A tribute to Donald Alter and his art

WAG only had the chance to meet Donald Alter in passing, which seems a real shame the more we learn about the Hudson Valley artist, who died at age 88 last February in Goshen.

There will be the chance to learn more about him – and his iconic work – when an exhibition featuring his paintings, drawings and prints opens this Saturday, Jan. 11 at Hudson Beach Glass Gallery in Beacon.

“Donald Alter: The Late Work/In Memoriam 1930-2019” will serve as tribute to the artist and his role as an active member of the local arts community.

Alter, a longtime Hudson Valley resident, is described in advance materials from the gallery as an, “active member of the local arts community where he vigorously painted, drew, collaged and created in a profoundly experimental way, indicative of his scholarship during formative years at Black Mountain College. His early work from this period was included in the exhibition ‘Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957,’ which travelled from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, to Hammer Museum, Los Angeles to the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio in 2015-16.

“Historically, Black Mountain was long renowned as a foremost experimental, liberal art, and almost utopian college community, dating back to its origins in 1933. The profoundly influential faculty that established Black Mountain as an experimental center for the development of the American contemporary movement included Joseph and Anni Albers, who brought with them from Germany the avant-garde provocations of the Bauhaus philosophies of rigorous investigation, experimentation and foundations in many varied visual and material disciplines. These were always coupled with the student’s orientation and personal development. Alter attended as a student from 1948 to 1951.

“While teachers and students were in flux, some coming for a semester, summer school or for several years (such as Alter), teaching approaches, administrations and philosophically creative approaches also changed. Immersed in the buoyantly creative and social life of the ‘community,’ Alter met, knew or interacted with fellow students and teachers such as Rauschenberg, Joseph and Anni Albers (studying painting, color theory and textile design), Joseph Fiore (studying painting and drawing), the painter Kenneth Noland, art critic Clement Greenberg, musician/composer John Cage, dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham, sculptor Ruth Asawa and many others.

“Black Mountain College, its community and faculty, was to have a life-long influence on the foundation and methodology of Alter’s work to come, both as an internationally successful textile designer in New York City, artist and member of whatever creative community he was associated with. His knowledge and digestion of 20th Century Modernism, the principles of design, color, line, plane, form, opacity, transparency i.e. the visual language of art and art making, were so internalized that he had tremendous facility to almost render anything that should come to mind.”

An opening reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 11. The exhibition will continue through Feb. 2.

“The Man and His Work,” a conversation with exhibition co-curators Tony Moore and Harald Plochberger along with artist friends and the public, will be held at 3 p.m. Jan. 19 (snow date and time – 3 p.m. Jan. 26). The gallery is at 162 Main St.

For more, visit hudsonbeachglass.com.

– Mary Shustack

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