Art Preview: Beyond/In Western
New York Report Card (So Far)

Title: D-
Artist Selection: A
Ambition: A+
Convenience: F
Challenge to area curators & audiences: beyond evaluation

By Elizabeth Licata

Freeshow Seymour
Freeshow Seymour (Allyson Mitchell and
Christina Zeidler); still from Kill Road.
For every curator or arts administrator who’s ever carped, complained, or kvetched about the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s biannual In Western New York Show, this was the year of vindication. In keeping with the museum’s new policies of access and inclusion, an exhibition formerly the sole province of (usually) a junior Albright-Knox curator has now been thrown open to include nearly every visual art venue in Western New York. Fifteen curators participated, and the artists for the far-flung multi-venue show were chosen from a pool that included Southern Ontario and Rochester for the first time.

How it worked
Twelve institutions, fifteen curators, seventy-eight meetings, 700 submissions, and 14,000 slides. The numbers tell part of the story of this massive project. It fell to Albright-Knox Curatorial Assistant Kristen Carbone to pull it all together. She was responsible for chairing the group meetings, organizing all the submissions, scheduling all the studio visits, and gathering all the information for the exhibition catalogue. Her hard work as general point person has been gratefully lauded by many of the other participants.

DeWitt Godfrey
DeWitt Godfrey, Picker Sculpture, 2004,
corten steel and bolts.
According to Hallwalls visual art curator John Massier, it quickly became clear that individual curators would need to decide on the artists chosen for their individual spaces: “I think everyone recognized from the beginning that a complete, all-encompassing curatorial love-in was likely not the most practical option,” Massier notes. “We recognized this as problematic because we still wanted to curate exhibitions that fit into our respective programs.”

Massier explains how the process unfolded: “We viewed all submissions together for the first few rounds, utilizing a sliding number scale to work it down to a manageable number … it’s important to know that along each step in the process, anyone was free to voice support of a given artist, and suggest they merit further consideration. So, it was democracy in action—with a fair bit of flex.

“Additionally, anyone at any time was free to indicate desire for a particular artist [to show at “their” space, in this case, Hallwalls]. I did so from the beginning with Carlo Cesta.“The studio visits were left up to the individual curators, based on the artists they felt they were interested in and their own schedules and availability … I’d have to go back and count, but I must have done at least thirty-five studio visits.”

Stephanie Ashenfelder
Stephanie Ashenfelder: To Julia de Burgas,
steel, video fabric, fishing poles.
Burchfield-Penney curator Nancy Weekly says that the process forced her to spend more time in artists’ studios than she’d been able to before. “Many times in the past I have intended to find the time to make studio visits just to see what artists are doing, but then I would be bound by an overbooked schedule juggling multiple projects. This project, however, necessitated making the time … it was great to visit so many artists, see their work, and talk to them about their ideas. In a relatively short period of time, I personally made twenty-four studio visits, and there were a few more I would have seen if my schedule could have accommodated them. I valued this experience tremendously.”

After the studio visits, the curators, with, according to Massier, “no squabbles and no jockeying for particular artists,” chose the artists who would exhibit in each of the thirteen spaces and the roster was completed.

And what a roster it is. In past years, In Western New York had anywhere from ten to twenty artists. Its exclusivity was what separated it from the big, juried Western New York Exhibition held on alternate years. By contrast, this year’s Beyond/In has fifty-eight artists. That’s far too many to cover in any preview, so I’ve chosen a few of the selected artists to discuss in more detail. In addition, Spree writers Chris Stucchio and Julianna Jacoby-Patronski have written separate profiles of artists Jackie Felix and Alberto Rey, which also appear in this section.

Paul Vanouse
Paul Vanouse, preliminary rendering for
The Active Stimulation Feedback Platform.

Paul Vanouse: our very own mad scientist
I am looking forward to finally viewing a full-fledged installation by this artist. Vanouse will be creating an installation entitled The Active-Stimulation Feedback Platform in the generous spaces of Big Orbit Gallery,

a venue known for compelling and innovative large-scale projects. Viewers will be able to mount Vanouse’s circular platform and press any one of 2000 buttons for responses in the various languages of 2000 cities worldwide. Vanouse has been creating large-scale interactive work for some years, but this is the first one to be hosted by a local venue.

Julian Montague: another science guy
Montague’s Stray Shopping Cart Series is one of my favorite art projects in recent memory. The artist laboriously photographed hundreds of abandoned shopping carts throughout Western New York and grouped them into classes such as “False Strays” and “True Strays” and then into types such as “Plaza Drift,” “Bus Stop Discard,” and “Snow Immobilization.”

For Beyond/In, Montague will be presenting his Insect series, in which the artist has created meticulous line drawings of insects, and then merged the drawings into single compositions, creating his own, idiosyncratic field guide. Catch Montague at the Castellani Art Museum.

Shelly Niro: an artist without borders
Since first viewing her hilarious Mohawks With Beehives photographic series years ago, I have been entranced with the fluidity, humor, and grace of this artist. Niro works in a diverse range of media, including photography, video, and sculpture, and draws upon Native American tradition to make compelling artworks. Her work can be seen at Squeaky Wheel and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Jody Lafond: the goddess of small things
For years, area audiences have appreciated Lafond’s carefully constructed videos, usually wry dramatizations of occurrences in Lafond’s personal life sprinkled with pointed metaphors. They are small-scaled, understated gems. A group of Lafond’s recent works will be on view at the Burchfield-Penney.

Allen Topolski: allusive objects
Rochester-based Topolski has for some time been creating sculpture of teasingly-familiar-looking objects from found materials. These enigmatic sculptures confront consumer culture and objecthood head-on, in a thoughtful, provocative, and entertaining manner. At Hallwalls.

John Knecht: anxious animations
John Knecht’s animated videos are densely layered loops of images, text, and sound, lightened by the goofily cartoony aspect of much of the imagery. Make no mistake though, this is serious, often philosophical material. The Carnegie Art Center is also showing a series of Knecht’s equally engaging paintings.

Carin Mincemoyer: nature morte
Mincemoyer’s exquisite, tiny constructions use a blend of synthetic and natural materials to address our increasingly distanced relationship to “nature.” Always a sucker for artwork that involves living plants, I look forward with great anticipation to Mincemoyer’s creations for the University at Buffalo Art Gallery.

Elizabeth Licata is editor of Buffalo Spree.


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