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Curator Interview: Roby and Champ

In a small space on Buffalo’s Forest Avenue previously occupied by other creatives, Tim Roby and Rebekkah Champ are pioneering a new hybrid gallery. Dog & Pony Projects is a quaint room with standard white walls and a table of hors d’ ouevres in the corner, but the atmosphere is much less pretentious; the banal materials that comprise works shown are balanced with avant-garde techniques, foreign imagination and a nearly tangible sense of enjoyment the artist gained from creating them.

The couple thought they would take their new venture slow and steady, but even up against mainstays like Hallwalls, Buffalo Arts Studio, Big Orbit, CEPA and others for May’s First Friday event, Dog & Pony had an impressive turnout. Crowds filtered in to view virtually anonymous artists and stayed to visit with the recently transplanted couple. Tim and Rebekkah met in Minneapolis where they both worked in galleries, gathering experience and a sense of complacency toward the more typical exhibitions. “Not to say that other galleries aren’t showing good things, but by having our own place, we’re guaranteed to show things that we like,” stated Roby. “The experience is about things you see and hear. We’re trying to put on great exhibits to give people an experience they’ve never had before.”

Roby points out that the artists chosen for the grand opening show were not locals simply because he wasn’t able to find a Buffalo artist whose style fit with their taste and hadn’t already shown a few other times this year. “They are doing great things, but we want to show new stuff that the residents aren’t aware of,” said Champ. “It’s also partly because we don’t know too many people yet that we are having trouble finding and booking these artists.” But Roby and Champ aren’t the only curators who feel this way; nearly every curator I’ve spoken with to date is having a hard time picking from the list of ubiquitous regional artists. Where are the emerging and the fresh-from-college artists?

In central Illinois where Roby went to grad school, he found loads of exhibits taking place in dorm rooms, apartments and basements by artists who had barely walked into a formal gallery, let alone shown in one.  This experience led directly to the decision that Dog & Pony really needed to be a place for college kids to hang out and show work without prejudice, or a collared shirt. “It was really important for me to see what was going on and what they were showing, so I’d like to get in touch with the students at Buffalo State and the other colleges,” Roby mentions. ”Even get some of the student artists in here.”

d_p2.jpg Both owners have fine art backgrounds and exhibit frequently in other cities where they’ve been expected to challenge their mediums and so, they give priority to artists that tackle that same challenge. For recent shows, Champ has collected vintage fabrics with rutted textures that she’s sewn to form stuffed, horizontal udders. She then groups the udders into an organic arrangement sprouting from the wall or rising from the floor like flames on cement, but works to keep the overall experience as innocent as stumbling upon a child stuffed toy collection. “…the colors are not bright, the forms are not outrageous, but within this subtle expression, there are small instances of sensory disruption between my manipulation of the space, the actual space it comes from, and the re-contextualization that comes when placed in a gallery.”

Roby lovingly described Arjan Zaueta’s paper towel embroidery as “a careful manipulation” as we continued to discuss the type of artwork that inspired the gallery. Having been surrounded by artists such as Zazueta, Roby found himself eager to master a medium. His three dimensional sculptures are made from polystyrene, foam coat and acrylic paint formulated into smooth surfaces. Simultaneously, the artist is recycling a material our society largely discards and is able to influence a material that flakes, shrinks and distorts easily. Roby’s work is a play on depth and thickness of materials. While his sculptures appear to be large-scale play dough shapes, his paintings are equally layered to the point that they almost look digital; the colors so solid and seamless, the lines dimensionless, but even in weight.

“We just don’t want [Dog & Pony] to be genre specific,” Roby says. “We’re open to people making challenging work using challenging materials to form great ideas.” They are looking forward to submission packets from Buffalo artists that they’ve yet to hear of and encourage artists to stop by the gallery on Saturdays with their portfolios. The call for work is open!

Dog and Pony Projects
561 Forest Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
(773) 407-3405 or (314) 520-1304

Laura Duquette is a former ballerina who now dances with words
and punctuation. She has a knack for asking questions faster than the
speed of sound, and her interviews are often off the cuff and personal.
She is Co-Owner of 12 Grain
, a Buffalo based creative firm that gives typical web design a
kick in the ass.

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