Though he started out as an abstract landscape painter, Esopus resident Robert Hite always carried in his mind’s eye the strong impressions of his boyhood rambles through the fields of rural Virginia, dotted with abandoned houses and sharecroppers’ shacks. Later travels in Latin America reinforced that visual lexicon with images of corrugated metal barrio dwellings. So it was only a matter of time before whimsical buildings began to creep into his paintings and then pop out of them again in three dimensions. His artistic reputation is increasingly founded upon these folksy, evocative sculptures, and these architectural explorations were recognized just this past April with a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Most recently, Hite has moved into photography, creating illusions of scale as he places his model buildings in natural and urban settings and records them from various angles in an ongoing series that he calls Imagined Histories. The design of the sculptures is becoming ever more site-specific, with certain models crafted to support flowering vines that he photographs over time, from first green shoots to profuse bloom to dried-out skeletal remnants.
This summer, in a continuation of that series, Hite brought his miniature structures to photograph on the grounds of one of the Hudson Valley’s most iconic historic buildings: the Livingston family manse at Clermont in Columbia County. This Sunday at the Clermont State Historic Site, an exhibition will open of Hite’s black-and-white photographs of architectural sculptures situated in scenic forests, fields and gardens throughout Clermont’s 500-acre estate, with backdrops that include spectacular views of the Hudson River.
“Having access and being able to install sculptures to photograph at Clermont has been a boon to my work and a real pleasure. The rolling hills, vistas of the Hudson River and meadows have been an inspiration and joy to experience,” says Hite. “Clermont is a place rich in history, and there has been a great fit between what I do and the spirit of preservation that imbues Clermont.”
“Clermont’s Imagined Histories: Photographs, Paintings and Sculptures by Robert Hite” will be on view in both the Clermont mansion and the Visitors’ Center from September 7 through October 13. An opening reception will be held at Clermont this Sunday, September 7 from 4 to 7 p.m., hosted by the Friends of Clermont. The reception is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested; please call (518) 537-6622.
Visit https://www.friendsofclermont.org for more information on the ongoing show. To see selected works by the artist, go to https://www.roberthite.com. A short documentary about the Imagined Histories project can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-ItVCTHEf4.
“Clermont’s Imagined Histories: Photographs, Paintings & Sculptures by Robert Hite” opening, Sunday, September 7, 4-7 p.m., free, Clermont State Historic Site, 1 Clermont Avenue, Germantown; (518) 537-6622, https://www.friendsofclermont.org.