Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Mohawk Valley's Rufus Grider

While it is not exactly the center of the NY art world, the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, NY has again redeemed itself with a new show, a collection of delightful drawings by Rufus Grider, a nineteenth century Artist/Historian. Grider's works are a combination of local views and factual notes in miniscule lettering inscribed directly on, around, or adjacent to the drawings. These small (often tiny) works, beautifully rendered with direct careful line and restrained color are truly compelling!

Actually this is a two person show, titled, "Drawn to the same Place: the Drawings of Rufus Grider and Fritz Vogt, 1885-1900". Fritz Vogt was working in the valley about the same time as Grider but had neither his concerns for historic preservation nor his creativity. Vogt's tightly detailed depictions of Mohawk Valley homes, mostly larger than Grider's, share the gallery walls but for me they just don't have his artistic power. Vogt's ambitious fact driven "illustrations" give much in the way of architectural information but they lack the beautiful sensitivity of Grider's pieces. Perhaps I'm also drawn to Grider because he uses a "vocabulary" quite like many contemporary artists. The inclusion of words, phrases and symbols explain the subject, enlarge our knowledge and at the same time provide textual contrast to the soft imagery. You can tell I loved this man's work!

Rufus Grider came to Canajoharie in 1883 to take a position as Art Teacher at the local Academy. Apparently he'd become unhappy with the spoiling of his native Bethleham, PA by the burgening steel industry. 66 year old Grider fell in love with the Mohawk Valley, its historic buildings, places and landscapes and began pushing locals to be preservationists. He bought and restored a local landmark and began a remarkable collection of revolutionary war artifacts, mostly illustrated powder horns which often the subjects of his many "documentary" paintings are included in this exhibition.

 The Arkell unfortunately did NOT reproduce any of the works: No catalog, No postcards. I probably should have taken a few pic's myself but you know how museums feel about that! - I have nothing but the newspaper image above and a link to the Arkell where you can see an example of Vogt's work.

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