RIVER FUGUES: Moving the Water(s)
April 26 - May 31, 2014 

Closing reception: Saturday, May 31, 4pm

RIVER FUGUES: Moving the Water(s) interfaces elements of Cogswell’s previous project, Wyoming River Fugues with Ashokan Fugues, a new component that explores the New York City water supply system and the Catskill Watershed.


Moving the Water(s)Ashokan Fugues (2014) and Wyoming River Fugues (2012) are two mixed-media installations extending from an ongoing series of River Fugues projects begun in 2003.  Each River Fugues project is an individually unique installation which utilizes the musical structure of a fugue to weave together video, audio, and sculptural components into exhibitions exploring the interdependency of people, industry, and rivers. 

In its most general aspect, a fugue involves musical lines that sound very different and move independently from each other, but sound harmonious when played simultaneously. My reason for using the fugue is because of its flexibility as a conceptual framework which can be applied to any set of components one is trying to integrate, be they sounds or images. 

The impetus for Moving the Water(s): Ashokan Fugues comes from the New York City water supply system and its history in the Catskill Watershed. Although in the Southwest, “moving the water” is a reference to flood irrigation, I use this term to reference the NYC aqueduct system which “moves the waters” from the Catskills to NYC.  Despite the fact that NYC’s water comes from its Catskills neighbors at a great sacrifice by communities displaced to build reservoirs, I am aware that the average New Yorker has little knowledge of this. Ashokan Fugues emerges as an elegy to those whose sacrifices for New York City’s water supply remain unsung. 

While the initial process for gathering materials parallels that of a documentary filmmaker, the work upon completion does not follow a linear descriptive narrative.  Instead my mentors are found in composers and poets whose works stretch the boundaries of language and music and challenge my own thinking as I seek to explore visual parallels. 

Support for this exhibition is provided in part by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant. Additional support provided by Materials for the Arts.


Margaret Cogswell is a mixed-media installation artist residing in New York and the recipient of numerous awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2009), New York Foundation for the Arts grants (2007, 1993) and Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants (1987, 1991). Cogswell received an MFA in sculpture from Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University and currently is a member of Mapping Spectral Traces, an international network of scholars and artists whose work addresses place.

Since 2003 the main focus of Cogswell's work is an ongoing project exploring the increasingly politicized role of water. RIVER FUGUES began while in residence at SPACES Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio and culminated with Cuyahoga Fugues (2003), an installation inspired by and incorporating generations of stories reflecting the life and dreams embodied by the Cuyahoga River.

The response to this project has led to other commissioned River Fugues including Hudson Weather Fugues (Wave Hill, the Bronx, NY, 2005) and Hudson River Fugues (Lives of the Hudson, the Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY, 2009-2010) and The Peekskill Project V: The New Hudson River School, Contemporary Artists Address the Regional Landscape at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art. In 2006, while in residence as an NEA-sponsored artist at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, New York, Cogswell created and exhibited Buffalo River Fugues. Between 2007-2009, Cogswell’s River Fugues was part of Envisioning Change, an exhibition of work addressing environmental issues which traveled to the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium; the Ministry of Culture in Monaco and The Field Museum in Chicago. In 2008, Cogswell exhibited the first of an ongoing series of Mississippi River Fugues at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

In September 2012, Wyoming River Fugues was realized as a solo exhibition at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming, Laramie. In conjunction with this commissioned 3-year project, the exhibition culminated with a two-day symposium that addressed water issues in Wyoming. Never Drink Water Downstream included presentations by Native Americans, scientists, ranchers, students, environmental activists, legislators and others whose research or narratives contributed to the realization of Wyoming River Fugues

The exhibition Moving the Water(s) at CUE Art Foundation interfaces elements of Wyoming River Fugues with Ashokan Fugues, a new component that explores the NYC water supply system and the Catskill Watershed.  River Fugues: Moving the Water(s) is a two-pronged project with an upstate component to be exhibited at the Olive Free Library in West Shokan, NY during the summer of 2014.

In October 2014, Cogswell’s two-month residency in Shanghai will culminate in an exhibition of new work at the Shanghai Himalayas Art Museum. In 2015-16, a new River Fugues: Moving the Water(s) project will be created for Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York.  Other works in progress include New River Fugues in Giles County, Virginia and new components for Mississippi River Fugues

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Catalogue essay: Margaret Cogswell: Moving the Water(s): Ashokan Fugues and Moving the Water(s): Wyoming River Fugues by Amanda Parmer