In 2005, a friend of the young artist Ryan Trecartin posted one of his video works on Friendster, an early social networking site.
Another artist saw it and promptly passed it along to a curator at New York City's New Museum, who was duly impressed. And then, like a Ryan Gosling Facebook meme, Trecartin's reputation blew up.
The manic stories and personalities Trecartin produced, along with his closest collaborator Lizzie Fitch and others, soon became the talk of the art world. His work popped up in the Whitney Biennial, and in galleries and museums from London to Los Angeles and has been hailed widely as the artistic embodiment of the online age.
On Thursday, Trecartin and Fitch will visit the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts to give the second lecture in a new series launched last fall by curator and UB professor Jonathan Katz that is designed to highlight the connections between contemporary art and sexuality. At 1 p.m. today, the university hosts a screening of Trecartin and Fitch's film series "Any Ever" in Room 112 of the Center for the Arts.
"Trecartin is very much an artist invested in trying on different personae, roles, drag, a kind of fluidity of identities," Katz said. "What makes the work compelling is its extraordinarily manic energy at the knife's edge between camp, satire and celebration. He really constitutes, as far as I'm concerned and I think many people in the art world [are], the most realized, mature version of what a truly Internet-based, electronic art can be -- one that takes the literal material possibilities of electronic media to a new plateau."
In addition to bringing A-list contemporary artists to Buffalo, the lecture series also plays a key role in a new collaboration between UB and the New York City-based Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Katz, who serves as president of the new museum's board, also co-curated the extremely controversial and successful 2010 exhibition "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Art" at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.
The fledgling series will enable an exchange of talent and ideas between the university and the museum, as well as between Buffalo's larger community and the work of sought-after contemporary artists to whom it might not otherwise be exposed.
"The idea really has been from the very beginning to use the academic and intellectual capital of the University at Buffalo and stellar space, context and collection at the Leslie Loman synergistically," he said. "Our students will be coming down here for everything from short-term courses to curatorial fellowships. And conversely, shows that are originated at this institution, the Leslie Loman, have the potential to travel to Buffalo galleries, to the UB art galleries. The lecture series is a kind of linchpin activity tying the institutions very much closer together."
Katz's work, from "Hide/Seek" to the lecture series, has long been aimed at bringing a long-suppressed discussion of sexuality's role in much 20th-centruy art. He stressed that the lecture series will feature artists, like Trecartin, who have no qualms about drawing explicit connections between their sexuality and the work they produce.
"Many of these figures have been heard at other institutions, and we really have nothing to contribute in this regard unless they address specifically the question of the relationship between their work and their sexuality," Katz said. "Our program, academically, is all about that."
Lecture by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch
WHEN: 4 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, Room 112, North Campus, Amherst