these reviews are reprinted with the permission of Ulster Publishing and the Woodstock Times
WOODSTOCK TIMES June 22, 2000
Psychedelic redux by Zac Shaw
Entering the Woodstock Night Gallery, I felt as if I was wading into a psychedelic sea, an overwhelming tidal wave of fluorescent light dancing in the void of blackened surroundings. The experience is awe-inspiring sensory overload. As I ascended the gallery’s introductory flight of stairs, powerful wafts of incense surrounded my body in a scented embrace. The sounds of Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon filled my ears. And then they were upon me: dozens of intricate, fluorescent paintings, each roughly of equal size, dancing about the studio at various angles from various rooms.
Exactly 1,245 watts of black light illuminate the Woodstock Night Gallery, an optical wonder far greater than a simple art-viewing experience. This exhibit is also an exercise of the mind. Closer examination of the paintings reveals that each piece is an intricate maze—arrows at the top and bottom signify your start and end points. Each piece in the gallery has a date written underneath, the date the artist began working on the piece. But the date also holds a deeper meaning, as the creator of the exhibit, Alan Lasser, explained while we viewed a piece titled September 28: “if that was your birthday,” he questions, “would this be your path?”
Lasser has held extended exhibits in other towns in the Tribe-State area to much acclaim. He only recently arrived in Woodstock, drawn by the name and legend of a town that still has a hold, albeit a fairly weak grip, on the fads of the late ’60s and ’70s, including psychedelic art and sound. Lasser describes his art as “perfectly abstract”—that is, each painting is comprised of individual line forms linked together to form deviously complex labyrinths. This makes for a seemingly abstract array of small line forms scattered about in space.
Lasser tells me there are difficult mathematical concepts used here—each line form has a unique shape that is not duplicated anywhere else on the “canvas”, and no adjacent shape shares the same color. The result is dizzying, as vibrant shades of color chosen carefully from a neon-rainbow palette fight for one’s attention as the eyes struggle to focus on the paths that lie in between.
“Of the several hundred people that have been here”, Lasser tells me, “only three have solved the maze”. Each of the pieces is available for purchase, but Lasser hopes to make his art more accessible by making available posters of his pieces for $25.
Another one of the most accessible and appealing aspects of the Night Gallery is its window of operation; seven days a week(“most of my customers were too stoned to remember the night I was closed”) with viewing hours between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m.. “What else is there to do in town?” Lasser asks, “you can either eat drink, or juggle in here.” juggle?
Lasser takes me to a room in the gallery where several tennis balls, coated in fluorescent paint, sit on the window sill. He explains that large groups of visitors are often encouraged to juggle the balls back and forth to experience another interactive optical illusion. As the spheres are passed under the black lights, they create motion trails, which seem all the more vibrant surrounded by Lasser’s paintings on all sides. When the visitors drop the balls, specks of paint are chipped away. This process has caused the floor of the gallery to look something like a beach of black sand flecked with fluorescent gems.
If juggling isn’t your thing, there is a psychedelic chess set, coated in various shades of fluorescent paint. Additionally, Lasser has and will continue to host a variety of musical acts ranging from experimental instrumental to turntablists and DJs, adding the dimension of sound to the psychedelic viewing experience.
The crowds that come to the Night Gallery are much younger than the standard Woodstock art audience. Lasser has discovered, however, that people of all ages enjoy the gallery in different ways. The teenagers who come here to chill out often return with their parents; and the parents sometimes come back with younger children, who experience almost as an amusement-park ride. It’s not uncommon for people to sit relatively motionless for the better part of an hour in front of one of Lasser’s pieces—a rare sight nowadays in most other galleries. One woman even sat for several hours meditating on a particular maze. The gallery has a wide array of fans including , most recently, Reprise recording artists Thisway, who shot part of their newest music video inside the gallery.
Judging from the depth, interactivity and accessibility of the exhibit, the Woodstock Night Gallery(at 88 Mill Hill Road)seems like it is slowly becoming a fixture in the community as one of the few after-hours destinations in the town’s meager night life attractions. In his art, Lasser captures a part of Woodstock’s character that many take for granted. In reality, our town’s psychedelic past has faded into a ghost of its former self, but the Woodstock Night Gallery is a bright beacon that shines through the dark shroud history has pulled over this rare art form. The resonance of Lasser’s psychedelic art, while perhaps more of a novelty in the ’00s than the genuine fad it was in the ’60s and’70s, still has a powerful resonance. universal accessibility and infinite personal insight to impart to viewers young and old.