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Getting to Know Your Art Community: Robert Hirsch

Since moving to Buffalo almost two years ago, I have had the pleasure of meeting members of the arts and cultural community that have contributed to the creation of the social fabric of the city that we all hold near and dear. Without these folks Buffalo would not be the place that it is, and I think it’s important that we acknowledge their dedication, hard work and perseverance to continue following their passions and living their dreams. I will not be able to attribute each and every one of these people here, since time and space is always limited, so I ask you, a member of the public, to Thank and show gratitude to those whom you value and treasure, because without them, life just wouldn’t be the same.

Robert-Hirsch-Buffalo-NY-5This past week, I had the honor of sitting down with a man who since the early 1990’s has graced Buffalo with his presence as an artist, arts professional, curator, educator and writer, Robert Hirsch. Even though this was the first time that I had directly met him, I had to begin the conversation by confessing that he actually played an integral role in me moving here.

Dinh Q. Lê, Between, From Transformational Imagemaking exhibition at CEPA Gallery
Dinh Q. Lê, Between, From Transformational Imagemaking exhibition at CEPA Gallery

In the fall 2014, Robert had a massive collection of artwork that he had curated, and published a book about on view at CEPA Gallery, Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960. (If you missed this exhibit or would like to see it again, it will be on view at RIT this fall.) I actually had come into town for the opening reception-this was my first visit to Buffalo in awhile. The opening was well attended, and of course why not? This exhibition featured some of the most important imagemakers of the mid-20th century. Some of the artists included: Binh Danh, Dinh Q. Lê, Chris McCaw, Duane Michals and Vik Muniz. This extensive collection was hung beautifully throughout multiple gallery spaces in the Market Arcade Building, and the energy of the people in attendance was stimulating.

At this event is when I first met another fine member of the community, Lawrence Brose, whom Robert had worked with at CEPA Gallery. I got the sense that the two of them were a sort of “dream team”. While Robert was the Director of CEPA from 1993-1999, CEPA moved from the 4th floor shared space with Hallwalls, to the Market Arcade. Under Robert’s leadership, this move opened up opportunities for the organization – by increasing their street presence they were able to attract new audience members, and expand their programming, which brought the organization to a new level that included receiving funding for the first time from the Warhol Foundation.

Michael Duane, Untitled, From Transformational Imagemaking exhibition at CEPA Gallery
Duane Michals, Untitled, From Transformational Imagemaking exhibition at CEPA Gallery

After CEPA, Robert accepted a position at the Visual Studies Workshop, but left after a year due to internal organizational struggles, and decided to focus on his art and writing, while his wife, Adele Henderson continued to teach at UB (see also: Robert has published several books that are all still in print, is a contributing writer with various publications, and his photography has been exhibited worldwide in hundreds of solo and group shows. He is currently working on the 3rd edition of Seizing The Light: A Social History of Photography, amongst other things.

Robert’s recent project, Ghosts: French Holocaust Children, is up at CEPA’s Big Orbit Project Space. This 3-dimensional installation includes over a thousand reinterpreted photographs of youth who were deported from France and sent to the death camps. With inspiration from Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld and model makers from Buffalo and Paris, this exhibition is a haunting remembrance of a time in our history that we should never forget for fear that it could repeat itself.

The exhibition is up only until July 24. Visiting times are, Friday – Sunday, 12-6pm and Monday-Thursday by appointment. Just give CEPA a call at (716) 856-2717 to set it up. This project was 5 years in the making so don’t miss your opportunity to see it here before it travels.

Boxcar #3, included in current exhibition at Big Orbit
Boxcar #3, included in current exhibition at Big Orbit

Written by Tina Dillman

Tina Dillman

Growing up in Central, New York was a lot like living in a closet, but with a great view. At 18, she went off to college to find herself and to see what the world had in store for her. She has lived in various parts of the country, California being her favorite, and has traveled outside the US borders. She hopes to live her last years in Mexico, along the Pacific coast, in a pueblo hut that has a thatched roof that sits right on the beach, so she can always hear the sound of the ocean, and feel the sand beneath her feet. Here, she would continue with her childhood fascination of collecting seashells and read as many books as her eyes would permit.

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