#InsideAK
A Day in the Life of Andrew from the Buildings and Grounds Department

1. Hi there, this is Andrew and I am very excited to take over the AK’s Instagram account today. I am a member of the Buildings and Grounds Department. My job allows me to explore many areas of the museum that the public (and some staff!) never get to see. The space above the main sculpture court is hands-down my favorite place within the gallery. There are countless signatures and notes inscribed onto the Carnegie steel and drywall from past maintenance men. It is a constant reminder of just how old and interesting the museum’s building truly is. Also, most of the notes are not kid-friendly and hilarious! 

2.  In order to work in the Buildings and Grounds Department at the AK, you must also be a bit of a daredevil. A handful of artwork installations often require wire and supports mounted from the crawlspace above particular galleries. For example, I recently captured this photo directly above Gallery 5 in the 1905 Albright Building. Please keep in mind that falling off the wooden support beams means falling through the gallery ceiling below. So one needs to be ever mindful of where he or she steps! 

3. In case none of you have seen it, the museum’s campus is incredibly beautiful in the early morning hours. This is the east wall of the Auditorium, as the sun is starting to rise. 

4. This is our table saw blade and it plays a rather important role in the AK’s Buildings and Grounds Department. It is the starting point of all pedestals, cabinets, plinths, and display cases that will eventually support and display the museum’s amazing Fine Art Collection. My boss, Ken, is a wood-working master and an incredible resource to learn from. I am lucky to work for him and alongside so many other talented and hardworking people. 

5. In my final #InsideAK post, I wanted to share one of the best experiences I have had while working here at the AK. Last summer, I was able to assist in the tiling and grouting of the sculpture “Underlife,” 2012–13, with the artist, Mr. Jason Middlebrook himself. Jason is a pretty cool cat and it was super fun to work with him. That, coupled with the magnificence of the finished piece, made this an incredible project to work on! Thank you for spending the day with me!

Follow the Albright-Knox on Instagram (@AlbrightKnox) for more behind-the-scenes photos!

Photographs by Andrew Mayer. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery

AK Historypin of the Week
Buffalo Public Library, Washington Street

The city of Buffalo, New York, possesses a remarkable number of architectural masterpieces from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Recognizing the rich architectural and planning heritage, the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) held an exhibition of photography in January 1940, which commemorated these vast architectural triumphs. More than 120 photographs were displayed in the exhibition, which was organized by Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the dean of American architectural historians, with the assistance of Gordon Bailey Washburn, former director of the Albright Art Gallery.

Participants using the Historypin website and mobile app on supported devices can explore photographs and related content about numerous historic buildings featured in the AAG’s 1940 exhibition. Every week, we will feature a pinned location from the Albright-Knox’s Historypin channel and provide detailed information and archival photographs about the site. This week’s pin is the Buffalo Public Library, located on Washington Street.

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The origins of the Buffalo Public Library date back to 1835, when it was founded as the Young Men’s Association. The YMA (not to be confused with the Young Men’s Christian Association) was a private subscription library for paid members. In 1883, the Association’s members began raising funds for a new building and held an architectural competition. After competing with many notable architects, including Henry Hobson Richardson, Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz (1853–1921) won with his design. 

The building was constructed between 1884 and 1887. In 1886, the Association changed its name to “The Buffalo Library” and remained a private library for the next decade. In 1897, The Buffalo Library gave its collection to the citizens of Buffalo. The doors of the Buffalo Public Library were open and it was free for use by the public. The building housed the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy from 1887 to 1905, until the construction on the Albright Art Gallery building was completed. During this time, the BFAA opened an art school which was merged with the Students’ Art Club to form the Art Students’ League in 1891. 

