On Friday afternoon, Shasti O'Leary Soudant's new installation "Let There Be Light" opened in the Burchfield Penney Art Center's innovative Useum space. She was kind enough to give me a little tour of the exhibition, which is fueled by her fascination with light. The kid-friendly show runs through Sept. 29.
For too many years, the Central Park Plaza sat vacant and abandoned on the East Side, its shattered windows and crumbling bricks signals of the city’s larger misfortunes. But before crews finally knocked down its final building and left behind a lonely, empty lot, University at Buffalo architecture professors Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis dreamed up a fantastic new plan for the long-neglected strip mall.
This close-up rendering of the retooled plaza, which is part of the UB Anderson Gallery’s imaginative and eye-opening exhibition “Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall,” shows what an artist’s eye is capable of when applied to the city’s pressing problems of blight and decline. In Davidson and Rafailidis’ alternate universe, the plaza’s raw materials provide raw material for new construction projects, which in turn create bustling new center of urban activity where the derelict strip mall once stood. The exhibition argues convincingly that this Quixotic vision need not die a quiet death on a gallery wall –- it could actually become a reality.
As the Albright-Knox Art Gallery awaits the arrival of newly appointed director Janne Sirén in the spring, former gallery director Louis Grachos is already off and running in his new job as director of AMOA-Arthouse in Austin, Tex. That organization released a video in which Grachos details his vision for the role of contemporary art in that city's future -- a vision that he developed and honed in his 10 years as director of the Albright-Knox. Take a look:
The New York Times just ran an entertaining story about various portraits of Mozart. Apparently Salzburg, where Mozart was born, has put together an exhibit of 14 portraits of him. Attached to the Times story is a gallery of a Mozart portrait slideshow, so you may view and judge.
You won't find the above picture in the gallery! It is totally spurious. But I always liked it anyway.
The Gusto Blog has explored this subject before, about how we are kind of at sea as to how Mozart looked. I like what the story's author, Daniel J. Wakin, writes: "The exhibition speaks to a yearning within the living to know the past,
by knowing the face of someone whose work lives on so powerfully in our
Birch Libralato was showing a compelling series of photographs by Mitch Robertson, whose series of photographs of a structure some claim is the most photographed barn in America (below) is a clever, scientific exploration of the shifting color palette of photographs throughout the 20th century. The gallery was also showing work by Shaan Syed, and both exhibitions are on view through March 3.
Work by Mitch Robertson in Toronto's Birch Libralato gallery.
Things were in the midst of a changeover at Georgia Scherman Projects, so I ventured down to Diaz Contemporary, where a commanding series paintings by the accomplished Victoria, British Columbia-based artist Robert Youds were on view. The show, called "Robert Youds: handmade ultramarine mantra," featured a series of sumptuous paintings that had the look of film strips made of wood that had been photocopied, screen-printed and then overlayed with prismatic colors:
"Malcolm Lowery's Shack," a painting by Robert Youds. Photograph by Toni Hafkenscheid, courtesy of Diaz Contemporary.
The back room of the gallery contained a series of curious Op Art-esque experiments by Youds, which visitors can spin (though, maddeningly, there are no instructions to do so, limiting the work to those who already know the "secret" of the work and would dare to break the rules by touching the art). I took a little video of a spinning piece, which, if you peek at long enough, begins to play interesting tricks on the brain:
Toronto's Graffiti Alley has long provided a legal avenue for graffiti artists to practice their art. As such, it has long drawn some of the best graffiti artists from around the world and turned into a popular outdoor gallery, always shifting and changing depending on the inspiration of the artists who visit it. I walked down only a small stretch of the alley -- some version of which exists in dozens of cities and is desperately needed in Buffalo -- and snapped a few pictures:
"Beautiful Buffalo Week"
Finally, I made my way over to Videofag -- a DIY arts space in the vein of Buffalo's Sugar City with a mission to present work by queer artists or about queer issues -- to check out a video program curated by Buffalonians Julian Montague and Jax Deluca. The selections, from a lovely poetic reflection on Buffalo's abandonment by Stephanie Gray to an inspired self-portrait/Rust Belt fever dream by Pat McElna, were impressive. (You can read the program, which includes the text of Gray's poem, here.) I also really enjoyed Seth Amman and Billy Erhard's "Cargill Grain Animator," which you can watch here:
The evening ended in appropriately tongue-in-cheek fashion with a performance by the truly singular rapper Jack Topht, who I caught on video presenting his hilarious, Buffalo-centric alternative history of punk rock, dance music and rap:
Buffalo is getting some major love from Toronto this week, as a storefront performance space and cinema in the city's Kensington Market neighborhood hosts a series of events designed to highlight the artistic output of Toronto's "oft-maligned sister city."
