Saturday, September 20, 2008

Buffalo and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Note: Sorry this post appears a bit out of context in relation to the last couple of weeks of this blog. Obviously my attentions have been diverted by recent national events. I've been sitting on this account of my trip for awhile, waiting for an opportunity to slip it into the stream. I suppose the timing is a bit arbitrary... but after all, it is the weekend.

From the postings I've written regarding my recent trip to Western NY, it would be hard to guess that I spent a lot of time in Buffalo. That's mainly because I occupied myself with driving around the city, rather than journeying to specific pre-planned destinations. I did check out what are supposed to be the "hip" neighborhoods around town. Allentown was small and slightly gritty, appealing to younger hipsters. One inhabitant pointed me toward Elmwood and told me it was walkable from Allen Street. While this is technically true, I don't recommend it. The blocks are long and once you reach the first stretch of businesses, you are likely to be tired. Take the car instead. You'll find parking.

Elmwood is like any other gentrified urban enclave. It's got the swank restaurants, bars, coffee shops, boutiques, and upscale art galleries you might expect to find in any similar area. Interestingly, residential blocks are interspersed among the component commercial districts, so the Village seems to stretch on and on. And it has the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which I had identified as one of the few essential stops on my trip. The place is much more properly referred to as a museum. It's large and housed in a building with classic Beaux arts architecture. It also has a number of permanent and temporary exhibitions, with many galleries to mount them in. Plus the admission fee is $10, no matter how late in the day you happen to arrive.

The focus of the Albright-Knox collection is clearly post WW-II abstract expressionism. This isn't a particular interest of mine, so I wandered through the representative offerings quickly. There is also a smattering of stuff comprising a survey of late 18th and early-20th century art history. I guess every museum worth its salt needs a Monet, a Picasso, a Dali, etc. The first floor happened to feature an exhibition of Pop art as well... which obviously constituted no novelty for an art fan from Pittsburgh. Additionally, there's a small selection of photos along a narrow hallway to represent the Gallery's longstanding interest in the medium (apparently the Albright-Knox was on of the first institutions to hold a "Photographic Pictorial Exhibition").

On the second floor I found a substantial grouping of works from the Op Art movement of the 1960's. The curator of Op Art Revisited traces its development to the square paintings of the German Josef Albers in the 30's. Later abstract painters like Richard Anuszkiewicz, Bridget Riley, Julian Stanczak, and Victor Vasarely were inspired by Albers to explore the use of parallel lines, concentric circles, and electric colors to create the visual effects of movement and afterimage. Despite the fact that critics wrote off Op Art as a dead end, contemporary artists have re-engaged many of its ideas with the advent of computers and digital technology. At any rate, the stuff is a lot of fun to look at (and its there until January 25, 2009).

Other temporary exhibits included REMIX: Recent Acquisitions. Works on Paper and Works on Paper: The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection. Of the latter, I can only describe my distinct lack of interest. It was predominantly minimalism of the abstract conceptual variety. But I enjoyed the former show for its variety and timeliness. Many of the artists chosen for display are younger than I am. Standouts included Robert Brinker, Lisa Yuskavage and Peregrine Honig. Overall I was impressed at the size and scope of the Albright-Knox, and I certainly recommend a visit. It will be interesting to see what Heather Pesanti (former CMA assistant curator) will do with the place.

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