In 1963, construction began on the current location of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s Central Library building and its doors opened to the public in October 1964. The Second Court House, or the Old Erie County Court House, preceded the building on the Washington Street site opposite Court House Park or Courthouse Square, now known as Lafayette Square. 
***

The Central Library is home not only to great literature, but also hosts great art. From August 17 to August 22, 2014, Tape Art, a collective of artists based in Providence, Rhode Island, created a mural titled Buffalo Caverns on the north wall of the Central Library branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. This project is part of the Public Art Initiative, an innovative partnership between the Albright-Knox, Erie County, and the City of Buffalo. The mural is on view through August 29, 2014.

TOP: Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Photograph by Jay W. Baxstresser, Albright Art Gallery Staff.
BOTTOM: Screenshot of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s channel on Historypin.

 

Caught on Camera
April 1980: Kenneth Snelson

Coronation Day by Kenneth Snelson was constructed in April 1980 in the City Court Plaza on Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo. The abstract sculpture is composed of twelve chrome steel tubes suspended by a web of steel cables. There is harmony throughout the design of the work: the triangular base is made of three upright steel tubes, which are reflected by three inverted tubes reaching out toward the sky. The sculpture was funded jointly by the City of Buffalo and the National Endowment for the Arts and was created with the intention of becoming the key artwork downtown, a place for people to gather. Snelson’s work has been featured in three exhibitions at the Albright-Knox and the museum has several of his works in the Collection. Four Chances, 1982, can be seen on the museum’s grounds.

The Albright-Knox, in partnership with Erie County and the City of Buffalo, will present a variety of public art installations as part of the Public Art Initiative, established in 2013. A new temporary public art installation is currently on view on the north façade of the Central Library branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library at Lafayette Square, just a few blocks from Coronation Day. Tape Art, a collective of artists from Providence, Rhode Island, created a mural titled Buffalo Caverns made entirely of low-adhesive tape. The mural will be on view through Friday, August 29. When you visit Buffalo Caverns, make sure to visit Coronation Day and see a part of Buffalo’s public art past while enjoying a new work before it disappears!

Images courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Casey Riordan Millard (American, born 1973)Shark Girl, 2013Painted fiberglassPublic Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Shark Girl is the absurd, hilarious, and bittersweet creation of the artist Casey Riordan Millard. While Shark Girl might appear sorrowful or lonely, there is also a comic element to this “fish out of water.” Here, in Millard’s first public sculpture, Shark Girl patiently waits, legs daintily crossed, hands folded, for a companion to join her.
Appearing in nearly all of Millard’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures, Shark Girl was originally conceived as the artist reflected upon the existential conundrums of life, love, family, and loss. Shark Girl can be seen as Millard’s diversionary tactic or as her mechanism for confronting the challenges of contemporary life.
Shark Girl’s yearning and desire for normalcy and acceptance trigger equal parts laughter and empathy. The boulder upon which she sits provides viewers with the opportunity to bring the work to life by taking a seat and initiating a friendship with this bizarre half-shark, half-girl.
This work is part of the Public Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and a product of the Public Art Initiative, an innovative partnership between the Albright-Knox and Erie County established in 2013 to enhance our shared sense of place and cultural identity in the urban and suburban landscapes of Western New York. The City of Buffalo joined the partnership in 2014. The Initiative promotes education about the arts through its Collection, related programming, and creative partnerships.
Shark Girl is currently on view at Canalside in downtown Buffalo. Photograph by Kelly Carpenter.

Casey Riordan Millard (American, born 1973)
Shark Girl, 2013
Painted fiberglass
Public Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Shark Girl is the absurd, hilarious, and bittersweet creation of the artist Casey Riordan Millard. While Shark Girl might appear sorrowful or lonely, there is also a comic element to this “fish out of water.” Here, in Millard’s first public sculpture, Shark Girl patiently waits, legs daintily crossed, hands folded, for a companion to join her.

Appearing in nearly all of Millard’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures, Shark Girl was originally conceived as the artist reflected upon the existential conundrums of life, love, family, and loss. Shark Girl can be seen as Millard’s diversionary tactic or as her mechanism for confronting the challenges of contemporary life.

