Release Date: December 10, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo's Anderson Gallery will present the exhibition "American Chartres: Buffalo's Waterfront Elevators," featuring documentary photographs of the architectural giants by Bruce Jackson, Jan. 22 to March 6.
An opening reception honoring Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture, UB Department of English, will be held 6-8 p.m. Jan. 22 in the gallery at One Martha Jackson Place, off Englewood Avenue between Main Street and Kenmore Avenue.
The exhibition will celebrate the giant industrial towers invented by Buffalo merchant Joseph Dart and engineer Robert Dunbar in 1842-43, an event that revolutionized the grain storage and portage industry throughout the world and, some have argued, profoundly influenced modern architecture.
Although most have been taken down or gave way to newer structures, a number of the largest elevators remain in place. In 2006, Jackson photographed the destruction of Buffalo's H-O Oats elevator and for the past year, using digital Leica and Hasselblad cameras, has conducted an extended project to visually document the extant structures. It is this work that will be the subject of the exhibition.
It was French poet Dominique Fourcade who, during a visit to Buffalo, compared the elevators to the high-gothic cathedral at Chartres, so awed was he by their monumental size and iconic nature.
Located along the Buffalo River and Lake Erie, the giant elevators, some of wood, some of concrete, had a marine leg that scooped loose grain from the hulls of ships and elevated it to the top of a marine tower, some of which were more than 10 stories tall. The grain was then lowered into vast silos where it was stored until it was placed in receiving ships or trains for transport to other parts of the country and world.
For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the giant elevators served as a reminder of Buffalo's central position in the grain transport and storage industries. Now, most are not in use and remain derelict relics on unoccupied waterfront property of the city's heavy industrial past.
Their form and influence were famously celebrated in architectural critic Reyner Banham's classic book, "A Concrete Atlantis: U.S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture," and in the highly regarded industrial photographs of Patricia Layman Bazelon.
Banham was a member of the faculty of the UB School of Architecture and Planning from 1976 to 1980. Bazelon, chief photographer for the Brooklyn Museum, worked as a freelance photographer in Buffalo from 1979 to 1988, and continued to photograph Buffalo's industrial sites until her death in 1995.
Jackson is the author or editor of 30 books, most recently, "Pictures from a Drawer: Prison and the Art of Portraiture" (Temple University Press, 2009).
His 20 solo photography exhibits include those at Galleri View (Oslo, 2009), Arkansas Studies Institute (Little Rock, 2009), Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, 2009), Documentary Studies Center (Duke University/Durham, 2008) and Circolo Gianni Bosio (Rome, 2007). His work is in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, George Eastman House, Library of Congress, Bibliothèque Nationale de France and other institutions. In 2002, the French government named him Chevalier in L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.