Around this time every year critics, writers and those with an opinion post their top ten picks in the areas of their chosen interests. I thought I would contribute with a list composed of Buffalo area art shows that I thought were of a certain higher caliber and stood out from the rest.
Before I divulge, I wanted to state a disclaimer: I am a very busy person, with multiple part time jobs and commitments, including sustaining my own art practice and directing an artist residency program. Needless to say, I am not physically capable of visiting every show in the area, especially if they are up for less than a month, or to have a second chance after an opening is rare. With that in mind, please also remember that this is My opinion, and of course you are free to have your own, so please, if you saw something this year that totally moved you, please leave a comment below. Tell me who the artist was, where you saw it and why you remember it. I would love to know what I missed, because I am sure that is the case.
Last Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order. Meaning my favorite is not necessarily number 1 or number 10. I’m not sure if I have a true favorite, but what I do know is that I enjoyed my experience of viewing each of these shows, and I’m sorry if you missed any of them.
1) Hollis Frampton @ the Market Arcade Building
Over the summer, Buffalo was exposed to a very rare treat. CEPA Gallery and Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center teamed up with Dean Brownrout Modern/Contemporary to present the first comprehensive survey in 30 years, of media pioneer, Hollis Frampton. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this artist, Hollis Frampton worked with photography, film and very early computer systems. He was also a writer and theorist, and not to mention one of the first faculty members of the SUNY Buffalo Media Study Department. He was a man ahead of his time that died prematurely from smoking way too many cigarettes.
At CEPA Gallery one could see a spectrum of his photographic work, which was for sale, and included works that have never been on view. So, you know what that means…you may never have the chance to see those works again. Only one lucky person has that privilege now, and let’s hope, you are either friends with them or that they let the work be borrowed for exhibits. I know, I wished that I had a budget to purchase work.
At Squeaky Wheel, there was a loop of selected film works that had been digitized, along with never exhibited photographs that documented Hollis’ life and the making of his infamous Magellan Cycle that was filmed in Pittsburgh. Squeaky also had contemporary media based works by Evan Meaney on display, which were inspired by Hollis Frampton. His game based installations caught the eyes of many young art admirers.
For the opening of this exhibit the red carpet was pulled out. Scholars from around the continent came to town to speak about Hollis’ work, while musicians from the Philharmonic were entertaining guests in the atrium of the building. There was never a dull moment that evening.
Photo: Hollis Frampton at CEPA Gallery, image courtesy of the gallery
2) LAST EXIT @ Hi-Temp
Oh gosh, I am getting goose bumps just thinking about this exhibit. LAST EXIT, was a site-specific blind collaboration between artists Max Collins (a UB Art Dept MFA Candidate), David Mitchell (Buffalo Artist & Artistic Director of CEPA Gallery) and FLATSITTER (an experimental art sound group, which at the time was composed of Jax Deluca, Kyle Marler & Frank Napolski). I don’t know how many of you have ever been to Hi-Temp to see an art show, but this was the BEST use of that space that I’ve seen, since moving to the area.
Each artist/group had a particular space that they activated with their work and it somehow all flowed together, so you never felt like you were experiencing an abrupt change, even though none of them knew exactly what the other was going to produce. The group formed a set of parameters to work off of, and everyone visited the site to formulate their plans and then they were off to explore their own desires.
Hi-Temp by day is the site of a business owned and operated by John McKendry. John is not only a savvy businessman, but he is also a strong supporter of the arts. If you are looking for a space to hang some work or do something a bit out of the ordinary, then John is your man. I’ve never heard John say no.
Photo: David Mitchell, LAST EXIT at Hi-Temp, image courtesy of artist
3) Splitting Light @ UB Art Gallery
Even though technically this gallery is not located within Buffalo proper, there was no way I was going to leave it out. Under new curatorial direction, Rachel Adams, who comes to us from Austin, TX, organized the first show in the fall, for the newly remodeled professional gallery space on the UB campus at the Center for the Arts Building. This show was definitely not a disappointment, with the new skylights and open space, Rachel adhered to her interest with color and form to compliment the space so much that I thought I was walking through a museum in NYC.
With her experience and education, it should not deter you from visiting, but rather will draw you from the coziness of your home, to take a short drive (30 min max) north. If you’re worried about parking, I recommend going later in the afternoon to avoid all the students, not visiting on football Saturdays, or you can email the gallery to acquire a parking pass for your day of visit. I also recommend getting added to their mailing list, so you don’t miss out on their upcoming shows. This woman has some tricks up her sleeve that you will not want to miss.
Photo: Splitting Light at UB Art Gallery, image courtesy of the gallery
4) Nao Bustamante @ Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center
I first became aware of Nao’s work, while a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she had received her undergraduate degree. I remember watching a video of her performance work, and being so floored that a woman could possess that much strength, be witty and funny, and yet still get a serious message across to her audience. When I came on board at Squeaky and knew that Nao was teaching at RPI in Troy, I reached out to her. Luckily, she had been working on a show that was set to open in Los Angeles in May, and with the help of that museum, I brought the show to Buffalo, where it opened the fall season.
Now, I know what you are thinking, “How dare she include a show that she curated!” Well, I can tell you I am never the first person to pat myself on the back. I am usually hustling around trying to get ready for the next thing, and never take the time to enjoy what it is that I just finished. That night and the weeks following when people from the arts community told me what a great show that was it validated my choice in bringing Nao here. Not only is she an internationally known artist who has never shown her work here, but as a small arts organization on a limited budget, when you have an artist invested into working with you, whose work you admire, you do whatever you can to make it work. And, I am so glad I did. She has since moved to Los Angeles to take on the role as Vice Dean of Art at the USC Roski School of Art and Design.
