In honor of a gallerist
For decades, Nina Freudenheim has helped define the WNY art world
Jonathan Borofsky’s screenprint, I DREAMED I WAS HAVING MY PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN...
Photo courtesy of the Castellani Art Museum
For the Love of Art
Opening reception at 5 p.m.; runs through Jan. 12, 2020
There is a quality that the artists brought to our attention by Nina Freudenheim share. They are a diverse bunch, to be sure, who make anything from abstract paintings to landscape photography to sculptural assemblage. Something, however, holds them together. The word “thoughtful” comes to mind. And the word “careful”—not meaning cautious, but meaning that care is taken. Care is taken, too, throughout every step of Freudenheim’s process as a gallerist. She selects with care, plans exhibitions thoughtfully, and hangs the artwork meticulously. It is never crowded, and the installations pulse with subtle drama.
The first Freudenheim space, on Franklin Street
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CASTELLANI ART MUSEUM
Since starting her gallery in 1975, an exciting year that also saw the beginnings of Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center and New York’s Artists’ Space, Freudenheim has presided over one of the only New York-style commercial art galleries Buffalo has ever seen. She has brought artists from near and far to Western New York’s notice, and, importantly, has also put that work before the eyes of local museum directors and curators. Many works in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Burchfield Penney Art Center, and Castellani Art Museum are there thanks to the networking of Nina Freudenheim. This year, the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University (CAM) celebrates that relationship with a show called For the Love of Art: A Tribute to Gallerist Nina Freudenheim.
Twenty-four artworks have been acquired by CAM through Nina Freudenheim Gallery, starting in 1984. Most of them were purchased by the museum’s founding benefactors, Armand and Eleanor Castellani, and then donated to the museum’s permanent collection. They range from relatively small prints to fourteen-foot-high paintings. There is Christy Rupp’s tree trunk sculpture, made of newspapers and welded steel. There is Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s misty oil and pastel landscape and Jonathan Borofsky’s screenprint, which has probably one of the longest titles ever seen on a museum label: I dreamed I was having my photograph taken with a group of people. Suddenly, I began to rise up & fly around the room. When I couldn’t get out, I continued to fly around the room until I landed and sat down next to my mother who said I had done a good Job! There is Robert Lobe’s aluminum tree form, made by actual contact with a living tree, and reminiscent of the artist’s much larger Buffalo subway station sculpture, brought there by an ambitious public art program Freudenheim oversaw.
Doubloon, Charles Clough, enamel on linen
Photo courtesy of the Castellani Art Museum
Big paintings for a big room
Not all of the twenty-four works are on view now, but most are, including two that can be seen from outside the glass entryway of the museum: Charles Clough’s Oysters and Doubloon, two huge 1985 enamel on linen works. Though they are abstract, the sweeping, billowing compositions are informed by Hudson River School landscapes and other romantic works by American nineteenth century painters. The awe inspired by unspoiled nature is clearly present in these imposing works, which take commanding positions in the museum’s Main Exhibition Hall. They were originally made for the Brooklyn Museum, which has a similar-sized wall.
Like Clough, Nancy Dwyer is another Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center founding artist. Her 1984 copper, Formica, and Plexiglass sculpture is also of impressive size and employs symbolic visual elements to suggest what she would do with text later on in her career.
Stephens then and now
A beautiful 1991 painting by Peter Stephens, Inness, acts as a lead-in for a show of new work by Stephens that Freudenheim (along with Eleven Twenty Projects) is presenting this month. The large Inness, like Clough’s paintings, addresses historic notions of landscape through its more restrained but still poetic sepia interpretation. Stephens new works are nothing like this, except for their technical mastery; they’re popping with sharp geometry and bright color. See Stephens new show, Elemental/Ornamental, at Eleven Twenty (1120 Main Street) and Freudenheim (140 North Street); there are opening receptions September 7 at both locations.