New University At Buffalo Gallery to Expand Regional Art Menu

Release Date: August 10, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An ambitious new art gallery will open on Oct. 28 in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, itself a brand new, $41.8 million structure designed by the award-winning New York architectural team of Gwathmey and Siegal.

The University Gallery is directed by Al Harris-Fernandez, former director of the Center for Research in Contemporary Art at the University of Texas, Arlington. It occupies 10,000 square feet of space and houses three exhibition areas totalling 6,000 square feet.

The gallery will present a year-round schedule of temporary exhibitions featuring the work of distinguished regional and national American artists. The first season includes exhibits by Adrian Piper and Victor Burgin, Kristin Oppenheimer, Lydia Dona, Sylvie Fleury, Jim Iserman, Lily van der Stokker, Carl Ostendarp and others.

Harris' plans call for programs to extend far beyond exhibitions, however.

He expects to expand regional art programming by offering research opportunities and a full public-education program. This will be accomplished through publications such as catalogues, post-exhibition commentaries and an annual program overview; lectures by visiting artists, and interdisciplinary panel discussions. These activities are designed to place the exhibitions in various contexts and to focus on the many and diverse issues concerning today's working artists.

Harris says the gallery will provide university students access to notable visiting artists and he plans to develop curriculums and internship programs that enable students to use the gallery and its programs as a resource for their academic research.

The University Gallery will open with an exhibit curated by Harris and Karen Emenhiser titled "Faith in Doubt." Running from Oct. 28-Jan. 14 in Galleries I and II, it will feature the work of 10 young artists from across the United States and Europe, all of whom offer penetrating and sometimes startling views of western culture.

Exhibitors will include John Currin, William Davenport, Sylvie Fleury, Jim Iserman, Tom Moody, Carl Ostendarp, Jenifer Silitch, Aaron Parazette, Alexi Pearlstein and Lily van der Stoker.

The curators point out that these artists grew up in an era in which the division between reality and representation has become increasingly blurred. Their work explores the incongruities of the "infotainment" age, with its docudramas, advertorials, nonfiction novels and screaming tabloid "news" programs, papers and magazines that mirror and shape our way of life. Their various approaches produce art that is at once disturbing and nostalgic, arcane and touchingly familiar.

Following the grand-opening show, the gallery will present a series of exhibitions in each of its three galleries. They include a Jan. 21-Feb. 25 sound installation by Kristin Oppenheimer, exhibits by Adrian Piper and Victor Burgin from March 4-April 22 and a double exhibition by Lydia Dona and Matthew Weinstein from April 29 through the summer of 1995.

The UB Center for the Arts itself houses several theaters, exhibition areas, and sound, video production, dance and art studios, along with three of the university's fine arts departments in 236,000 gross square feet of space.

The University Gallery is comprised of three exhibition spaces. Gallery I and Gallery II are on the first and second floor and will be the sites of major solo and group exhibits, as well as selected faculty and student shows.

A third space, the dramatic, two-story Lightwell Gallery, will accommodate a series of long-term exhibitions commissioned by UB and conceived specifically for the dramatic and unique viewing opportunities offered by that space. The Lightwell has 35 foot ceilings, a balcony, skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The University gallery is open year-round, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

OCT. 28, 1994 - JAN. 14, 1995

Grand Opening Reception, Saturday, Oct. 28 • 7-10 p.m.

Curator Al Harris says that these 10 young artists "continue the investigation of the problems of representation begun by artists like Sherrie Levine in the '80s." Here, the humorous approach is lighter, if no less complex, than the ironic art of the last decade. Featured post-ironists are:

John Currin, a widely-reviewed New York painter who has been said to upend the discourse between realism and caricature in portraiture by "producing caricatures of the idealizations" projected by his imperfect, but often warmly apprehended subjects. Cryptic, controversial works with titles like "Bea Arthur Naked," "Skinny Woman" and "The Moved Over Lady" use portraiture's conventional iconography to explore aspects of the feminine and illuminate prejudices about women, age and beauty.

Sylvie Fleury, a Geneva-based video installation artist, uses mass-produced consumer goods to demonstrate alarming aspects of commodity fetishism. Fleury arranges items like spike heels, snappy little shopping bags from upscale shops, furry pink carpets, perfume boxes, fashion magazines and male beefcake photos to construct a silly, girlie aesthetic that "celebrates" the seduction of the shopping victim and mocks our narcissistic social fantasies.

