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A closer look: 'Fall on me (Route 5)' by Max Collins


Title: "Fall on me (Route 5)" // Artist: Max Collins // Ró, 732 Elmwood Ave. through June 10

Buffalo photographer Max Collins, known for his community-focused wheatpastes throughout the region, is taking on one of Buffalo's most controversial structures: the Skyway. His new series, which shows the elevated highway snaking through downtown Buffalo against weathered wooden panels, was inspired by a recent list of problem highways in American cities compiled by the Congress for New Urbanism called "Freeways Without Futures."

That list, which went viral on Facebook earlier this year and was the talk of local urbanists for some weeks, includes Syracuse's I-81, the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto and Rochester's Inner Loop. Collins' pieces are photographs of the structure wheatpasted to wood panels that have been smeared and scarred with dirt, rocks and cement from construction sites around Buffalo.

The "Freeways Without Futures" list, Collins said, "made me think I should begin to document them simply for historical value, but being also aware that these structures hold a much deeper sociocultural significance." The series, he added, was also partly inspired by the work of Daniel Arsham, a sculptor whose work gives modern objects an ancient patina.

"In a similar vein of how Arsham uses materials to speak to the work, I found it appropriate to utilize more ephemeral materials like wood and paper to create pieces that highlight such permanent structures," Collins said of his new series. Collins' new work also bears a striking resemblance to Catherine Opie's groundbreaking "Freeway" series of the early 1990s, which depicted the concrete structures criss-crossing the landscape from below, bringing out a beauty hidden to drivers.

Unlike the list that inspired them, Collins' pieces take no definitive position. It's possible to see in them all the divergent things people see when they look at the Skyway itself: an unoffensive relic of the mid-20th century, an architectural underdog whose beauty is underrecognized or an assualt on the senses and an impediment to the city's unrealized potential.

--Colin Dabkowski

Buffalo Common Council may revive public art program

Coronation Day

Kenneth Snelson's "Coronation Day," from 1980, is the latest large-scale piece of public art in downtown Buffalo. Picture from Buffalo Arts Commission.

A longstanding and long-ignored provision requiring the city to set aside 1 percent of the money for capital projects over $1 million for public art may be revived on Tuesday by Buffalo's Common Council.

According to News Reporter Jill Terreri, councilman Michael LoCurto has drafted a resolution that calls for the program -- officially incorporated into the city charter in 1999 -- to be fully enforced. The resolution "supports reviving the 1% for Art in Public Places Program, and requests responsible City officers and departments develop and coordinate internal processes and mechanisms that will help ensure this law is enacted to the fullest extent by the beginning of fiscal year 2014-2015."

It also requests that Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak compile a list of current and future capital projects that qualify for the program and submit it to the council by May 27.

"It not only adds to the urban experience and what makes city living interesting, but it’s also supporting local artists, which is always a good thing," LoCurto told me in an interview about the stalled program last year. "We have such a vibrant arts and cultural community that I think it’s important for the city to do what it can to support it."

The council may vote on the resolution as early as Tuesday, or at its next meeting on April 29.

Here is a copy of LoCurto's resolution:

--Colin Dabkowski

City of Night puts out a call for site-specific work

City of Night, the grassroots multi-arts festival which will take over Silo City on June 28, is seeking proposals for "performance art, installations, sound art, murals, dance, theater, and light-based works."

Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, the group behind the popular festival, released a teaser video in hopes of inspiring Western New York creative types to apply. Check out the City of Night website if you're interested in applying. Here's a look:


And a handy walkthrough of the site for artists interested in exactly what they're applying to:

 --Colin Dabkowski

Albright-Knox curator Douglas Dreishpoon to scale back

Albright-Knox Art Gallery Chief Curator Douglas Dreishpoon will scale back his duties in May. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News

Mark Sommer reports today that Douglas Dreishpoon, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's chief curator, will be stepping into a more limited role at the gallery as of May 1.

Dreishpoon's move, which he said was inspired by his desire to spend more time writing and organizing exhibitions in Buffalo and elsewhere, is the latest in a series of changes to the gallery's top staff. Here's a timeline of the changes since Louis Grachos' departure in 2012:

2012: Former director Louis Grachos departs for the Contemporary Austin, followed shortly thereafter by curator Heather Pesanti

April 2013: Janne Sirén becomes the 11th director of the Albright-Knox

October 2013: Longtime deputy director Karen Spaulding leaves for the Oishei Foundation. Gallery announces hiring of Cathleen Chaffee as new curator

January 2014: Joe Martin Lin-Hill begins his tenure as the gallery's new deputy director

April 2014: Aaron Ott becomes the gallery's first public art curator

The gallery has not announced its plans to fill Dreishpoon's position.

Here's a look some of our coverage of Dreishpoon's exhibitions over the years:

Edwin Dickinson: Dreams and Realities” (2002)

Robert Mangold: Beyond the Line, Paintings and Project, 2000-2008” (2009)

Guillermo Kuitca: Everything, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1980-2008” (2010)

Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper, 1962-2010” (2013).

