By VICKY SANTOS
Published June 6, 2023
Anna Wager joined the UB Art Galleries as its new curator in August 2022 and has been researching areas of the collection for the past six months in preparation for an exhibition this summer. Her interest in the roots of these collections — and their relevance to Buffalo — became the inspiration for the show, “In Conversation,” on view through Aug. 18 in the UB Anderson Gallery.
“The history of the UB Art Galleries is also the history of the Martha Jackson and David Anderson galleries, and in some ways the history of UB as an institution,” Wager says. “As I spent time with the UB art collection and UB Poetry Collection, I started thinking a lot about influence. One of the first pieces I considered was “Black Crows (Oranges No. 1)”, 1952, by Grace Hartigan, which was created in dialogue with a Frank O’Hara poem, and that was pivotal for me. It’s a really layered piece, physically and conceptually.”
Wager says the longer she examined the piece, the more she thought about the conversations that must have taken place for a piece like this to come together. She says she began considering how conversations among artists and their friends likely influence each other, which quickly broadened to include more influences by poets, writers, musicians, teachers and mentors. Considering these relationships and their impacts on each other became the concept and theme for “In Conversation.”
“As a university gallery, it felt important and exciting to spend some time thinking about collaboration between artists and their influences, and how we might extend these collaborations out to the Buffalo community through offering workshops, talking to local artists, partnering with local bookstores and supporting summer programming,” Wager explains.
The items on exhibit are drawn from the collections of the UB Art Galleries and the UB Poetry Collection, and aim to introduce visitors to a broader network of collaborators, extending to local and regional partnerships between artists and those who influence them.
The media in this exhibition ranges from artist books, large-scale paintings and works on paper to sculptural pieces and prints of various kinds. The largest piece, Joan Mitchell’s “Ode to Joy (A Poem by Frank O’Hara),” is an oil painting from 1970-71 that takes up an entire wall of the gallery. One of the smaller works, a sketch of poet Robert Duncan by Virginia Admiral, is the size of a paperback book.
“We want to balance a range of work so that there is something for everyone, whatever mood they are in,” Wager says.
Before coming to UB, Wager was the Clarence A. Davis Visual Arts Curator and gallery director at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. While at Hobart and William Smith, she worked on solo exhibitions by contemporary artists including Amanda Maciuba, Andrew Ellis Johnson, Rebecca Murtaugh, Sarita Zaleha and John Opera — a UB assistant professor of art. Wager also curated collections and thematic group exhibitions around such topics as art and labor, craft and democracy, and Afrofuturism. Her previous curatorial projects and fellowships include work at the Delaware Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum and the Henry Art Gallery.
“We’re thrilled and delighted that Wager has joined our team,” says Robert Scalise, director of the UB Art Galleries. “She brings important experience of working with art historical research, contemporary artists and connecting students to the work,”
Programming for Wager’s first UB exhibition as curator begins with an opening reception from 5-8 p.m. on June 8 that includes a lecture at 7 p.m. by Ada Calhoun, author of “Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me.” There will also be workshops throughout the run of the exhibition, an activity book for kids and adults, and a July 15 community day for the neighborhood surrounding the UB Anderson Gallery.