Friday, November 14, 2008

(in)Finities reviewed in Ulster Pub. Almanac

Paul Smart wrote a nice review of the show this week. One small correction: the gallery website is (with one a.)

A mushrooming oeuvre
Works of Peter Barrett on view at KMOCA through Thanksgiving

Peter Barrett's Mycelium, 2008, oil on MDF, latex on wall, 12 x 14 feet.
[ Deborah Degraffenreid ]

by Paul Smart

Peter Barrett's work, seen through Thanksgiving at the Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art (KMOCA) in the Rondout, is deceptive at first. It looks decorative, feels easy. Then the amount of work involved in his full wall piece, Mycelium, gradually becomes apparent and the perfection of his wall shapes come to focus. The drawings in the gallery's back room start to speak out.

This is Barrett's inaugural exhibition in the Hudson Valley since moving to Woodstock from Brooklyn two years ago, the better for him and his wife to raise their son and pursue their careers as artist and dancer. But I suspect that it'll open up the gates for a deluge of more work over the years to come - especially given the beauty of the installation works, a new series of outdoor pieces he started last summer in New Jersey and Rhode Island and a growing quantity of commissions that have pumped him up for bigger environment works of the sort hinted at by Mycelium.

The works are mazelike in some instances, amoebic in others. Most are oil paint on carved MDF: the compressed sawdust substance used in Ikea furniture.

Yes, Barrett says, he did doodle a lot as a kid - in class, on the phone and eventually on graph paper - as well as at the Rhode Island School of Design for his undergraduate work and the Art Institute of Chicago for his MFA. His parents supported him from the start. He sees his work progressing in a single line from his beginnings.

Barrett calls his artwork a "practice," much as either a lawyer or yogi uses the term. "You devote yourself to it, but the work itself sort of comes out of the act of creating it," he explains. "Creativity is preparing yourself to be the most effective conduit you can be for the work to flow through."

Showing off examples from a 70-foot wall created in Salem, New York this past summer, or the flower labyrinth that he made for a new outdoor sculpture park in Rhode Island, he speaks about how pleased he is to have honed what he does to a point where he welcomes visualizing ever-more-complex works. He also acknowledges how proud he is of having learned to "concentrate visual energy" as strongly in large pieces as small. "Give me the space and I will fill it," he says.

Barrett's work comes to KMOCA - a great space in its own right - with an impressive r←sum← of previous one-man and group shows in Boston and New York, Canada and Europe. His work has been a regular at the art world's big selling fairs of recent years.

He's looking forward to expanding the number of applications for his practice in his new home region, but also noticing how much he's enjoying the give-and-take of the region's art scene. "I love other people's eccentricities," he says, "especially when presented with a rigorous work ethic and meticulous standards."

The Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art (KMOCA) is located at 103 Abeel Street near the Armadillo restaurant. "(In)Finities," Barrett's first show in the Hudson Valley, will be up there through Thanksgiving weekend. For further information visit or the artist's own website at