The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery” (2011)

DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002-2012” (2012)

--Colin Dabkowski

A closer look: 'The Seduction of St. Thomas (After Caravaggio)' by The Lavender Hinge


Title: "The Seduction of St. Thomas (After Caravaggio)" // Artist: The Lavender Hinge (Lisa Z. Morgan and Eric Magnuson) // Inaugural exhibition in The Lavender Hinge Showroom, through July 11

The worlds of fashion and conceptual art merge seamlessly in the work of artists Lisa Z. Morgan and Eric Magnuson, working together in a collaborative project they call "The Lavender Hinge." A selection of their recent work, made of high-end fabric tailored to the size and shape of traditional paintings and modified with strategically placed slits and tailor's marks, goes on view Friday in their new gallery space in the Belesario building.

The piece above is based on Caravaggio's famous painting, "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas," in which the apostle pokes his finger into Christ's wounds to quell his doubts about his leader's divinity. In their minimalistic interpretation of Caravaggio's painting and the event it portrays, Magnuson and Morgan have stripped the painting of everything but its central element -- the wound itself.

The artists describe the gashes on their paintings as enlarged buttonholes of the kind you'd find on men's suit jackets. But that's just a convenient diving board at the edge of a vast sea of other meanings and interpretations.

In each new painting, according to a statement, the symbol "swiftly develops into a cipher with an expanding vocabulary, with each fabric employed creating a fresh interpretation." In this case, the symbol may represent anything from man's innate curiosity to more discomfiting connections evoked by the painting's title. It's up to the viewer to decide.

Here's Caravaggio's original:


--Colin Dabkowski

Sculpture competition to honor Horace 'Hank' Mann


SUNY Buffalo State is launching a sculpture competition to memorialize the late educator Horace "Hank" Mann, a pioneer in the field of special education who died in 2010.

The competition is open to current Buffalo State students and alumni. Organizers are not looking not for a traditional likeness of Mann, but rather a sculpture that reflects "Mann’s legacy and his dedication to education."

The winning artist or group will receive $15,000 to construct the sculpture. Entries, which should include a resume and CD with five to 10 "examples of previous work reflecting their ability to handle a project of this size," are due April 15.

The college, which also renamed its quad after Mann, will announce three finalists on April 30 with the winner to be announced June 30. More info is at 878-6014 or this email.

--Colin Dabkowski

Give for Greatness becomes part of ASI

Give for Greatness, the arts fundraising organization launched by Artvoice publisher Jamie Moses in the wake of Erie County's 2011 cultural funding crisis, will become part of the Arts Services Initiative.

The merger of the two organizations, funded by a consortium of local foundations known as the Fund for the Arts, will create a new development director position at ASI. It will primarily benefit small cultural organizations and expand G4G's mission to include a larger swath of Western New York.

As the funding crisis of 2011 recedes into memory, ASI board president and MusicalFare Theatre founder Randall Kramer said, "the need for G4G remains as prevalent as ever for small and new organizations, as well as groups in Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties where public sector [support] for the arts is not as strongas it is in Erie."

It's tough to overestimate the importance of a group dedicated to funding new and emerging cultural groups Western New York and Erie County, as the vast majority of public and private funding goes to long-established organizations. Gaining a toe-hold as a new group is remarkably difficult -- a problem this reimagined version of G4G aims to solve.

Since its founding, according to the G4G website, the organization has raised $150,000 for local arts organizations. It was headed for a time by former Studio Arena Theatre director Kathleen Gaffney, who left the organization several months ago.

--Colin Dabkowski

A closer look: Mark McLoughlin's 'Stolen Souls, Willing' series

  Stolen Souls Neill

Artist: Mark McLoughlin // Title: "Stolen Souls Willing (Neil)" // Exhibition: "Viewpoints," through Saturday in Indigo Art

In his series of pinhole portraits "Stolen Souls, Willing," shot over 10 years from 2000 to 2010, Buffalo artist Mark McLoughlin is out to broaden our ideas about what photography is. To many, a photograph seems to be a frozen instant in time, a clear and faithful reproduction of reality. To McLoughlin, who emerges from a long tradition of photographic artists who have altered our perception of the world around us, a photograph is a recording and reflection of life in action -- a kind of instant fossil that somehow moves without moving.

His ongoing series of photographs, titled "Stolen Souls, Willing," captures friends and acquaintences with a homemade pinhole camera. After the jump, McLoughlin explains the idea behind the series and the process of creating the portrait.

Continue reading "A closer look: Mark McLoughlin's 'Stolen Souls, Willing' series" »

Mickey Harmon's 'Life and Times of Grovey Cleves' is online

The Buffalo art world has been buzzing about Mickey Harmon and Scott Mancuso's collaboration "The Life and Times of Grovey Cleves" since its opening last Friday in the Western New York Book Arts Center. Now, Harmon has posted a digital version of the illustrated semi-fictional biography of two-time president and proud Buffalonian Grover Cleveland. Here's a look:

--Colin Dabkowski

Ralph Wilson in caricature

This newspaper caricature of Ralph C. Wilson, the late owner of the Buffalo Bills, appeared as part of a series of Bills-based illustrations in a 1965 edition of the Courier Express. The folks at the Buffalo and Erie County Public LIbrary's Grosvenor Room dug it up for an interesting post last summer.


--Colin Dabkowski

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