Nao came to town for a week to install the show, and at the opening we held a panel discussion that included scholar, Ella Diaz, an Associate Professor at Cornell University. The panel addressed issues dealing with themes from the exhibition such as feminism, and the ideologies of war, from the perspective of a queer, woman of color. If you are interested in hearing more about it, take a look at the video.
Nao Bustamante at Squeaky Wheel, image courtesy of the gallery
5) Anne Muntges @ Big Orbit Gallery
Ok, I guess I lied. I do have a favorite, but how can you not love Anne Muntges or her work. She repurposes common everyday objects by transforming their design with simple black has marks, and uses no color, repeatedly, so at times, you wonder what you are looking at. Of course certain items stick out, but she doesn’t show you just one or two objects in this exhibit or a drawing of said object, but the real, whole scene.
The space trips your eye out at first, but once you understand that you’ve just walked into an Alice in Wonderland type of space, you want to go exploring, but it is art, so the “Do Not Touch” rule is in full effect (and this includes any or all body parts). Which, of course was very difficult, but just imagine commissioning an artist to transform one of your rooms. (Ah, you’re welcome.) If you would like to see a better view of her exhibit, watch this video, and you will be floored.
Photo: Anne Muntges at Big Orbit Gallery
6) Amid/In @ Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
This list would not be complete without including this series curated by John Massier (Visual Arts Curator at Hallwalls), Kyle Butler (Artist and Independent Curator) and Rebecca Wing (Curatorial Assistant at Hallwalls).
Over the course of the last year, these three have visited hundreds of studios in Western New York to bring you a survey of contemporary art work that they loved, remembered and that moved them. Their eclectic taste has filled the gallery five times now, with number six opening January 15. If you are unfamiliar with the local and regional art scene, and you just want to see some good art, or be part of a social scene, mark your calendar.
Photo: Kevin Kline, Amid/In at Hallwalls, image courtesy of the artist
7) Roberley Bell @ BT&C Gallery
BT&C Gallery run by Anna Kaplan is located at 1250 Niagara St. This is a newer commercial space that opened last year and exhibits contemporary local artists. Most of the shows are solo exhibitions composed of drawings, paintings, prints, or sculpture. Anna, who was previously employed by the Albright-Knox, has her pulse on the local scene, representing artists such as Roberley Bell, Lawrence Brose, Millie Chen, Julian Montague and Gary Sczerbaniewicz.
I think this exhibit caught me off guard, because of it’s clean, yet spunky aesthetic. It was something I had not yet seen in Buffalo, and the professionalism taken into account of the fabrication and installation, intrigued me. I felt like I had walked into a set for Pee Wee’s Play House, the Aunt’s House, and she had a deep admiration for modern abstraction, along with the imagination that would have inspired the show.
Photo: Roberley Bell at BT&C Gallery, image courtesy of the gallery
8) Art in Craft Media @ the Burchfield
In it’s 13th year, this biannual juried exhibition that is funded by the Sylvia L. Rosen Endownment for Fine Art in Craft Media, was curated this year by, Wayne Higby, professor at Alfred University. This exhibit, which is free to apply for, you just need a connection to Western New York, if you are accepted, you’ll have the chance for your work to be purchased by the museum and an opportunity to have a solo show. Opportunities like this are far and few for artists, so I can only imagine that it is competitive, but if you are a maker and are not aware of this, please check it out.
There is a long list of participating artists, and too many great works to capture them all in one photo, but a few to keep your eye out for: Black Composition by Josef Bajus (using recycled material he makes the wall look good), Crafted Kin by Ben and Delaney DeMott (properly displayed in a corner near a window-would love that piece in my home), Mantelpiece of Detritus Shaped by Elizabeth Vorlicek (if only I had a wall long enough).
If you haven’t seen the show, it is still up through January 24, and the museum has a second Friday program every month that is free thanks to M&T Bank that can include live music and special performances, so just another reason to stop by.
Photo: Art in Craft Media at Burchfield Penney
9) Indigo Gallery
Elisabeth Samuels has been running gallery spaces for the last 25 years, and Indigo, her recent gallery for the last 7, just goes to show she has a keen eye. Her space is located at 47 Allen Street right between Franklin and Pearl, and is open late for the First Fridays Art Walk.
She shows mostly local and regional professional artists working in traditional formats, whose craft is exceptional. If you are in the area, you should just pop your head in. Elisabeth is a fine lady, and the work you see could end up in your home.
Photo: Colleen Toledano at Indigo Gallery, (image courtesy of gallery)
10) The Albright-Knox
Ok, I know, you’ve been reading awhile, so I’ll just sum it up here-this is the only art institution that has a “big” budget to spend on artists, and can afford to bring high quality exhibitions to Buffalo, and of course this in addition to their AMAZING collection that is always on view (at least a part of it).
If you can’t afford to travel to Toronto or NYC then get yourself here-on First Fridays it’s free (except for special exhibitions, but memberships are $25 for students, $50 for adults & $75 for families-wish they had an artist rate).
Photo: Eija Lisa Ahtila at the Albright Knox
About the author / Tina Dillman
First and foremost an Artist, Tina has taken on many roles during her lifetime. At the mere age of 36, she has held multiple positions and developed arts organizations, including Project Grant here in Buffalo. As an Artist she is interested in working with her community in developing the cultural backdrop that we call home, in making the surroundings a beautiful and inspiring place to be. Tina has published previous writings in the area with Art Voice and The Public, and also established The Public’s art gallery listing. Tina is also currently employed with Manuel Barreto, as the gallery manager.
Direct questions or comments about this article should be sent to Tina Dillman / Tina@BuffaloRising.com.