtwey, a Dartmouth graduate.

Soulier was born in Bordeaux in 1978, and received her B.A. from the Art School of Cergy, and her M.F.A. from l’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, as well as a degree in philosophy from the University of Paris. Her work has been exhibited at galleries, expositions and festivals in Tokyo, Paris, New York, Venice and Chicago.

She moved to New York 10 years ago, both because of its central role in the art world, and because it is, well, New York.

“Parisians are very fond of New York,” Soulier said. The scale of the work she does has changed because of her experience living in the city, she said.

“The architecture is out of proportion,” she said, miming with her hands the dramatic skyline of what she called “this gigantic island rising from the water.”

Soulier’s photographs subtly suggest the history of art without giving it too overt a nod. In a self-portrait, set against a backdrop of deep crimson, she gazes attentively at a drawing, pencil in hand, looking as if she were a scientist or naturalist in a 17th century Dutch portrait, taking the measure of the world.

In The Square Roots 3, in which she metaphorically depicts a boy’s growth from infancy to childhood to adulthood, there are echoes of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, in the way a golden-curled boy sprawls gracefully on a stair, looking up at a pair of feet (his adult self) disappearing from view.

Soulier, who uses a medium format Hasselblad camera, said she works carefully with the children over months until they are comfortable with posing.

From start to finish, one of her photographs can take anywhere from three months to a year, she said. She works on one project at a time, rather than trying to juggle them.

One of the challenges is deciding which of her many ideas to take up next, Soulier said. She relies on both instinct and deliberation to tell her which way to go. And then, she said, “They just take over completely.”

There will be a public reception for “The Fractal Architectures” and the opening of Hood Downtown this Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. The show remains on view through Dec. 11.

Openings and Receptions

Last year, the Long River Galleries in Lyme held a show of work about India by Topsham artist Bruce Peck, who was born there and lives there for six months of the year. This month the galleries will feature the work of Peck’s wife Ann. Inspired by India, Peck uses sumi ink and fabric dye on silk and linen. Her works go on view Friday in the show “Following the Silk Road: From India to New England,” with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. The show runs through Nov. 6.

The department of Studio Art at Dartmouth College begins its fall exhibition schedule with a show in the Jaffe-Friede gallery in the Hopkins Center by Syrian-American artist Diana Al-Hadid, who works in both sculpture and painting. Al-Hadid is an artist-in-residence at the college, and she will give a gallery talk on Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. A reception follows at 5:45. The show continues through Nov. 13. Over in the Strauss Gallery the department will exhibit the show “Speak! Listen! CT! A Kaleidoscope of Architectural Elements for Public Space,” also through Nov. 13.

The Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden is presenting a range of sculpture, drawings and prints by Saxtons River, Vt., artist Michele Ratté. There will be an opening reception on Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. The show will be up through Oct. 30.

Of Note

The Library Arts Center in Newport is throwing itself a party, and the theme is Casablanca. Here’s looking at you, kid. Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. And so on. The event, which includes drinks, dinner and live music, will be held in the hangar at Parlin Field, which will be transformed into Rick’s Cafe, circa 1944. Tickets are $50. Money raised will benefit the Library Arts Center. For information or to buy tickets call the LAC at 603-863-3040 or order online by the end of the day Friday at libraryartscenter.org/Casablanca.

Ongoing

Arabella, Windsor. The gallery exhibits works by local artists and artisans in a variety of media including jewelry, oils, acrylics, photography, watercolors, pastels and textiles.

AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon. Five artists show their work in the main galleries. Gina Adams exhibits “Its Honor is Here Pledged;” Lebanon artist Paulette Werger shows metal work in “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” and gives a gallery talk at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29; “Nature Revisited” combines the works of Gar Waterman, from Connecticut, and Rob Kesseler, an English artist: both men will speak on Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. Finally, Josh Yunger exhibits “ABC,” a show about his relationship with AVA Gallery, in the Johnson Sisters Library on the second floor. All exhibits run through Oct. 12. Also, a show of work by Upper Valley artists on view at Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford continues through Sept. 24.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “Photographs from Home,” by Virginia Beahan, ends Saturday. “Painting in the Neighborhood,” with work by Celia Reisman and Peter Fried, is open until Oct. 1.

Cider Hill Art Gallery and Gardens, Windsor. Gary Milek exhibits his work in the gallery.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. Japanese nerikomi ceramics by John Quimby are on view until Sept. 30.

Aidron Duckworth Museum, Meriden. “Developing Dimension,” works by Aidron Duckworth that show his ability to create depth in drawings and paintings. are up through Oct. 30. The sculpture of Terry Lund, on the grounds, is also on view through Oct. 30.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. “Landscapes After Ruskin: Redefining the Sublime,” curated by photographer Joel Sternfeld, continues through Nov. 27.

Howe Library, Hanover. The Ledyard Gallery exhibits the work of Strafford artist Joshua Yunger through Sept. 28.

Library Arts Center, Newport. “Voices & Visions: Empowerment Through Art,” an exhibition addressing sexual and domestic violence continues through Oct. 28.

Main Street Museum, White River Junction. The museum’s exhibition of memorabilia associated with the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and early 1960s continues through Oct. 28.

Osher at Dartmouth, Hanover. Lyme artist Barbara Newton exhibits her collages of New England landscapes through Sept. 28. The show is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Fridays from 8:30 to 1 p.m.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. An exhibition of landscapes and cityscapes by Lyme painter and illustrator Meg McLean is on view through Sept. 30.

Norwich Public Library. “Mixed Bag,” an exhibition of abstract and realist work by Lynda Knisley and Linda Reeves Potter runs through Oct. 28.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. Sue Lenfest shows works related to nature and agriculture through Oct. 22.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. Multimedia artist Candice Ivy exhibits her work in the exhibition “Within Above Below the Skin,” on view in the Picture Gallery through Oct. 31.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The annual celebration of three-dimensional art continues through foliage season. A new exhibition, “Grounding,” a show of site-specific work curated by sculptors Jay Mead and Edyth Wright, is now on view at the King Farm, while the Prosper Road site also shows new work. For more information, go to sculpturefest.org.

Tunbridge Public Library. “Facial Recognition,” a show by painter Marianne McCann continues until Nov. 4.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. A show of works by Carol Lippman, an artist from West Newbury, Vt., runs through Sept. 30.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.