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CEPA packed with exhibitions

Last week, four new exhibitions opened up in the Market Arcade Building (617 Main St.), headquarters of the ever-active CEPA Gallery. I wrote briefly about the shows in last week's Gusto, but thought it would be helpful to post a slideshow of some of the work in the exhibitions to whet your appetites.

The shows include an exhibition of wordy monotpyes by Edgar Heap of Birds, a collection of assemblages by Sally Rebl, some architectural photographs by Biff Henrich and, perhaps most alluringly, a preview of the works that will go on the block for CEPA's upcoming auction on April 24.

--Colin Dabkowski

Daniel Nester on "How to be Inappropriate"

"All my life I have acted wrongly, very wrongly," admits writer Daniel Nester in "Notes Toward a Definition of the Inappropriate, An Apologia," the introduction to his new essay collection How to be Inappropriate (Soft Skull Press).  But this formulation turns out to be a false start: "...Let me try again.  The word I am looking for, I think, is inappropriate.  All my life, dear reader, I have acted inappropriately, very inappropriately.  I then regret the act; I confess, talk about it, apologize.  Sometimes I am forgiven for the inappropriate act.  Then I act in an inappropriate manner again."

It isn't so much that Nestor doesn't recognize the limits of acceptable behavior or respect social norms, it's that he has a predilection for shredding the bourgeois constraints of propriety and good taste in order to follow the rougher path of literary excess where the higher truth presumably lies.

Nester--who teaches at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York--read from and answered questions about his work this past Thursday night at Medaille College's new Academic Commons in conjunction with The Write Thing Reading  Series.

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Buffalo's new culture club

As I wrote in my column in today's Spotlight section, a select group of local cultural organizations have banded together to form a broad new advocacy group.

The Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance, cast by its creators as a grassroots effort to get more people to acknowledge and invest in the arts, will direct its efforts both at local perceptions about the arts and culture and at sources of public funding and policy.

The organizers of the GBCA made no secret of their intent to enlist all of Western New York's non-profit cultural groups in their ambitious attempt to weave the arts more deeply into the identity of the Buffalo Niagara region. But at this point, specifics are obviously lacking.

So what's your take on this new group? Is it an exercise in futility to try to wring more attention and dollars out of a state government already facing massive deficits? Does it even make sense to treat the arts in the same way as manufacturing, or, say, tourism? How should the GBCA get started on its momentous task?

Let's brainstorm.

--Colin Dabkowski

Alec Soth on Mardi Gras

As Lent comes to a close, The New York Times Web site is featuring a short video shot by Minneapolis-based photographer Alec Soth on Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It's unlike most of the countless photo essays produced yearly on the iconic event in that it contains no scenes of revelry -- at least not directly -- and it is saturated not with a sense of joy, but with that particularly Sothian mixture of desolation, desperation and isolation that characterizes much of his work.

Soth's "NIAGARA" series, shot in 2004-05 in locations around Niagara Falls, will go on view at CEPA Gallery as part of this fall's citywide "Beyond/In Western New York" exhibition. The image below, "Falls Manor," is part of the series.


--Colin Dabkowski

"Live Feed from the Black Unconscious" tonight at Hallwalls

One of the highlights of last October's & Now Festival of Innovative Writing & the Literary Arts in Buffalo, was this performance by the Black Took Collective, a three person multimedia ensemble co-founded in 1999 by poets Duriel E. Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, and Ronaldo V. Wilson at Cave Canem--the celebrated retreat for African-American poets & writers founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady. Their manifesto "Call for Dissonance—Black Took Collective" first appeared in FENCE, Fall/Winter 2002 and was reprinted last year in A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years, Volume One (University Press of New England, 2009).
Black Took Collective has performed regularly over the past decade, even as Harris, Martin, and Wilson have pursued separate careers in different cities. Tonight at 8, they will reunite for "Live Feed from the Black Unconscious," described as a multimedia performance written in "hybrid experimental forms, embracing radical poetics and critical theories of race, gender, and sexuality" at Hallwalls Cinema, 341 Delaware Ave. (near Tupper). The event is co-sponsored by the University at Buffalo's Poetics Program and it is free and open to the public.

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Poetics of activism in Nowak's "Coal Mountain Elementary"

There are only a handful of contemporary artists who have found a way to recontextualize the working class consciousness and activism of the American labor movement into the poetics and media art of the 21st century, but perhaps the most consistently provocative of these is Buffalo native Mark Nowak.
Now an Associate Professor of English and the director of The Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, Nowak returned to Buffalo Thursday night to read and show photographs from his latest book Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) as sponsored by Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center and Talking Leaves Books at Hallwalls Cinema.

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