Published October 21, 2021
Three solo exhibitions featuring the works of artists Gregg Bordowitz, Barrie Phillip Nichol and Maria D. Rapicavoli will open on Nov. 6 in the UB Anderson Gallery.
The exhibitions open at 1 p.m.; curator Liz Park, Bordowitz and Rapicavoli will speak at 2 p.m.
Gregg Bordowitz: Tetragrammaton
The tetragrammaton is the four-letter Hebrew word for G-d in Judaism, which is never uttered and appears only in written form. The reader of the prayer book honors the holiness of the word and prohibition against pronouncing this name by substituting with honorifics, such as adonai (My Lords) or hashem (the name).
Drawing on a longstanding Jewish meditation practice of visually concentrating on the letters of the tetragrammaton — yodh, he, vav, he —Bordowitz has created a new body of work that functions like calligraphy, wherein the word is an image and the image is a word. The prints that comprise this exhibition combine the letters in different arrangements, and every line drawn is part of a letter. In Bordowitz’s work, the letters connect, touch, overlap and ultimately remain incomplete as the tetragrammaton, though their form and meaning may be recognizable to a Hebrew reader.
A renowned artist, writer, teacher and activist whose media and performance works have dealt with urgent contemporary issues from the perspective of a queer Jewish man living with AIDS, Bordowitz has undertaken this new body of work with the utmost sincerity, care and respect for the Jewish traditions around the tetragrammaton. Throughout his career, his works have included Jewish themes and cultural references. While the prints can serve as meditation or devotional symbols for viewers, they are mediations and aesthetic works for the artist that further extend the powerful significance of the Hebrew letters.
Bordowitz is the director of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Low Residency MFA program, and is a faculty member of the Whitney Independent Study Program. His career survey, “I Wanna Be Well,” organized by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery in 2018, has toured to the Art Institute of Chicago (2019) and MoMA PS1 (2021). He has performed at the New Museum, New York (2018); the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2012); Iceberg Projects, Chicago (2011); Murray Guy, New York (2011); and Temple Gallery, Philadelphia (2011), and his work has been presented at the Tate Modern, London (2011), and Tanzquartier Wien, Vienna (2010). His films have been screened in numerous museums and at festivals, and his writing has been widely published.
bpNichol: Love Letter
Nichol, known to his friends and readers as bpNichol, was a polymathic Canadian poet who worked across disciplines and supported the literary community in Canada as a publisher of grOnk and Ganglia press, and service on a number of editorial boards and committees. During a career cut short by his untimely death at age 44, bpNichol published poetry in the form of collected volumes, chapbooks, broadsheets, mimeographs, serigraphs, CDs and cassette tapes, loose leaves of paper, matchbooks and other unconventional vehicles for words.
Nichol participated in the global network of concrete and visual poets, and contributed to such landmark publications as “Anthology of Concrete Poetry” (1967), edited by Emmett Williams, and “Concrete Poetry: A World View” (1968), edited by Mary Ellen Solt. Nichol’s remarkable range of output had him exploring sound, performance, nascent computer language, comics, printmaking and even scriptwriting for children’s television show. Among his many intellectual and creative companions and long-term collaborators were poet Steve McCaffery, David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters and professor in the UB Department of English, and the late visual artist Barbara Caruso.
Nichol’s innumerable works continue to find an appreciative audience worldwide, including in Buffalo, where UB’s Poetry Collection has a large holding of his materials. This exhibition draws from the Poetry Collection and focuses on his exploration of the letters of the English alphabet as lines, infinitely plastic in form and thereby meaning. bpNichol: Love Letter explores how fragmenting words as lines and sounds unattached to linguistic signification can reorient our experience of language.
Maria D. Rapicavoli: Surface Tension
New York–based artist Rapicavoli has been drawing on her native Sicily as a place of departure and arrival to frame her understanding of rootedness and migration, as well as notions of domesticity and feminist politics. Her recent video-installation, “The Other: A Familiar Story,” is a reflection on a female relative who, a century ago, was forced into marriage and brought to the United States against her will to lead a life of hardship as a factory worker in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This tale of oppression, misogyny and economic inequality, which resonates with contemporary experiences of migrant women, anchors the artist’s first career survey.
Showcasing her larger practice as a photographer, media and installation artist, and sculptor, Surface Tension contextualizes Rapicavoli’s recent video with past works that explore a constellation of topics, such as military control of Sicilian airspace, layers of colonial relations that undergird Mediterranean crossings to and from Europe and Africa, and gender and sexual politics of domestic spaces during a pandemic. The exhibition presents a multifaceted view of an artist who is interested in both larger global politics and intimate, domestic spaces and the inner psyches of individuals under duress.
Rapicavoli was a fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program in 2011–12, and holds an MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London (2005), and a BA from the Academy of Fine Arts in Catania (2001). She has exhibited in several group shows, including at Socrates Sculpture Park, New York; Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Museo di Villa Croce, Genoa; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce, Genoa; Palazzo Reale, Milan; Guest Projects, London; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea della Sicilia, Palermo; Strozzina, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; Sala Rekalde, Bilbao; and the Italian Cultural Institute, London and New York.
She is the recipient of many awards and grants, including the Italian Council grant, 6th edition (2019); nctm e l’arte (2013); DE.MO/Movin’UP (2011); and the Renaissance Prize Award at the Italian Cultural Institute, London (2008).
Support for Gregg Bordowitz: Tetragrammaton, bpNichol: Love Letter, and Maria D. Rapicavoli: Surface Tension is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support for Maria D. Rapicavoli: Surface Tensionis provided by Q-International grant of the Fondazione La Quadriennale di Roma. bpNichol: Love Letter is organized in partnership with the Poetry Collection.