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UB announces Artpark exhibition

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Ani DiFranco put it best. During a concert last summer on Artpark's main stage, the singer said, "It's kind of sad -- there's not much art at Artpark these days."

She wasn't exactly right -- there are still plenty of artworks on the grounds of the storied institution, a gallery run by the Buffalo Society of Artists, and more than a few family-oriented art workshops to boot -- but DiFranco's comment struck at a certain truth. For a certain generation of Buffalo artists and art lovers, Lewiston's summer hot spot for concerts and arts events has become a shadow of what it once was, at least where visual art, sculpture and art residencies are concerned.

The glory days of Artpark, in the '70s and '80s, will be the focus of a recently announced exhibition that will open in September in the University at Buffalo Art Gallery.

A release on the show, "Artpark: 1974-84," describes the heyday of Artpark's prominence as a one-of-a-kind art institution:

Charles Simonds built tiny villagesof mud and clay all over his own body (wherein dwelled mythical "little people"), as well as life-sized cairns; off-beat plays took place each day in tiny woodland theaters; and, one summer, Spanish food artist Antoni Miralda organized a procession and feast marking the end of the summer leisure. Children and adults alike took workshops in clothing design and cooking, contributed items to Ant Farm's Oldsmobile station wagon time capsule to communicate the values and the culture of the 1970s to the people of the 21st century, scampered up pyramids made by Lloyd Hamrol from dirt-filled burlap bags and descended into the earth by way of a sculpture of concentric rings constructed by Mary Miss.

They wandered among media and sound installations, and cavorted in a forest clothed by Pat Oleszko in vividly colored, Cheshire-cat striped fabrics and through a field of Joan Zalenski's ceramic Holsteins

There were spectacular earthworks by artists such as George Trakas, Michelle Stuart and Dennis Oppenheim, and mysterious and unexpected site-specific structures like Robert Stackhouse's snaking A-frame that followed the contours of the Niagara River at the edge of the gorge -- hundreds of quirky, complex, brilliant, challenging works of art intended to last a short time and engage visitors with the works and artists who produced them. It was radical and provocative. It was fun.

The show, which I'll write about more in due time, runs from Sept. 25 through Dec. 18, with a related conference scheduled for Oct. 8 and 9 at UB.

--Colin Dabkowski

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