It was less than a year ago that I found myself standing inside an obscure 2000 square foot former automobile showroom located at 1120 Main Street (near Summer/Best). Owner John Fatta had invited me over to talk about a project that I was working on. When I first saw the interior of the building, I couldn’t help but let my mind drift away from the discussion at hand, thinking about the potentials of the building. Toward the front of the old automobile showroom was a collection of antiquities that John had collected over a lifetime, all mishmashed into something that looked like a flea market… or a man cave.
One year later I received a text from John asking if I would like to come see his new gallery.
When I stopped in this time (yesterday), I was blown away by the changes that had occurred, as if overnight. “Actually, I had been thinking about this for a while,” John told me. “The space lends itself to a gallery space. So I put up some massive blank walls and created a gallery space unlike any other in the city. Because of the sheer size of the room, viewers can stand back and really appreciate the works that are being displayed.”
One of the reasons that John came up with the idea to transform the old REO car showroom into a gallery space was the opportunities that he continued to identify by merely coming into contact with a number of local artists who weren’t currently showing in Buffalo. Artists that he knew, and was friends with. Artists such as LeRoi Johnson, who happens to be rockstar Rick James’ brother and former manager, as well as a prominent lawyer here in Buffalo. “When I discovered that LeRoi had massive amounts of artwork that had never been shown in Buffalo, I realized that I needed to build this gallery. LeRoi has shown his work all over the world… and he and other local prominent artists that I had met inspired me to create this gallery. This is certainly not a traditional way of going about this, you see. I didn’t need to do this, but I figured that if I was going to to it at all, it would be by doing it my own way. I believe that there is additional need in this city for a gallery that will feature art related events like the one that we are now promoting with LeRoi.”
The history of this new gallery space is an interesting one. It all started in 1926 as an art deco dealership for REO cars (learn about REO here).Then the showroom was a succession of car dealerships over the years, many of which specialized in European models. Recently the building has been mostly out of sight and out of mind as far as the general public is concerned. Fortunately those days are over as LeRoi’s works are about to break out into the gallery in a colorful frenzy of cubism and surrealism with African, Caribbean and South American flair. These works have been featured in various shows in New York City, Toronto, Africa, Europe and South America, and will be a real eye-opener for enthusiasts of the local art scene here in Buffalo. It was during the 80s that the artist began to blossom, when Robert T. Buck, Director of the Brooklyn Museum, encouraged LeRoi to move forward in the artistic world. Thankfully, Buffalo is now the beneficiary of that gentle push.
The gallery is yet to be named, though ideas are fluctuating between 1120 Main Street, REO Gallery and a few others.
*The exhibit, Electric Primitive, is LeRoi Johnson’s first solo show in Buffalo since 2001 and is an examination of recent work, combined with his most powerful early imagery. The opening of ‘Electric Primitive’ is Thursday, October 10 from 6-8pm.
The exhibition will be open to the public starting October 10 and run until November 3. The exhibition will also be open on November 1st for Allentown’s First Friday from 6-8pm. All group and individual viewings must be made by appointment by calling 716-882-8100 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.