Summer Art Trek: Gallery Hopping in the Hudson Valley

The day will come this month when you’ll feel compelled to flee the city, at least for an afternoon. Luckily the visionaries of the New York art world have built a number of entrancing destinations around which to organize an easy day trip or a relaxing weekend. With the exception of Jack Shainman’s the School, in Kinderhook (roughly a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan), all these art institutions are accessible by MetroNorth. (Remember to check opening — and closing — times.) And if this partial list leaves you wanting more, consider stopping by Art Omi, Bard College’s Hessel Museum of Art, the Ice House and River Valley Arts Collective.

Kinderhook, N.y.

In the elfin village of Kinderhook, the gallerist Jack Shainman has transformed the former Martin Van Buren High School into a large exhibition space called the School. The details of its build-out may be a little more sumptuous than the mission really calls for. But that only makes it a better setting for “Basquiat x Warhol,” an unforgettable exhibition of the collaborative paintings made by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol in the mid-1980s, contextualized by an extensive display of solo works.

It’s no surprise that the two men overlapped socially — but artistically they could hardly have been less alike. The work on display here captures Warhol at his most inventive. Pieces like a 1983 silk-screen of a triple-exposed Robert Mapplethorpe show the kind of complexity he could put into an image. A series of portraits of New York drag performers, men for whom surface appearances — the way they made up their faces — carried real personal and political weight, are searing.

We even get a few examples of how beautifully he could draw, most notably in a gigantic Last Supper riff that debuted in Milan across the street from Leonardo da Vinci’s. But you still don’t forget the surface Warhol usually focused on, an opaque and shimmery scrim that to me seems like an inadequate disguise for the bottomless void behind it.

Basquiat, on the other hand, drew with a stuttering line that could never be mistaken for anything but an expression of his own electric personality. You see it in the paintings. You see it in nearly four dozen marker-on-dinner-plate portraits of artists he admired — Picasso is represented by a couple of squinty eyes, while Matisse gets a pair of scissors.

Follow Will Heinrich on Instagram @willvheinrich

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