How many gallery owners in the Hudson Valley have built their gallery with their own hands? Chris Freeman has spent the better part of three years meticulously crafting the Private public gallery in the shape of a large cube, with an adjoining project room. The building, in Hudson, was originally a synagogue, erected in 1865, the fifth oldest synagogue structure in the United States. The gallery stands where the altar once stood. His current show, titled “I Remember…Remember?is on view until February 3.
Chris Freeman is no ordinary builder. His home design company is one of the largest in Hudson. He is also an artist, and sees with those brilliant double eyes that painters have. Like a television series that presents its cast of characters in the first show, “I Remember…” reveals the characters who will be the “stars” of this gallery.
Major New York galleries began closing during the 2008 recession; many have never reopened. Of course, the pandemic hasn’t helped. So a number of top-notch artists are without representation, which is where Freeman comes in.
Simultaneously, painters and sculptors were drawn to the Hudson Valley, impressed by the (relatively) low rents and rolling hills. Most of the artists Freeman exhibits live in our area, with a few from Brooklyn and a prominent Long Islander: Howard Schwartzberg. The Abstract Room in London will co-curate Schwartzberg’s solo exhibition in June, with Freeman. “They see Howard as our new genius in the art world,” Freeman remarks, and he agrees.
Schwartzberg is represented in the exhibition by four pieces, all of which I would call “puzzling objects,” vaguely reminiscent of tribal artifacts. Tilted painting (gray green) is not a painting at all, but a burlap trough, about two feet long, overflowing with paint – or what looks like paint. (Apparently it’s painted thick foam.) You want to reach out and keep the paint from spilling, until you realize it’s nonsense.
Untitled by Alexander Ross depicts a green plasticine substance, much like Silly String, tied in an intricate knot. Moon, a painting by Todd Richmond, shows the criss-crossing beams of the 59th Street Bridge pink in the sunset light, with a bountiful full moon behind. Regarding the title of the show, Freeman says, “When I was going into the studios, watching the work, I started to realize that these artists are using memory as a framework. I started thinking, ‘What does it mean to remember?’
Private Public specializes in large scale works, which is very unusual in the Hudson Valley. The gallery is also involved in the secondary art market (resale of paintings, usually by well-known artists). This is Private Public’s second exhibition; the first, “95 North,” was curated by Michael Klein, who ran a SoHo gallery for 15 years before becoming curator of the Microsoft collection. Pieces by Sol LeWitt, Richard Artschwager and Jonathan Borofsky appeared in this exhibition.
Freeman has had a colorful career. An art prodigy of the 90s, he was also a maker of sculptures for the likes of Claes Oldenburg and Nam June Paik. He then moved on to film, where he worked as an art director and production designer. For a big budget R&B video, he had to build a castle in 12 days.
Freeman started painting again in 2010 when her husband suddenly disappeared. He is now slowly producing detailed winter forest scenes on queen bed sheets with homemade paint. But these paintings will not hang in his gallery, at least not yet.
Freeman is aware of the difference between his early career as a painter and his new project: “When you are an artist, nobody calls you back. When you run a gallery, everyone says yes.
“I remember…remember?” will run at Private Public until February 3.
Private public gallery
530 Columbia Street, Hudson NY