About time

A new group show at the Burchfield-Penney makes excellent use of the museum’s largest space

Clockwise from left: Works by Jay Carrier, William Maggio, and Adele Henderson

Images courtesy of the artists and the Burchfield Penney Art Center


At This Time is on view at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Avenue, through May 27. Call 878-6011 or visit burchfieldpenney.org.


At This Time is the evocative title of the exhibition currently spanning the massive east gallery of the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC). It’s a suitably ambiguous label for what might better be thought of as seven small solo exhibitions by seven deserving area artists, some of whom have never been exhibited in the museum. This sense of separateness is enhanced by a deftly partitioned layout that provides each artist with his or her own space.


Kyle Butler, Pam Glick, Peter Stephens, and William Maggio are abstract painters, though each—to some extent—references the material world. Jay Carrier works in a figurative expressionist painting style, and Adele Henderson and Virocode (Peter D’Auria and Andrea Mancuso) employ mixed media. So the title, At This Time, evokes slightly different meanings for each artist.


Former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy once famously asked, “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?” Judging from Virocode’s work, at this time, it’s anywhere else. Their installation has its own title: No Plan for the Future (though I searched in vain for any wall label). Employing sculpture, video, and wheat-pasted poster images, the artists present a series of unfortunate food events—squished doughnuts, dropped cakes, melted ice cream—the promise of sugary indulgence gone wrong. Perhaps not surprisingly, this work had its origins as an Instagram project begun shortly after the 2016 election. The staged mini-calamities echo the uncertainty of our current political course, and social media’s role in disseminating daily reminders.


Clockwise from top: works by Kyle Butler, Virocode, and Peter Stephens


Butler hints at disaster of a more terrifying sort, with his large-scale paintings (one spanning sixteen feet). While grounding his work in the nonobjective visual vocabulary of abstraction, the artist adroitly packs his panels with frenetic allusions to explosions—smoke, fire, sky, and airborne detritus. Butler also presents a video and a refabricated artifact from a 2014 performance at Nuit Blanche in Toronto, but it’s the powerful paintings that conjure our current precarious state.


Adele Henderson examines ways we define our geographic environment through maps and globes. Employing—sometimes subverting—conventions of terrestrial charting and demarcation, she heightens our awareness of their aesthetic language. Her wall-spanning Untitled (Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario with adjacent streets and streams) imparts added meaning onto the recent resurgence of creative paper-cutting.


Peter Stephens also employs a kind of mapping, which subverts the conventions of landscape painting while exploring structures of the extreme macro and micro worlds. But the specific diagramming processes he employs seem subordinate to the work’s dazzling visual impact. The resulting textural, patterned tessellations are so beguilingly alluring, with their gleaming surfaces and illusionistic artifice, they command attention.


Both Stephens and Maggio were previously known for figurative painting, and now make nonrepresentational works that allude to materiality. Together, they form a two-person exhibition of their own. Like Stephens, Maggio deals in patterns and textures, though his are striated and starkly black and white, with raised, incised, and illusionistic textures. Some of Maggio’s works are intimate landscapes viewed through a static haze. Elsewhere, hints of netting, fraying fabric, and chain link fence materialize, then sink back into transcendent darkness. These, too, are compelling works that defy comprehension of both process and nature.


Pamela Glick works: View From Here- American Flag, 2016; For Amber Waves of Grain, 2016


Carrier and Glick, also situated near each other, make another agreeable pair. Glick’s work was once described as “psychologically charged landscapes,” and Carrier has been called a landscape artist in “rhapsodic fashion, but also in the interior sense.” Glick’s paintings can be nearly calligraphic, but her shaped works suggest machine-die-cut patterns. Carrier and Glick work in direct and expressive styles, and both introduce autobiographical and social elements, though Glick is more reticent in her approach. Carrier’s work incorporates seemingly random materials and styles, creating rich and anarchic compositions.


Most of the art in this energetic exhibition is given adequate breathing space, though Stephens’ and (especially) Maggio’s allotted spaces would benefit from fewer works. The overall judicious installation confirms one long-held belief of this reviewer: artwork doesn’t need to be stacked up the soaring outer walls to properly inhabit the space. Stephens’ paintings, especially, look splendid with all that open air above them.


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