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

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.

Caught on Camera 
April 1976: 
Gilbert and George

Gilbert and George were present at the Albright-Knox in 1976 for the opening of their exhibition, Gilbert and George: The General Jungle or Carrying on Sculpting (April 1–May 2, 1976). The artist duo has worked together for the past 47 years. They are firm proponents of “Art for All” and believe that every faction of life has potential to be art. They have never adopted a singular style and employ all mediums, tending to blur the line between art and artist, reality and fiction, and life and imitation.

Their exhibit at the Albright-Knox showcased an environment of charcoal scenes depicting the two artists walking through the “general jungle” of life where “the people are all living near to beauty, passing by.” Their thoughts are conveyed in the handwritten captions below each work. In line with the artists’ philosophy of the melding of art and life, they allow their personal lives and thoughts to become available to the viewer. The twenty-three charcoal drawings in the exhibition ranged in size from four to fourteen feet across with a uniform height of nine feet. The works not only captured the artists’ figures and scenes from their lives, but enveloped the audience in awareness of Gilbert and George’s self-referential view of art, artists, and the world around them.

***

Content adapted from the exhibition brochure, published in correlation with the exhibition Gilbert and George: The General Jungle or Carry on Sculpting, 1976, and written by former Albright-Knox Curator Linda Cathcart. Images courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives, Buffalo, New York. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Top photograph by John D. O’Hern (Albright-Knox staff, Assistant to the Director, Public Relations and Publications)

Recent Acquisition HighlightsRyan McGinness’s Something About the Collapse of Art & Language, 2013A battleground of semantic symbolic icons at once recognizable and yet elusive, Ryan J. McGinness’s Something About the Collapse of Art & Language, 2013, is an orchestrated layering of vibrant colors, designs, and graphics. McGinness creates drawings and paintings that stem from a mental landscape inspired by his urban surroundings and street culture—particularly graffiti, pop iconography, and corporate logos. Employing a layered system of symbols and signs, his works blur the line between abstraction and representation. Learn MoreRyan McGinness (American, born 1972). Something About the Collapse of Art & Language, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 96 x 96 inches (243.8 x 243.8 cm). Gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2013. © 2014 Ryan McGinness / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Recent Acquisition Highlights
Ryan McGinness’s Something About the Collapse of Art & Language, 2013

A battleground of semantic symbolic icons at once recognizable and yet elusive, Ryan J. McGinness’s Something About the Collapse of Art & Language, 2013, is an orchestrated layering of vibrant colors, designs, and graphics. McGinness creates drawings and paintings that stem from a mental landscape inspired by his urban surroundings and street culture—particularly graffiti, pop iconography, and corporate logos. Employing a layered system of symbols and signs, his works blur the line between abstraction and representation. Learn More

Ryan McGinness (American, born 1972). 
Something About the Collapse of Art & Language, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 96 x 96 inches (243.8 x 243.8 cm). Gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2013. © 2014 Ryan McGinness / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Dürer-Picasso Connection

Kate Soudant, Albright-Knox Art Gallery docent
August 2, 2014

During a recent tour I gave to campers ranging in age from 7 to 14, I was once again shown the power of art.

While looking at Pablo Picasso’s Harlequin (Project for a Monument), 1935, I started by asking the group what they could see in the picture. The youngest and smallest in the group blurted out, ”Albrecht Dürer.” The rest of the group giggled a bit, mainly because not one of them had heard of the artist Albrecht Dürer. When I asked the young boy why this work reminded him of Dürer, he stated, “I saw a picture of Albrecht Dürer once before and this reminds me of him.”

This made me ponder the possible connection between Dürer and Picasso and come to the following insight: While Albrecht Dürer preceded Pablo Picasso by more than 400 years, they shared an interest in geometric forms. Picasso, a painter and sculptor, is well known for being a leader in the development of Cubism, a style of art that breaks objects down into geometric forms. Dürer, who was not only a painter, engraver, and printmaker but also a mathematician, created a method of depicting a cube in two dimensions through a linear perspective and developed a geometric shape—the triangular trapezohedron, known more commonly as the Dürer Cube or Dürer’s Solid. This new shape is visible in his iconic print Melencolia I, 1514, which was recently on view as part of the exhibition Albrecht Dürer: Highlights from the Collection. Melencolia I also includes depictions of tools of geometry and the first depiction of a mathematical puzzle known as a “magic square.”

Whether Picasso thought of or was influenced by Dürer when he created his Cubist works will remain unknown, but this boy’s keen insight allowed me to ponder a possible connection between these two artists and to look at two works I have seen many times in a new and exciting way.

 

Caught on Camera
June 1976: Michelle Phillips (of The Mamas and the Papas)

Michelle Phillips, actress and last surviving original member of the Mamas and the Papas, visited the Albright-Knox in 1976 to view the exhibition
Paintings, Drawings and Other Work by Edward Ruscha, the first museum survey to concentrate on paintings by the artist. It was on display from June 8 to July 11, 1976. Above, Phillips and Ruscha converse during the opening of the exhibition.

Both Phillips and Ruscha pursued diverse artistic endeavors. In addition to having a lucrative musical career, Phillips began acting in the 1970s. Ruscha is known for his paintings, drawings, photographs, and books rooted in commercialism and influenced by the Hollywood film industry. He also produced a series of lesser-known short films, including Miracle (1975), in which Phillips portrays the main character’s love interest.  

The state of California provided setting and inspiration for the work of both Phillips and Ruscha. Perhaps they were “California Dreamin’,” as Phillips so naturally put it.

Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (Los Angeles, 1966) and other books by the artist are currently on view in the Gallery for Small Sculpture as part of the exhibition Printed Editions in the Sixties and Sevenites: LeWitt, Roth, Ruscha through Sunday, January 4, 2015.  

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

Recent Acquisition HighlightsMickalene Thomas’s Interior: Monet’s Blue Foyer, 2012Mickalene Thomas is best known for her elaborate painterly practice involving rhinestones and a colorful palette that explores concepts of beauty and questions what it means to be a woman. With compositions featuring depictions of strong African-American women, reminiscent of 1970s style Blaxploitation, her body of work radiates sexuality and explores notions of black female celebrity and identity. Inspired by popular culture, Pop art, 1970s color palettes, and kitsch from her childhood, Thomas’s practice has grown out of her interest in and intense study of art history and the classical genres of portraiture, landscape, and still life painting. Learn More Mickalene Thomas (American, born 1971). Interior: Monet’s Blue Foyer, 2012. Rhinestones, acrylic, oil, and enamel on canvas on wood panel, 108 x 240 inches (274.3 x 609.6 cm). Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2013.

Recent Acquisition Highlights
Mickalene Thomas’s Interior: Monet’s Blue Foyer, 2012

Mickalene Thomas is best known for her elaborate painterly practice involving rhinestones and a colorful palette that explores concepts of beauty and questions what it means to be a woman. With compositions featuring depictions of strong African-American women, reminiscent of 1970s style Blaxploitation, her body of work radiates sexuality and explores notions of black female celebrity and identity. Inspired by popular culture, Pop art, 1970s color palettes, and kitsch from her childhood, Thomas’s practice has grown out of her interest in and intense study of art history and the classical genres of portraiture, landscape, and still life painting. Learn More 

Mickalene Thomas (American, born 1971). Interior: Monet’s Blue Foyer, 2012. 
Rhinestones, acrylic, oil, and enamel on canvas on wood panel, 108 x 240 inches (274.3 x 609.6 cm). Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2013.

Recent Acquisition HighlightsJaan Aare Poldaas’s Vertical Composition (Blue Black), 1990Although Jaan Poldaas studied to be an architect, he has emerged as one of the most highly acclaimed minimalist painters in Canada. Known for his vibrant sense of color, Poldaas often uses enamels straight out of the can, applying them directly to the canvas. He is interested in exploring the interaction between primary and secondary colors in relation to black. Learn MoreJaan Aare Poldaas (Canadian, born 1948). Vertical Composition (Blue Black), 1990. Oil on canvas, 90 x 36 inches (228.6 x 91.4 cm). Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, and Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2012. © 1990 Jaan Poldaas

Recent Acquisition Highlights
Jaan Aare Poldaas’s Vertical Composition (Blue Black), 1990

Although Jaan Poldaas studied to be an architect, he has emerged as one of the most highly acclaimed minimalist painters in Canada. Known for his vibrant sense of color, Poldaas often uses enamels straight out of the can, applying them directly to the canvas. He is interested in exploring the interaction between primary and secondary colors in relation to black. Learn More

Jaan Aare Poldaas (Canadian, born 1948). Vertical Composition (Blue Black), 1990. Oil on canvas, 90 x 36 inches (228.6 x 91.4 cm). Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, and Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2012. © 1990 Jaan Poldaas

Beyond Landscape: A Community ResponseThursday, July 3–Sunday, August 24, 2014 On view in the Education Exhibition Hallway As part of the exhibition Anselm Kiefer: Beyond Landscape, the community is invited to participate by providing feedback and reflections in text, image, audio, and video formats. These responses, as varied as they are visionary, have ranged from written observations and photographic re-imaginings of Kiefer’s monumental paintings to original works inspired by landscapes around the world. As a complement to the Beyond Landscape blog, where submissions are published every Friday, this exhibition presents selections from the more than 1,200 physical submissions we have received in our Response Room, located in the 1905 Albright Building, and is designed to display the expansive creativity and insight provided by visitors of all ages to the Albright-Knox.

Beyond Landscape: A Community Response
Thursday, July 3–Sunday, August 24, 2014 
On view in the Education Exhibition Hallway 

As part of the exhibition Anselm Kiefer: Beyond Landscape, the community is invited to participate by providing feedback and reflections in text, image, audio, and video formats. These responses, as varied as they are visionary, have ranged from written observations and photographic re-imaginings of Kiefer’s monumental paintings to original works inspired by landscapes around the world. As a complement to the Beyond Landscape blog, where submissions are published every Friday, this exhibition presents selections from the more than 1,200 physical submissions we have received in our Response Room, located in the 1905 Albright Building, and is designed to display the expansive creativity and insight provided by visitors of all ages to the Albright-Knox.