Photo Caption: ARTISTS Melissa Stafford, above left, and Nicholas Reinert work on their installation piece at 488 Broadway in Albany. Tha installation is part of the exhibit "16 Windows of Art." Below, David Adam Wilcove stands with his paintings in a window at 74 State St.

Photo Caption: THE FATHER-AND -SON team Kevin Hart, near left, and Matt Hart with "Spaced Bass-man," a metal sculpture. It can be seen in an upstairs window at 74 State St.





Section: ARTS-EVENTS,  Page: I1

Date: Sunday, November 21, 2004


 If you're walking in downtown Albany during lunch hour in the coming weeks, don't be surprised if you see a sculptor at work in the windows of 27 N. Pearl St., at the corner of Maiden Lane. The tall, bearded fellow is Albany native Samson Contompasis, 25. He creates his pieces out of local materials including stone that has been replaced during the restoration of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and marble removed for the expansion of the state Court of Appeals.

 Contompasis was able to secure the discarded blocks for free. That the stones served in landmark houses of religion and justice has little bearing on his artistic ideas, but the materials' age and condition has an undeniable effect.

 ``Working sub-structurally, you're finding something inside the block,'' says Contompasis, noting that the cathedral was built 150 years ago. ``There's a whole different way (this) stone works itself out. ... The weather makes it fall apart differently.''

 Now, that's Albany art.

 Contompasis is one of 16 artists, including painters, photographers and filmmakers, invited by the Albany Downtown Business Improvement District to put their visions on display in otherwise empty storefront windows.

 ``16 Windows of Art'' was organized by the Albany Underground Artists, the year-old collective that's become known for one-night-only art shows. This show, however, will remain on view through Feb. 11.

 The windows project is a natural follow-up to Underground Artists' exhibit in late May in the Home Savings Bank building on North Pearl. The Downtown BID co-sponsored that event and estimates that at least 2,500 people attended the four-hour-long show.

 ``What was exciting was the diversity of people in the room. It just ran the gamut. ... It gave you the feeling that you were in a real true city that was alive and had something to offer and people were excited about what was happening,'' says Pamela Tobin, executive director of the Downtown BID.

 Tobin says her organization is increasingly focused on creating events that bring together constituent businesses and draw people downtown. A good example is last month's successful Restaurant Week promotion.

 Mindful that artists have brought life to aging urban areas in many other American cities, Tobin is optimistic it can work in Albany, too.

 ``We think we've forged a great partnership with the artists' community and want to continue to build on that,'' she says. While there's movement toward helping artists and other urban pioneers make studios and homes downtown (see story, Page I4), the windows project is intended to highlight the ample supply of storefront real estate.

 Alive with art

 ``We came down here one night and sat in front of the building, brainstorming ... talking about how empty the building is and that we couldn't believe nobody's in it,'' says photographer Melissa Stafford, referring to the Arcade Building, which borders Broadway, Maiden Lane and James Street, and is the site of seven window installations.

 Stafford collaborated with Nicholas Reinert, an artist who's part of the team behind the local 200 Proof magazine, on a visual treatment of the Rapunzel fairy tale.

 ``The whole Rapunzel story started with her wanting something, craving something. ... A storefront window is made for retail shops to make things look attractive,'' says Stafford.

 Their piece features an excerpt of the fairy tale painted in gold on the window glass and dozens of colored glass bottles delicately stacked inside the window. No effort was made to hide the cavernous empty room behind.

 High above their large window on the outside of the building hangs some hemp Rapunzel's hair.

 Contrasting cities

 At the Ten Eyck Building on North Pearl, Neil J. Colligan has a continuously running, four-minute original film on six old TVs.

 Cutting between hyperspeed visions of highways and busy sidewalks with calm visions of the country, the film also has endearing shots of a middle-aged man strolling around Albany's Center Square neighborhood, where he is a resident.

 ``It's contrasting Albany, the capital of New York, and Manhattan, the capital of the world, and contrasting man and nature, a city and the woods,'' says Colligan, who works as a producer and director for Time Warner.

 A former Manhattanite who has lived in Albany for about a year, Colligan likes the calmer vibe and cheaper apartments here, though he says he and his profusion of film equipment have already outgrown his brownstone apartment. For his window installation, he picked up some old TVs from the Salvation Army.

 ``When I first put up the installation, people were coming down, smoking cigarettes. Somebody asked me if the TVs were for sale. It seemed a positive reaction,'' says Colligan.