Jim Iserman, an intriguing Los Angeles-based painter, claims to "walk the thin line between the least desirable and the latest trend." He once used to replicate the kitchy, toss-a-way objects of the late '60s/early '70s (lamps, clocks, chairs). Then he moved on to works that marry painted surfaces with mirror-image-crafted consumer items: hooked rugs made of acrylic yarn or stained-glass panels or stitched-fabric wall hangings. His work is obsessively detailed, labor-intensive and highly finished. It refers to the popular interest in crafts of the 1960s -- the period of his childhood and early adolescence when, as he puts it, "distinctions between popular culture and art dissolved."

Lily van der Stokker, a Dutch conceptual artist of deliberately treacly, trashy, banal themes, is one of several young artists who, writes Peter Schjeldahl in The Village Voice, "excavate febrile aesthetics of teenage obsession." If exuberance were king and wanted to hire a court painter, says critic Keith Seward, "it couldn't do better than to put (van der Stokker) on the payroll."

The subject matter and treatment here is toute chick and very teen. Her saccharine cloud-bubbles, rudimentary floral designs, magic-markered evocations of "love," "kisses," "happiness," and "kicked-up Necco-wafer" colors are, to Schjeldahl, "signs of libido so engorged with puppyish goodwill as to be effectively sexless." Funny, too.

This exhibition also will include work by Dallas painter Tom Moody, Houston sculptor William Davenport, New York's Carl Ostendarp, Houston painter Aaron Parazette, New York video installation artist Alex Pearlstein and Houston video artist Jennifer Silitch.

JAN. 21 - FEB. 25, 1995

Kristin Oppenheimer, daughter of conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheimer, investigates sound and music as they relate to personal memories and experience. Here, she will present a sound installation cited by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith for its "soothing, accumulating, almost hypnotic effect that heightens the act of perception."

Oppenheimer's recorded voice, repeating a soothing chant based on the chorus of Brian Wilson's "Sail On, Sailor," produces a provocative and intense sound sculpture that mesmerizes and enchants even as it disappears. (“Her ballads assume the communicative strength of prayer, of the story teller, of the emotional power of the life breath.”...catalogue for "Utopia del Possible" exhibition, Foyer Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova, 1993)

Reception and lecture by Piper, Saturday, April 8.

Adrian Piper's investigation of racism has led her to create an arresting body of confrontational art over the past two decades. This exhibit features a series of images composed of photographs and text presented in conjunction with a performance/lecture by Piper, who holds a doctorate from Harvard and is a professor of philosophy at Wellesley College.

Conceptual artist Victor Burgin is also an art theorist and author of "The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity" and "Thinking Photography." This exhibit presents a selection of digitally constructed photographs from one of his series, along with a related video commissioned by the city of Marseilles that weaves together aspects of Hitchcock's "Vertigo," the history of Marseilles and the journeys of Marco Polo

Painting has taken its raps of late as a "slow" medium struggling to compete in an increasingly fast-paced art world. Has painting been left in the dust by the explosion of TV, glossy magazines, cheap cameras and home-video reproduction?

Lydia Dona and Matthew Weinstein are among a number of contemporary painters who think not. They consider painting not only a viable medium, but one uniquely capable of representing our times.

Romanian-born Lydia Dona's large, exquisitely crafted canvases methodically "empty out" modernism's patriarchal baggage, expecially as represented by the male-dominated bastion of abstraction. "I see myself," she writes, "operating as a sign system of trajectory in between the territorial pillars of Totemism and the Drip -- two major phallic concerns that shaped and defined American Abstraction." Complex, often contradictory, supercharged and theoretical, her "new abstraction," writes critic Maia Damianovic, "proposes to distance painting from self-referential, transcendent existentialism in favor of a more fallible and imperfect self-consciousness."

Matthew Weinstein's paintings have been called as "aggressively vulgar and obnoxiously vibrant as a Grand Guignol performance." Another critic said they capture a state of "pathological ecstasy." Weinstein's assault on modernist notions of the "pure" and the "ideal" take the form of raucous, sometimes kinky or poetic marriage of disparate images from anatomy, biker culture, Rimbaud and Pop. Writing in Art in America, critic Jerry Saltz called his compositions "ungainly and undigested," adding, "there's an eager, adolescent skull-'n'-crossbones side to the work that makes it seem particularly male."

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