See Buffalo’s other public art collection
A new exhibition at UB’s Anderson Gallery shows off midcentury masterworks and more
Lydia Okumura, Untitled I, 1980
Photo courtesy of the artists and UB Art Galleries
Light, Line, Color, and Space, an exhibition from the UB Art Galleries’ collection, is on view at the Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place, through April 15. Call 829-3754 or visit ubartgalleries.buffalo.edu for more information.
In 1949, a Buffalo woman who, up until then, had lived a fairly conventional life, moved to New York, where she took a fearless dive into the turbulent waters of the contemporary art scene. Martha Jackson started her first New York gallery on East 66th Street in 1953. She had a prescient eye for the art of her time and her space became associated with some of the most important artists working in the Abstract-Expressionist, Pop, Op, and other styles. When Jackson died in 1969, her son, David Anderson, took over her gallery, moved it to Buffalo in 1991, and donated it and its holdings to the University at Buffalo in 2000. Those holdings include more than 1,500 works by artists Jackson represented or exhibited, including Norman Bluhm, Lawrence Calcagno, Grace Hartigan, John Hultberg, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Paul Jenkins, Antoni Tapies, and many others.
The initial collection has been joined by a large donation from local collector Annette Cravens (1,200 works) and smaller donations from other benefactors and from artists. There are now more than 5,000 objects, which easily qualifies UB Art Galleries (UBAG) for museum status.
It’s a collection with definite specialties, but it’s also filled with rich surprises. A diverse slice of it is now on view, filling both floors of the Anderson Gallery’s transformed public school building. At ground level, a spectacular work by Lydia Okumura demonstrates the prescience of another woman, UBAG curator Rachel Adams, who mounted a solo show of this artist’s work in 2016; it was Okumura’s first solo show in the United States. (There are many other such reminders of the post-Jackson life of the gallery, which has continued to discover, exhibit, and acquire.)
Other highlights include Red#4 by Larry Calcagno, a fiery abstract painting that, along with acrylic on paper works by Norman Bluhm, represents the best of later ab-ex practice. These are “painter’s painters,” who ignored the conceptual movements emerging when they first started exhibiting in the late fifties and sixties to concentrate on the expressive abilities of the medium of paint itself. Their dedication to light, mood, and materiality is enjoyably obvious. Fans of this genre will also enjoy two ethereal watercolors from Paul Jenkins. (This is the painter who made the work Jill Clayburgh is lugging through SoHo at the end of An Unmarried Woman.)
Those who cherish the art of printmaking should visit the second floor where there is a delightful pair of lithographs by Pierre Alechinsky, a beautiful trio by Francisco Toledo, and a fascinating series of WPA-era lithographs. Downstairs, a bizarre series of twelve screenprints by Ed McGowin document how the artist changed his name twelve times and made art under each name.
There’s no real theme tying all this together; rather, it is an art world narrative, complete with gaps. It invites the viewer to take leaps and explore radically diverging visual universes. Which is what makes it so much fun.