Art for a price

 Considering that artists were responsible for covering all of their own costs, surprisingly few put on view actual salable pieces, like paintings or photographs.

 Painter David Adam Wilcove, however, decided to show some of his works from the last few years in the window at 74 State St., adjacent to a busy bus stop. ``It's better than having them in my dad's basement, where most this stuff has been,'' he says.

 Along with some small portraits, which he often does on commission, Wilcove included two abstract pieces created immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

 Completing a tryptich with the two 9/11 pieces is a larger painting of a pensive man and a woman. They are Wilcove and his former girlfriend. Says the artist, ``She was about to leave me and I knew it.'' Wilcove prices the set at around $4,000, while his smaller portraits run $800 to $1,000.


Sculpture musicians

 Above Wilcove's street-level, gallery-like installation, a musician stands in a second-floor window. Cloaked in silver, he's playing some funk while wildly thrashing his ample locks.

 Titled ``The Spaced Bass-man,'' it is a steel sculpture made by the father-and-son team of Kevin and Matthew Hart. It is the first major artistic work for both men.

 ``I've done metal all my life, it's what I do,'' says Kevin Hart, 48, a professional welder. ``This is just something I've done on the side ... just presents or things for friends.''

 A few months ago, Hart's son Matt, 21, took a new look at his dad's profession and realized it could be a good match for his own aspirations.

 ``This stuff here is a little cooler than painting. It's metal. It's manly. You got sparks, you got heat, you got fire,'' says Matt, as his dad starts to chuckle and nod his head.

 Matt Hart is now in his second month of a five-year apprenticeship program in metalworking. He's also working alongside his dad at V.F. Conner sheet-metal company in Albany.

 ``It's always been there for him, I never pushed him,'' says Kevin Hart, although he recalls his son wearing a welding hat at age 10 or 12, ``just out in the garage fooling around.''

 Their new, life-sized sculpture may or may not be the start of a full complement of rock musicians. But it's definitely the start of a career for Kevin ``I'm working to be the best,'' he says as well a fresh perspective for his dad, who's still getting used to the title artist.

 Says Kevin Hart, ``When we started doing it, a whole new window opened up for me.''


 Joseph Dalton can be reached at 454-5478 or via e-mail at


PANE VIEW Locations for ``16 Windows of Art'': Windows 1-2: Arcade Building, 488 Broadway, Albany. Artists: Melissa Stafford and Nicholas Reinert Window 3: Arcade Building, 488 Broadway. Artist: Lynn Beaumont Window 4-5: Arcade Building (windows on Maiden Lane). Artist: Tommy Watkins Window 6: 29 Maiden Lane, Albany. Artist: Lauren Payne Window 7: 29 Maiden Lane. Artists: Jason Smith and Shaina Marron Windows 8-9: Arcade Building, (windows on James Street). Artist: Chris DeMarco Window 10: 74 State St., Albany (downstairs window). Artist: David Adam Wilcove Window 11: 74 State St. (upstairs window). Artists: Kevin and Matthew Hart Window 12: 27 N. Pearl St., Albany. Artist: Samson Contompasis Window 13: Ten Eyck Building, 40 N. Pearl St. Artist: Neil J. Colligan Window 14: North Pearl Street and Steuben Place, Albany. Artist: Marika Chornyak Window 15: The Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany. Artist: Mark Lewis Gregory Window 16: 522 Broadway, Albany. Artist: Nikki Henck



Photo Caption: A MANNEQUIN gazes from a window on North Pearl Street in Albany in one of the "16 Windows of Art," this one by artist Marika Chomyak.


Underground Artist Send works to school

Also on view from the Albany Underground Artists is a show at the Nisk-Art Gallery at Niskayuna High School. And in a departure from the group's typical single-night-event mode, the exhibition, which went up this week, will stay in place through Dec. 13.

Painter Tommy Watkins also will be working with a few students on an installation that will become part of the show. "I'd like to leave the kids a message that they're doing right now as artists can stay with them, and it's more important than they realize. They need to stick with it and never give up, and thay can take it to unimaginable heights," says Watkins.

A reception for the artists, open to the public, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30. The show includes works by Watkins, Nina Stanley, Tyson Hauf, Shaina Marron, Lynne Allard and Jesse Matulis, among others.

Where: Nisk-Art Gallery, Niskayuna High School, 1626 Balltown Road (enter through the Nott Street Media Center entrance toward the rear).

When: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday or by special appointment  (call 382-2511, 4337).

-Joseph Dalton