Center for Photography at Woodstock exhibitition on display at former IBM building in town of Ulster

Special Holiday Exhibit and photography on display at the Art Center


Dec. 31—TOWN OF ULSTER, N.Y. — Occupying 8,000 square feet on the second floor of the former IBM building west of Enterprise Drive is the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s largest-ever exhibition, “Parallel Lives: Photography, Identity, and Belonging.”

Brian Wallis, the center’s executive director, said the exhibit, running through Feb. 5, seeks to examine the isolation and separation brought forth as the COVID-19 pandemic raged.

But visitors to the gallery won’t find a single photo of hospitals, people donning masks, or mass graves.

“Instead, it looks at the personal and psychological impact of being isolated and separated from others,” Wallis said.

It features the works of 13 photographers from around the world, chosen from about 500 submissions that were carefully reviewed by Maya Benton, the exhibit’s curator, he said.

The exhibit isn’t afraid to tackle some of the biggest issues, including racism, conversations around gender and sexuality, and immigration, Wallis added. In many cases, Benton ended up not even using the work from the portfolios the artists submitted but ended up drawing other pieces from their work, Wallis said.

Wallis provided a tour of the second-floor space of the building that once housed a cubicle farm as far as the eye can see. He said the exhibition occupies just a tiny fraction of the nearly 400,000-square-foot building. He showed some peeling paint and signs that once marked the different clusters of cubicles, hinting at the building’s halcyon days in the IBM era.

“We wanted to leave some evidence of dereliction,” Wallis said.

Wallis, who formerly served as deputy director at the International Center of Photography in New York City before coming to the center six months ago, said they were looking for a place in Kingston to host the exhibition but they couldn’t find a suitable space.

Wallis recalled meeting with county Director of Economic Development Tim Wiedemann, who suggested the former IBM building, which the county had seized in foreclosure in November 2019 for back taxes owed by TechCity owner Alan Ginsberg. It’s now owned by National Resources, which has taken over the former TechCity complex, rechristening it as iPark 87 and promising extensive redevelopment of the long-troubled site.

Wallis admitted it took a lot of work to get the space ready.

“We had to hire a disaster restoration company,” he said. “There was evidence of animals in here. Some of the fluorescent tubes didn’t work.”

The exhibition walls, made up of unpainted parallel plywood panels, are arranged in a neat geometric order reminiscent of the long-gone cubicles of the building’s office days.

Among the featured artists is Manuel Acevedo, whose black and white photos capture Newark, N.J., from 1982 to 1987. Wallis said they touch on topics such as racism and over-policing, laid bare in shots with mounted cops on horseback.

“He just rode the bus back and forth on this one street, sometimes taking photos from the bus and other times getting off,” he said.

At the other end of the exhibition are Noelle Mason’s cyanotypes and tintypes depicting people being smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border in everything from tractor-trailer fuel tanks to large rolled suitcases. Cyanotypes are made using a 19th-century process where positive prints are made using the sun, he said.

The daughter of a border policeman, Mason now lives in Florida. Wallis said some of her cyanotypes are repurposed from radar images found on right-wing websites.

Also featured are Mason’s large tapestries depicting communities captured from aerial photography. Other images are tintypes, a process the center teaches, Wallis said.

On another panel are Jillian Marie Browing’s cyanotypes on embroidered backgrounds. Wallis showed off several that celebrate her matrilineal heritage through her own hair along with hair from her mother and her grandmother. Another image is a large self-portrait, he said.

Nearby, Rashad Taylor’s father-son images of Black men, including a self-portrait of him with his own son, seek to shatter the negative images cast upon Black men by the media and other institutions, Wallis said.

“He wanted to make regular representations that show a positive representation,” Wallis said.

After focusing her work mostly in countries that ban same-sex marriages, French photographer Scarlett Cote spent three years of the Trump presidency, with its hyper-focus on masculinity, traveling the U.S. to examine the spectrum of masculinity in the U.S., according to Wallis.

Felix Quintana’s photographs, also using a unique cyanotype, often with a tattoo-like graffiti, scratched document gentrification in South Central Los Angeles through a Latinx perspective, Wallis said.

Wallis said the center will host a number of special events before the exhibit closes. They will include family hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday in January.

Gallery hours are Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photos: Center for Photography at Woodstock exhibit : Parallel Lives: Photography, Identity and Belonging

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