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Bordering Utopia: Sculptures by Brian Tolle, through December 12

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 19, 2015) -- The University at Albany hosts a wealth of artistic resources on campus that are accessible to the campus community as well as the general public. One example is the University Art Museum on the academic podium.

Currently at the museum, there is an exhibition featuring two artists, which will only be on display until December 12. They include:

Bordering Utopia: Sculptures by Brian Tolle is the first exhibition to bring together Tolle’s earliest sculptural work from the 1990s with more recent work. A UAlbany alum who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science, Tolle ’86 is perhaps best known for his Irish Hunger Memorial, a public commission for Battery Park City, New York.

Brian Tolle, Cheaper by the Dozen, 2008
Brian Tolle, Cheaper by the Dozen, 2008

Tolle has said he acquired the skills needed to realize a public project of this complexity from the negotiation skills he learned as a political science student and his two-year internship at the New York State Assembly.

In Bordering Utopia, while Tolle’s sculptures take on the appearance of familiar objects, at closer examination, this very familiarity challenges our perceptual foundations. Under his deft execution, a wooden beam or stone wall looks authentic down to its smallest knot or groove, but is actually made from hand carved Styrofoam. His unabashedly fake surfaces are like Potemkin villages – they may feel real, but the promise of the facade is a ploy.

In Tolle’s world nothing is solid or secure. It only looks that way.

Oded Hirsch: Three Videos (Nancy Hyatt Liddle Gallery) is a series of mesmerizing videos that convey an urgency and unnerving focus. An Israeli artist, Hirsch brings together multi-generational workers from Kibbutz Afikim (where he was born and raised) to perform a series of cumbersome actions.

  • In Tochka (2010) he directs the group to build a wooden bridge that leads nowhere.
  • In 50 Blue (2009) a young man pushes an older man in a wheelchair up and down rugged terrain to the edge of the Sea of Galilee.
  • In Habaita (Home) (2010) a group of unidentified individuals on a boat stare resolutely at a distant shore, while the boat remains stationary.

Hirsch’s performers never speak. “Talking is a distraction,” he says. Instead the emphasis on process and ritual points up how deeply the Utopian history of the kibbutz rests in the collective actions and intuitive connections of its members.

Hirsch received an MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. Among his solo exhibitions are: Contingency Plan at the Museum of Art in Ein Harod, Israel (2015); The Lift at the Liverpool Biennial in United Kingdom (2012); and Nothing New at Thierry Goldberg Gallery in New York (2012).

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