Shark Girl’s yearning and desire for normalcy and acceptance trigger equal parts laughter and empathy. The boulder upon which she sits provides viewers with the opportunity to bring the work to life by taking a seat and initiating a friendship with this bizarre half-shark, half-girl.

This work is part of the Public Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and a product of the Public Art Initiative, an innovative partnership between the Albright-Knox and Erie County established in 2013 to enhance our shared sense of place and cultural identity in the urban and suburban landscapes of Western New York. The City of Buffalo joined the partnership in 2014. The Initiative promotes education about the arts through its Collection, related programming, and creative partnerships.

Shark Girl is currently on view at Canalside in downtown Buffalo. Photograph by Kelly Carpenter.

Beyond the Breakwater
Have you stopped by to see the Albright-Knox’s current exhibition in the Gallery for New Media, Ellie Ga: It Was Restored Again? If not, you still have time! The exhibition—Ga’s first solo show in an American museum—features two new works from her most recent series, “Square, Octagon, Circle,” 2012–14, which uses the ancient Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt, as a point of departure. Previously, we took a closer look at one of the works in the exhibition, It Was Restored Again, 2013, and today we explore the murky waters beneath the site of the lighthouse with Sayed, 2013.
During Ga’s time in Alexandria she learned to scuba dive in order to explore, firsthand, the submerged ruins of the Pharos Lighthouse, discovered in 1994 by the French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur on the floor of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor. The single-channel video Sayed takes its moniker from the name of a local diving guide whom Ga accompanied on an underwater excursion. The viewer becomes an underwater witness as Ga and Sayed navigate the stone ruins beneath the ancient site and discuss the many gaps in current archaeological knowledge. As they explore, the pollution and swell make taking images of the remains nearly impossible. It is futile to try to capture what is left, leaving it up to us to reconstruct story of the lighthouse from what history has left behind.
Ga has written of her experience:

The sea is rough but not nearly as agitated today so I bring my brass lighthouse sculpture underwater for a photo shoot. As our dive-guide predicted, the visibility is really, really bad. Much worse than last time, which was also pretty bad. Again the wall of brown and green clouds and no visible bottom to swim towards. A meter of visibility at the most. Probably less. Luckily our guide is wearing yellow flippers and I’m able to follow him. We lose my companion almost instantly. My guide gestures emphatically that I am to hold onto this rock and not move. How long I wait at the rock I don’t know. Elapsed time is impossible to calculate underwater, perhaps because there is no horizon to measure time passing against. 5 minutes and 30 minutes are indistinguishable from one another. (http://notesfromalexandria.wordpress.com/)

Ellie Ga: It Was Restored Again will be on view through Sunday, September 14, 2014.
IMAGE: Ellie Ga (American, born 1976). Detail of Sayed, 2013. Single-channel video with sound, edition of 3 plus 1 AP. Running time: 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Image courtesy the artist and Bureau, New York.

Beyond the Breakwater

Have you stopped by to see the Albright-Knox’s current exhibition in the Gallery for New Media, Ellie Ga: It Was Restored Again? If not, you still have time! The exhibition—Ga’s first solo show in an American museum—features two new works from her most recent series, “Square, Octagon, Circle,” 2012–14, which uses the ancient Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt, as a point of departure. Previously, we took a closer look at one of the works in the exhibition, It Was Restored Again, 2013, and today we explore the murky waters beneath the site of the lighthouse with Sayed, 2013.

During Ga’s time in Alexandria she learned to scuba dive in order to explore, firsthand, the submerged ruins of the Pharos Lighthouse, discovered in 1994 by the French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur on the floor of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor. The single-channel video Sayed takes its moniker from the name of a local diving guide whom Ga accompanied on an underwater excursion. The viewer becomes an underwater witness as Ga and Sayed navigate the stone ruins beneath the ancient site and discuss the many gaps in current archaeological knowledge. As they explore, the pollution and swell make taking images of the remains nearly impossible. It is futile to try to capture what is left, leaving it up to us to reconstruct story of the lighthouse from what history has left behind.

