Describing “Off the Rack,” an exhibit at the Everson museum, as a smorgasbord of artwork is both accurate and an understatement. The show is more like a smorgasbord el grande.
It consists of dozens of works that fill the walls of galleries C and D. It encompasses “Afternoon Visit,” a figurative painting by Sidney Goodman, and large abstract works such as Ching Ho Cheng’s “The Certainty of Blue.” And it travels from Eastman Johnson’s “Corn Husking,” painted in 1860, to artworks created during the last decade.
The exhibition came about because the museum was planning a renovation project and needed to clear out a storage space. Moving hundreds of pieces offsite was impractical, and it was decided to position the artworks in an exhibition upstairs on the museum’s second floor. That also gives viewers an opportunity to see works that typically aren’t available to the public.
For example, the show includes “Horrors of War,” done with charcoal, chalk and graphite on paper. It’s a powerful work by Grant Wood that depicts a woman and child fleeing down a road while warplanes fly overhead. This isn’t the type of work associated with Wood, who’s best known for “American Gothic,” a famous, much parodied work.
In addition, it’s reasonable to assume that an exhibition of this size would present artworks that are visually dynamic. Indeed, “Off the Rack” displays “Lobsters, Fishingmen” by Malcolm Morley. It views a scene at dockside through an expressionistic lens, emphasizing blue, orange and red colors and portraying the fishermen as faint figures.
And the exhibit presents disparate works such as “Hungarian Woman,” George Condo’s oil, and “Winter Night, Fayette Park” which depicts a street scene near downtown Syracuse. Beatrice Wose-Smith did that painting in 1937.
Angela Fraleigh has two paintings in the show. They are large, dripping in color, reflecting her critique of how women were typically portrayed in baroque and rococo artworks. In her paintings, female protagonists are independent, able to adapt to various settings.
There’s also J.J. Manford’s “Interior with a Parrot and City Paintings.” It depicts a house’s interior, infusing it with bright colors and looking at household objects in fine detail.
While the exhibit operates with a huge roster of artists, it certainly doesn’t neglect local talent. Viewers will see several works by Beatrice Wose-Smith; “Spirit of the Dolgon,” a mixed-media piece by Roy Simmons Jr.; Jerome Witkins’ “Annunciation 11:24 a.m.,” which portrays an anguished figure. Look for Juan Cruz’s “Manchas,” whose dense colors and forms convey a sense of conflict.
There are also several paintings by the late Gary Trento who created portraits and paintings depicting domestic scenes. The current exhibition displays his portraits of the late Sandra Trop, who served as the Everson’s executive director, and Jack White, who lived in Syracuse and Auburn for many years before dying during March 2023.
White has several works in the show; they include a mixed-media, abstract piece and “Kente Series # 5.”
“Off the Rack” is dominated by paintings and works on paper, but it also offers a selection of photographs: John Coplans’ silver gelatin print capturing Halloween night in New York City, William Wegman’s “Man Ray in Kushner Costume”; Alec Soth’s image of a woman who came to Niagara Falls to get married. Doug DuBois’s “Girl with Soda” was shot in Cobh, Ireland. It’s a part of a larger project devoted to young people living in the Russell Heights housing complex.
Finally, the show presents other interesting artworks. Miriam Beerman’s “Demon Lover” delves into domestic strife. She was deeply interested in psychology, in people’s cruelty and responses to it. Her best known works referenced the Holocaust.
There’s room for Joseph Digiorgio’s painting, “Oregon Coast””: James Penney’s sparse oil, “American Railroad Station at Dawn”; Nancy Spero’s Goddess and Centaur II,” a hand-painted collage on paper.
Umar Rashid’s acrylic, spray-spray-painted artwork reflects the creativity of a storyteller influenced by hip-hop culture, the movies he saw as a youth, his study of Egyptian hieroglyphs and American history.
“Off the Rack” is a huge exhibit, and it’s unlikely that viewers will spend time with every artwork. Nonetheless, it gives a sense of the Everson’s permanent collection and provides options for sampling the works. It’s well worth a visit to the museum.
The exhibit is on display through Dec. 31 at the Everson, 401 Harrison St. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission is $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors and students, $1.00 for visitors possessing an EBT card, free for museum members, children 12 and younger, people with a military ID.
Carl Mellor wrote about visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 to 2016. He continues to write about artists and exhibitions in Central New York.