Celebrating a man of many media
Exhibits at Hallwalls, UB Art Gallery and AKAG honor Tony Conrad
Musician, experimental filmmaker, activist, teacher—those are just a few of the roles the late Tony Conrad filled during his long tenure in Buffalo, most of it spent as a professor in University at Buffalo’s Department of Media Study. Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center was there to record those years; a survey of that documentation kicks off a celebration of Conrad in 2018. Culled from nearly forty years of Hallwalls’ still and video archives (1977–2014), the exhibition serves as a prelude to an upcoming dual-venue exhibition, Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective, at the UB Art Gallery and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
The Hallwalls show includes a selection of videotaped performances and still imagery documenting Conrad’s decades-long association with the gallery. His first recorded appearance was on February 12, 1977, during the Blizzard of ‘77, when he collaborated with Hallwalls co-founder Robert Longo and electronic musician Paul Lemberg on “a multi-media opera.” Videos such as this are looped and presented in the gallery along with a photomontage of Conrad in action. Retrospectives are rare for Hallwalls, which more typically exhibits new work and installations designed for the gallery. But Conrad has a long history with Hallwalls—as visual and media artist, performer, musician, staff curator, activist, board member, and mentor—that stretches back to its earliest years and continued through five successive decades.
The digitization of Hallwalls’ extensive archives is a continuing project; this digitization (and reorganization) is what makes the Conrad show possible, and it’s the first show at Hallwalls drawn entirely from its archives. It will be exciting to see these decades-old performances, which will be brand-new to most of the gallery’s audiences. Even those of us who were around for the Blizzard of ’77 were (most likely) unable to get over to Hallwalls to see what Longo and Conrad made of it. The show opens at Hallwalls, 341 Delaware Avenue (Babeville), January 12, 8–11 p.m. and runs through March 2. Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective is on view at UB Art Gallery February 8–May 26 and at the Albright-Knox March 3–May 27. It will travel to the ICA Philadelphia and MIT List Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.