Ga has written of her experience:

The sea is rough but not nearly as agitated today so I bring my brass lighthouse sculpture underwater for a photo shoot. As our dive-guide predicted, the visibility is really, really bad. Much worse than last time, which was also pretty bad. Again the wall of brown and green clouds and no visible bottom to swim towards. A meter of visibility at the most. Probably less. Luckily our guide is wearing yellow flippers and I’m able to follow him. We lose my companion almost instantly. My guide gestures emphatically that I am to hold onto this rock and not move. How long I wait at the rock I don’t know. Elapsed time is impossible to calculate underwater, perhaps because there is no horizon to measure time passing against. 5 minutes and 30 minutes are indistinguishable from one another. (http://notesfromalexandria.wordpress.com/)

Ellie Ga: It Was Restored Again will be on view through Sunday, September 14, 2014.

IMAGE: Ellie Ga (American, born 1976). Detail of Sayed, 2013. Single-channel video with sound, edition of 3 plus 1 AP. Running time: 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Image courtesy the artist and Bureau, New York.

Caught on Camera
June 1916: Exhibition of Contemporary American Sculpture at the Albright Art Gallery

As public art installations start popping up around Buffalo—products of the Public Art Initiative partnership between the Albright-Knox, Erie County, and the City of Buffalo—we will highlight past displays that paved the way for our current public art projects and collaborations.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery put itself on the map by hosting the 1916 Exhibition of Contemporary American Sculpture (June 17–October 2, 1916). Featuring more than 800 works of sculpture and representing 168 contemporary American sculptors, this was the largest and greatest exhibition of its kind at the time. The artworks extended beyond the Albright-Knox’s campus onto the grounds of Delaware Park and Elmwood Avenue.

The exhibition was organized by Cornelia Bentley Sage Quinton, the second director of the Albright Art Gallery and first female director of a major art museum in the United States. Her heroic undertaking brought international attention to the City of Buffalo and allowed the museum to make an influential statement about the artistic potential in the Western New York region. 

Images courtesy of The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, “Academy Notes,” Vol. XI, No. 3, July 1916. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Recent Acquisition Highlights
Sopheap Pich’s Luminous Falls No. I, 2013 and Cycle, 2011

Sopheap Pich was born in Battambang, Cambodia, during a period of civil war. The Khmer Rouge eventually gained control (1975–79) but were toppled by their former ally, Vietnam, at which point Pich’s family fled to neighboring Thailand. The family remained in refugee camps until 1983 when they immigrated to the United States. Pich’s mature works, such as Cycle, 2011, and Luminous Falls No. I, 2013, feature oblique references to his early experiences and to the common materials of daily life in South East Asia, such as rattan, bamboo, burlap culled from rice bags, beeswax, and earth pigments. 

Sopheap Pich (Cambodian, born 1971)

Luminous Falls No. I, 2013 (top)
Beeswax, damar resin, charcoal, bronze powder, copper powder, plastics, and wire on bamboo, rattan, and burlap
79 x 79 inches (200.7 x 200.7 cm)
Bequest of John Mortimer Schiff, by exchange, 2013

Cycle, 2011 (bottom)
Bamboo, wire, and glue
116 x 165 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches (294.6 x 420.4 x 62.2 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Georgia M. G. Forman, by exchange, 2014

#AKPublicArt: Artists in Tape Art create a large-scale public drawing using  tape. Their current project “Buffalo Caverns” will take shape on the long marble wall along the walkway next to the Central Library in downtown Buffalo and grow all the way up the building’s façade. A team of artists will work on the mural from Sunday, August 17, through Thursday, August 21. Head downtown and explore the mural as it grows, and share your photos @AlbrightKnox with #AKPublicArt! (Photographs by AK Publications staff.)