The organization's "Beautiful Buffalo Week" kicked off Monday with a reading of two plays by the gifted Buffalo-based playwright Neil Wechsler. He read from his new play "The Brown Bull of Cuailnge" and from his acclaimed drama "Grenadine," last seen here in a Road Less Traveled Theatre production in 2009.
Up next is an event called "Buffalo Hates You Too" -- after the cheeky slogan invented by Western New York Book Arts Center founder Richard Kegler -- on Thursday night at 8. The screening, curated by artist and designer Julian Montague and Squeaky Wheel Director Jax Deluca, will feature work by various Buffalo-based video and new media artists.
The celebration culminates on Friday with a conversation between Montague and Joshua Babcock and Cristina Naccarato of Toronto's art collective Broken City Lab at 7:30 p.m. Here's the description for that event, which sounds well worth the trip across the border: "Videofag
is excited to be hosting these three artists in discussion on the ways
in which artists cities with an abundance of space - specifically in
so-called 'North American Rustbelt' - are innovating new functions for
disused buildings/public spaces, and in the process reinventing the
possibilities of neighbourhoods, community, and the artist's role within
a city. Specific examples will be drawn from BCL's own repurposing of
Windsor storefronts and empty ad space on city transit."
Look for my take on the program in Sunday's paper.
Tod A. Kniazuk, executive director of the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, in his office in December, 2011. Photo by Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News.
In 2012, the the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, under the direction of Tod A. Kniazuk, has been working on a number of projects aimed at improving the health of the region's cultural vitality. It's tough work, but according to the organization's 2012 annual report, released this week, ASI (still in desperate need of a better name) has been making progress. Check the report out here.
Earlier this month, I wrote a column about the forthcoming merger between CEPA Gallery and the smaller Big Orbit Gallery, both run by the tireless director and curator Sean Donaher. In the column, I stressed that other organizations could draw lessons and inspiration from the move, which struck me as a particularly wise marriage of resources and programming.
In the column, I singled out Buffalo Arts Studio, the excellent studio and gallery space founded by Joanna Angie in the early '90s. After Angie retired to pursue her art career in 2011, curator Cori Wolff stepped up to the artistic director position and Jeff Langridge took the reins as executive director. Shortly thereafter, though, Langridge departed, and Wolff found herself in the unenviable position of directing the entire organization.
At the same time, as BAS searches for a new economic model to sustain itself, Wolff has maintained the high quality of the organization's international exhibitions. This week, BAS opens a show featuring work by Andrzej Maciejewski and Lynn Richardson and it has mounted several compelling exhibitions since Angie's departure.
Even so, I thought it pertinent to use BAS as an example of an organization that finds itself searching out new footing in a new funding landscape. It wasn't my intention to paint a negative picture of BAS. Quite the contrary, I wanted to stress that its recent management shakeups provided the opportunity for the organization to seek out and forge new collaborative projects (if not outright mergers) with other groups.
In a recent conversation with Wolff, who was understandably concerned about her organization being painted as anything other than completely stable, I learned that the organization is doing just that. (Too early for details, though.)
She reassured me the organization is in good shape and is excited to puruse new ways of staying very much in the game. This is good news for one of Buffalo's most important visual arts organizations, and I look forward to writing about what comes next.
Newly appointed Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén with gallery board president Leslie Zemsky on Monday. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.
After yesterday's annoucement that Helsinki Art Museum Director Janne Sirén will become the next director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, art blogs and publications lit up with coverage. Here's a look at what some have been writing:
Finnish musuem director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén stands with Albright-Knox Art Gallery board president Leslie Zemsky in front of Jackson Pollock's "Convergence" in the Albright-Knox Monday morning. Sirén will become the 11th director of the musuem in the spring. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.
Check out my story for more on Sirén's appointment. And below, please listen to an excerpt of my interview with the American-educated director that gives lots of background about his past experience in Helsinki, his thoughts about the City of Buffalo, and hints about the direction in which he'll take Buffalo's flagship cultural institution: