By EMILY REYNOLDS
Published September 12, 2023
“FUTURA2000: Breaking Out,” a retrospective of the work of abstract painter and pioneering graffiti artist Futura, will open Sept. 23 in the Center for the Arts Gallery and the UB Anderson Gallery.
An opening reception for the exhibition will be held from 5–8 p.m. Sept. 23 in the UB Anderson Gallery. The artist also will give a free lecture at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25 in 112 Center for the Arts as part of the Department of Art’s Visiting Artist Speaker Series.
Over a career-spanning five decades, Futura — known early in his career as Futura 2000 — has inspired and influenced multiple generations while intersecting his enigmatic oeuvre with various disciplines and remaining at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist.
“FUTURA2000: Breaking Out” is a comprehensive survey featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, studies, collaborations and archival paraphernalia. The exhibition, which runs through Feb. 11, also features new, site-specific works.
Futura is the nom de plume of Leonard Hilton McGurr. In his late teens and early 20s, he was an influential figure early in New York City’s formative graffiti-meets-art scene of the 1970s and 1980s, where his unique combination of abstraction, pop-culture references and traditional graffiti elements made him a generational standout in the burgeoning sub-culture. “Break Train,” his infamous, often-celebrated, 1980 depiction of a whole city subway car, was a progressive leap for both the genre and the artist.
He created album art for the iconic punk rock band the Clash during the same era. The artist was also invited on the band’s 1981 Combat Rock European tour, where he painted captivating, large-scale backdrops behind the band as they performed live to fervent audiences.
“This retrospective brings a pioneer of the street and graffiti world to UB and the city of Buffalo,” says Robert Scalise, director of the UB Art Galleries and co-curator of the exhibition. “Students at UB and in the community will be able to connect with and learn from an artist who forged a unique career of independent creation and collaboration."
In conjunction with the exhibition, the artist will produce a mural for the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s Public Art Initiative in the weeks leading up to the exhibition opening that will serve as a lasting memento of the exhibition in the Elmwood Village. The mural, titled "Bradford Reds," is located on the north façade of Bureau, 712 Elmwood Ave.
“We are very excited to have a legendary figure like Futura working in such a meaningful way around the region and with our two institutions,” says exhibition co-curator Zack Boehler, public art project coordinator at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. “His impact across street art, fine art and cultural production is undeniable, and he has been an influence of mine for many years.”
Futura will also collaborate with Buffalo-based New Era Cap Company and Oxford Pennant on limited-edition goods to be available during the exhibition.