My Trip to the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver
Guest Post by Jason Shanley

My obsession with the work of Clyfford Still began in the summer of 1999 when I took a temporary job as a security guard at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Monet at Giverny: Masterpieces from the Musée Marmottan was a wildly popular exhibition and the museum needed more security. My job responsibilities that summer mainly entailed crowd control and making sure people didn’t touch the paintings. It wasn’t until my second or third day that I was assigned a spot upstairs and first saw the room dedicated to Still. I was transfixed, and the rest of that summer I attempted to spend as much time in that room as I could (while still doing my job, of course).

The City of Denver was chosen by the Still family over twenty other bidding cities and the Clyfford Still Museum was founded in 2005. It would be four more years before they broke ground on the building and it would open two years after that. Thanks to the Internet I followed all of this while living in Chicago, where I had moved in 2001 after graduating from the University at Buffalo. Thankfully, the Art Institute of Chicago has two Clyfford Still paintings that I would visit often while waiting on more news from Denver. This year, I was finally able to visit this museum.

Walking up to the building it was a bit hard to believe. Downtown Denver at 10:30 am was eerily quiet, as it was July 4th and most offices and businesses were closed. We paid, and readied ourselves while we waited for the introduction video to start. Watching the five-minute video giving a brief background on Still and the museum, I almost started crying. The years of anticipation had definitely caught up with me.

Walking up the stairs to the main gallery you are greeted by a self-portrait of Still followed by some early landscape work. What is interesting about these works is, while they are clearly before his shift to complete Abstract Expressionism, they already show the ideas he would develop as part of a more definite and permanent technique. The museum is mostly set up chronologically such that you walk through Still’s painting life from earliest to most recent. This was punctuated by a few rooms that, at the time of our visit, were dedicated to showing the process of restoration. According to the information posted by the museum, only about 10% of the collection needed restoring, but the work involved varied. Still stored many of his paintings rolled up in tubes and, in some cases, masking tape had cemented itself to the paintings. Other paintings had shown their years with faded colors or other physical damage. These galleries showed the viewer the process an art restorer would go through—a complex mix of physical chemistry and interpretation of the original artist notes—to determine the best plan of action. This was fascinating, as it gave an in-depth look into both Still’s creative process and this interesting job.

The last few rooms were dedicated to Still’s later work. The canvases were even larger, with a pronounced use of open space, allowing your eye to take them in and drawing a certain sense of perspective with their intensity. Where earlier painting had layers of dark blue and black with yellow and red streaked through, these later paintings showed more bare canvas or just simple white tones. Bursts of reds, like the last embers of a fire, hovered on these expansive canvases. I spent my last hour or so sitting on the bench in the relative silence of the gallery, taking in each of these last six paintings. I thought about nature and sound, each of these paintings reverberating a kind of cosmic tone the longer I looked at it. It makes a certain sense that Clyfford Still painted with the idea that his paintings would be considered carefully and that deep emotion and thought would spring forth when they were beheld, especially in his ideal setting. These are not mere works one rushes by or takes for granted. These are masterpieces deserving of consideration.

I finished up the visit with a quick trip back downstairs to look over the collected ephemera. On shelves were Still’s record and book collection, pictures of him with his kids and a fancy car (I guess he was quite the car aficionado). While all these artifacts gave me another side of Still to consider, I continue to be in awe of the mystery. I read over the letter Still sent to his art dealer in 1951 informing him that he would no longer be selling any of Still’s work. I left the museum in awe and inspired by Still’s courage and ultimate confidence in his own work. I also read over the response he gave to a journalist when he didn’t like what was written about him in an art review. Still had a certain sort of sensitivity and protectiveness of his work, and his fight for his vision has led to a museum committed to restoring and displaying his art exactly how he may have wished, and has given grateful fans of his art something very special in return.