Bouncing off the walls
By Elizabeth Licata

At AKAG this fall: Ed Ruscha’s Wall Rockets (2000 Oil on canvas)
At AKAG this fall: McDermott and McGough’s In the Hush of the Night 1965 (2007 Oil on linen)
From BPAC’s Craft Art: Bethany Krull’s Swarm (Porcelain)
From AKAG’s Bad Habits: Janine Antoni’s 2038 (2000, Photograph)
At Hallwalls in November: A. J. Fries’s Windshield (Kristin’s Volvo), 2009, oil on canvas
At BPAC, Tony Conrad's Architectural Light and Sound Installation
Opening at CEPA: work by Carlos Motta is included in Conversation Pieces
In BPAC’s Craft Art, Kate Doody’s Four Nests (Flocking Plaster Ceramic)
In BPAC’s Craft Art, Taeyoul Ryu’s Gap (Plywood/Gold Leaf/Halogen)
At Nina Freudenheim, artist Heather Cox with her sculpture.
There are a number of lively, provocative, beautiful, or just-plain-fun exhibitions either on view or opening soon around the region. Rather than torture them into some kind of overarching theme, a list of highlights is the sensible option. They really don’t have much in common, but they’re all proof that Buffalo arts organizations aren’t about to use the recession as an excuse for producing anything but stellar programming.

As we went to press in July, these shows looked good:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Even the titles of these two exhibitions scream fun: Wall Rockets and Bad Habits. LA-based conceptual artist Ed Ruscha is the centerpiece of Wall Rockets. He’s long been known for his innovative, pungent, and often dryly humorous transfigurations of pop culture subject matter and has been highly influential since he first exhibited his work in the late fifties. This show includes a host of contemporary artists who clearly love Ruscha’s work. Many have created art that unabashedly pays homage. The list is impressive: John Baldessari, Roni Horn, Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, Lawrence Weiner, and Terry Winters, among many others. Works by these and seventy other artists are organized around a core selection of Ruscha works (most from the AKAG collection). Ruscha made art in every medium and was one of the first to use such substances as chocolate, blood, and gunpowder. The traveling exhibition is curated by Lisa Dennison for the FLAG Art Foundation. It’s up through October. (Spree critic Bruce Adams reviews it next month.)

Bad Habits has been put together by new(ish) Albright-Knox curator Heather Pesanti; it can be seen through this month, and you can’t do much better than this verbiage from the website: “focusing on compulsion, perversion, eroticism, anger, greed, trickery, and other vices associated with the underbelly of human existence.” Habits includes artists Janine Antoni, Matthew Barney, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Gilbert & George, Tony Oursler, Jason Rhoades, Jeff Wall, and many others. See it; these thematic shows give viewers a chance to experience parts of the AKAG holdings that were seldom seen when the collection galleries were limited to perennial favorites.

Burchfield Penney Art Center
Over the years, it has become clear to many that BPAC’s yearly focus on craft art was the smartest programming choice it ever made. Too bad the word “craft” has a few negative associations, because these shows are often the museum’s most compelling exhibitions. One doesn’t wonder why some artists object to the term “craft” even being used. This year’s Craft Art Western New York combines artists who have been invited to participate as well as those chosen from a juried call for works. Whatever the juror chooses, you can depend on seeing work from these highly regarded artists (among others): Sue Katz, Richard Kegler, Sara Baker Michalak, Bill Stewart, Carol Townsend, Barry R. Yavener, Brett Coppins, Scott Losi, Gail McCarthy, Barbara Murak, Robert L. Wood, and Nancy Belfer.

In August, BPAC opened an architectural light and sound installation by longtime Buffalo-based media star Tony Conrad. This is Conrad’s first one-man show at the museum and it is long overdue. Conrad’s installation is inspired by the work of Renaissance architect and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi.

CEPA Gallery
Expect another sprawling spectacle in the Market Arcade as CEPA prepares its group show Conversation Pieces, which includes ten artists/artist groups from across the U.S. and Europe. All of the participants make art that—through some means—engages the public in direct interaction/participation, which then becomes essential for our understanding of whatever “finished” product results. At least five of these entities will be coming to town to do performances/lectures/workshops referencing their projects, the subject matter of which ranges from climate change (Olive Ressler) to discrimination (GuerillaGirlsBroadBand) to a whole new paradigm for the way art is controlled and distributed (InCUBATE). This isn’t work that’s telling you stuff. It’s work that only comes about when you step in—or at least the best of it will be that way.

A. J. Fries’s recent paintings in tones of black, white, and grey have been his most compelling—really, haunting—works to date. In many ways, the specific subject matter doesn’t even matter. To date, the artist has depicted skylines, water drops, and industrial interiors, all of them with a combination of deadpan realism and emotional distance, which, perversely, is what makes them so psychologically challenging. Hallwalls shows the most recent of these works in November, along with selections from John Haddock’s Mouse Porn (yes, porn, but with mice). Sounds like an inspired combination.

Nina Freudenheim
Hard on the heels of the gruesome Body Worlds show at the Buffalo Museum of Science comes a sculpture exhibition by NYC artist Heather Cox. It’s not at all gruesome, but does involve stylized skeleton fabrications encased in what looks like plastic. They’re beautiful and will surely be exciting to see in person.

It shouldn’t be necessary to say that this is only the barest sampling of what will be happening in Western New York galleries this fall. We’ll be listing many other shows in our calendar and online listings, and we expect great things from University at Buffalo Art Galleries, the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, Buffalo Arts Studios, Carnegie Art Center, and so many other spaces. Kudos here to the Allentown First Fridays, which draw together a dozen or more open galleries for an evening of art and talk.

Free (or cheap) thrills are still to be had where they’ve always been—in our art galleries.

Elizabeth Licata is editor of Buffalo Spree.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Bad Habits: through October 4
Wall Rockets: through October 25

Burchfield Penney Art Center
Tony Conrad: through January 3, 2010
Craft Art: September 12–January 3, 2010
Opening reception September 12, 5:30–9 p.m.

CEPA Gallery
Conversation Pieces
Opening reception September 11, 5–9 p.m.

A. J. Fries/John Haddock:
November 6–December 18

Nina Freudenheim Gallery
Heather Cox: September 12–October 14
Opening reception: September 12, 6–8 p.m.

Bethany Krull, Kate Doody, Tony Conrad, and Taeyoul Ryu images courtesy of Burchfield Penney Art Center; Heather Cox photo by Sam Hollinshead; McDermott and McGough private collection image courtesy of Cheim & Read Gallery, New York; Ed Ruscha private collection image courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery; Janine Antoni photograph from the collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, photo courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York; Carlos Motta image courtesy of CEPA Gallery.


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