It’s amazing to see the cultural scene thriving in Buffalo, despite the pandemic. A slew of new galleries and studios have opened, operated by enterprising art enthusiasts who continue to surprise. Throughout the city, these gallerists are not only opening – Rivalry, The Space Between, K Art, CAE, Gallery @ Duende, BAM! – they are expanding, including BICA and Revolutionary Gallery. Plus, more are on the way (3 Walls, for example). Needless to say, Buffalo has always been considered an “art town” – art has been one of the glues that has “kept us together” during the toughest of times. And when times are good, like they are now, the arts tend to thrive.
Joining the throng of new and established art concepts is Stairwell & Co., a new conceptual gallery space at the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal (NFFT).
Following is an interview with artist and co-orchestrator David Mitchell:
The primary exhibition space is beautiful old stairwell with really high ceilings and large landings. I put a chair out there and would spend time reading or decompressing while working on projects. At some point it occurred to me that it would make a really great space to display artwork. FLATSITTER and I had a number of pieces return from of a show we co-curated at Satellite Art Club back in March, so I began installing that work and then slowly began adding pieces I had from artist friends of mine and a motif began to develop.
I understand that there is a magazine component, titled Psychic Launderette?
We decided that it would be interesting to also make an interactive zine – Psychic Launderette*. We reached out to the artists and had them supply a couple of images and a link that points to somewhere on the internet, related somehow to the motif. In the future I’d like to start inviting artists to do site-specific installations and have other artists curate shows, providing woodshop and studio access for them to realize their projects.
Psychic Launderette is a limited edition print publication that invites a roster of artists working in a variety of media to contribute images and material based on a curated motif.
There are also studios, right?
The larger functional studio space is very large and split into a number of studios**. Two of the studios belong to Max Collins*** and Nick Delfino. We thought it would be interesting to extend the stairwell concept into some of the other spaces we had available. That’s how Stairwell & Co. took shape. We hope to hold occasional events, installations, and pop-ups.
Thoughts and feelings?
I think a lot about how artists should function in the world. Museums and other institutions are really a terrible place to engage with art. Those types of spaces create psychic barriers, strip work of context (or are curatorially re-contextulized altogether) and often compete with the intent of the work. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around the world and spending time in artists studios. In other cultures, art is far more integrated into the cultural landscape. A big part of why this is, is that the outlets for expression are far more decentralized elsewhere — artists claim space and shape it. There is no need to visit the institutions because it’s all around you and happening in the present.
Does this extend beyond the conceptual gallery space?
I’m dedicated to finding ways for artists to operate in the world outside the paradigm of institutional gatekeeping, grants, and the art commodity market. FLATSITTER and I have also been working to leverage the various technological platforms, such as Airbnb experiences, to monetize our practices, most recently in Mexico City. Technology now provides so many ways for artists to get their work into the world outside the current paradigm and far beyond showcasing work on Instagram. I think the only way for artists to claim agency within the current system is to operate outside of it by leveraging the tools available.
Pop-up exhibition, zine launch, and open studios
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Stairwell & Co. is located on the 2nd floor of Unit 80 at The Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, 1500 Clinton St, Buffalo, NY.
There will be food and drinks, music, VR, a Stairwell & Co. pop-up shop, and the rooftop terrace will be open for outdoor mingling.
Buffalo Premiere of “Identical” virtual reality by Flatsitter, starring @thezissilent
Parking is FREE (and ample) in the parking lot located directly underneath the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal sign (across from Lavocats Garden Nursery). Entrance to the event can be accessed directly from this lot.
*Produced by FLATSITTER and David Mitchell, Psychic Launderette is an extension of their ALTER CDMX project — a clandestine gallery space located in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City — the first volume features work by Ayana Chatterjee, FLATSITTER, Virginia Hector, Karsten Krejcarek, Tuli Kupferberg, David Mitchell, Max Spielman, and Rachel Rampleman. The zine, limited to 64 copies, will be available for purchase the evening of the event, along with other limited edition prints and artwork.
**Artists include Ayana Chatterjee, FLATSITTER, Virginia Hector, Karsten Krejcarek, Tuli Kupferberg, David Mitchell, Rachel Rampleman, and Max Spielman. Max Collins, Audi Stoll, David Mitchell, and Nicholas Delfino will also be having open studios throughout the space.
***Max Collins’ work is on view as part of the AK Northland residency, as part of the ‘Herve Tullet: Shape and Color’ exhibition. Collins will also be hosting a large scale print installation by New Haus Press (Portland, OR).
Lead image: A video still from a performance of drag king Sweaty Eddie by Rachel Rampleman at a residency she participated in at The Cell in NYC during the lockdown. Since drag performers no longer had an audience to perform for, and The Cell wasn’t able to conduct their theatre program, she decided to have them perform for the camera instead. Her project, titled ‘Life Is Drag,’ has become one of the most comprehensive documentations of NYC’s drag scene in its history. The project has now extended to other cities.