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

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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:

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--Colin Dabkowski

Sculpture competition to honor Horace 'Hank' Mann

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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

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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.

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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.

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--Colin Dabkowski

Albright-Knox launches 'Art Madness' competition

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If your NCAA bracket has already fallen apart miserably, don't fret. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in an attempt to ramp up interest in its collection amid the Madness of March, has launched its own competition. The contest, called #ArtMadness, features some of the key pieces of art in the gallery's collection. The first round features old and new favorites, from Picasso's "La Toilette" to Jason Middlebrook's recently completed sculpture "Underlife."

Today, the high-seeded "La Toilette," which kicked off an intense controversy when it was acquired in the mid-1920s, goes up against Tissot's 1883-85 painting "Political Woman." Though Picasso clearly has the advantage here in name recognition and contemporary currency, Tissot is a historical heavyweight with plenty of art-world support. You can vote for your favorite via the AKAG's Twitter stream or Facebook page, where Tissot is currently ahead 17 to 6.

Tomorrow's matchup features two recent additions to the league: Middlebrook's "Underlife" will face off, so to speak, against Jaume Plensa's "Laura." The competition wraps up on April 7.

--Colin Dabkowski

A closer look: 'Urnes Cicada' by Patrick Willett

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Arist: Patrick Willett // Title: "Urnes Cicada" // "Currents: Recent Watercolors by Patrick Willett" // Through March 31 in Studio Hart

The cicada is a creature imbued with all manner of ancient meanings, an insect that becomes a periodic fascination when it emerges toward the end of its lifespan for a few weeks every 13 or 17 years. It also fascinates the painter Patrick Willett, who produced a series of watercolors of cicadas in the midst of a recent illness. (Three of them are now on view: One in Studio Hart, one in Buffalo Arts Studio and one in the Benjaman Gallery.) He painted the piece while listening to the distinctive chirp of a cicada in his yard, and it seems the act of painting it served to distract and comfort him in a time of personal distress.

During his recent opening in Studio Hart, Willett said that the cicada simply seemed like an ancient creature to him -- something that spoke to old traditions and cultures mostly unknown to us today. If you peer closely at his cicada's anatomically accurate wings, you'll see strange swirls and filigrees. They are embelleshments in the "urnes" style, a kind of Viking art that also bears a resemblance to Celtic decorative patterns. The wings of Willett's ancient cicada are filled with ancient references, a fact that imbues this painting with a kind of comforting heft. It's at once classically beautiful and freighted with ancient meaning -- just like a the cicada itself.

Here's an even closer look at the wings:

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--Colin Dabkowski

Sugar City to open new Niagara Street space by summer

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The Buffalo arts collective Sugar City will move into this building at 1239 Niagara St. by early summer.

Sugar City, the arts collective formerly housed in an Allentown storefront, has announced plans to open a new art and performance space at 1239 Niagara St. by early summer. The collective's new spot, formerly the bar Compton's After Dark, has undergone recent repairs for water damage. It will join a number of new projects and businesses on the resurgent Niagara Street block.

"We are looking forward to being part of the development of this corridor and to be neighbors with businesses like Santasiero's, Community Beer Works and the new Resurgence Brewery, BT&C Gallery, Buffalo Riverkeeper, and more," a Sugar City release reads.

Last month, the newly launched Body of Trade and Commerce Gallery announced plans to open in a building across the street.

The DIY arts collective operated underground for a number of years before landing on Wadsworth Avenue in 2009. After that space was purchased by the owners of Pausa Art House, Sugar City became an itinerant organization but continued to host frequent events in venues around the city -- including a popular art ride on Buffalo's Metro Rail. Last year, the group received a surprise $30,000 grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Sugar City will hold a public meeting about the new space and the future of the organization at 6:30 p.m. March 27 at 1239 Niagara St. More info on the meeting is here.

 

--Colin Dabkowski

Gardner Museum latest to offer virtual collection via Google

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Yesterday, Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum announced a collaboration with Google's Cultural Institute that will extend the museum's collection to perhaps millions of digital visitors.

The virtual tour of the museum, the latest in a series of art-based digitization projects, is online now. It's as appealing and functional a digital tour as I've ever experienced, though, as Sebastian Smee writes in the Boston Globe, it can't possibly hold a candle to the experience of visiting the actual museum.

To me, concerns about the digitization of museum materials potentially removing the need for a museum visit are beside the point. Most of the world's population is unable or unwilling to travel to museums in their own capitals, let alone in other countries. For them, a digital route -- should that even be available to them -- is the only one.

I see two main advantages to bringing these collections online. First, they give millions of people who would otherwise never visit these museums access to the great artistic accomplishments of civilization. No small feat. Second, they provide a preview of the real museum experience that is just real enough to hold your attention, but artificial enough to entice more visitors with the means to travel and pay the admission fee to the physical museum. It's a win-win.

Other worthwhile Google Cultural Institute projects include a brief and engrossing history of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, a tour of the Palace of Versailles and extremely high-resolution digital images of important works of art.

The institute, according to Google, is "an effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations."

--Colin Dabkowski

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