Ambitious University at Buffalo exhibition explores connections between art and place - The Buffalo News
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Ambitious University at Buffalo exhibition explores connections between art and place

For visual art fans, the arrival of fall usually brings with it a strong urge to return to the cozy surroundings of Western New York’s dozens of long-established galleries and museums after a long summer of offbeat outdoor projects and installations.

But thanks to “My Future Ex,” an ambitious new exhibition organized by Tra Bouscaren and Sandra Q. Firmin of the University at Buffalo, several out-of-the-way spots across the city will become temporary art galleries for much of the fall.

One of those unconventional sites is a small stretch of the Buffalo River near Mutual Riverfront Park and River Fest Park, where Brooklyn-based artist Kamau Patton will create a nine-day light and sound installation on a floating platform from Sept. 20 to 28. Another is the raw warehouse space above Maureen’s Wholesale Flower Market at 441 Ellicott St., where Bouscaren and fellow artist John Schlesinger will present an immersive installation called “Hooker Projects” that they promise will offer a “dark and cerebral” experience.

The strange and unfinished rooms of the nearby Genesee Gateway building, at 111 Genesee St., will host a series of installations by artists Jozef Bajus and Jeff Higginbotham, Oreen Cohen, Heidi Norton, Alix Pearlstein and Tim Whiten. Across town at the WASH Project, a neighborhood laundromat and art center, artists Neil Coletta and Lisa van Wambeck will present their mobile puppet theater at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 and 8.

And as part of the project, the happily itinerant art collective Sugar City will present an evening of art installations and events on subway platforms for an audience that rides the NFTA Metro Rail from University Station to the end of the line. That art-infused Metro ride is slated for 7 p.m. Oct. 12.

For Firmin, who curates exhibitions for the University at Buffalo Art Gallery, the exhibition was an attempt to encourage artists to connect more deeply with the physical fabric of the city. But beyond that, she said, it was also designed to encourage University at Buffalo students to venture away from campus and into the gritty city after which their school was named.

“I’ve always itched to get downtown and also to connect UB students to downtown,” Firmin said. “I feel very segregated in the Center for the Arts, and I think a lot of students never get off the North Campus or the South Campus. We really are trying to make it a friendly opportunity for students to learn how to get downtown and be exposed to neighborhoods they might never have otherwise.”

The scope of the project encouraged artists to develop relationships with local landlords and other property owners, often bringing a personal dimension to the work.

“The community partners become advocates,” Firmin said of property owners like Maureen Bartley, who owns Maureen’s Wholesale Flower Market and several buildings in the area. “The artists are doing things that are site-specific, so they are thinking about the place they’re installing in and its history, whether it’s the physical history or the narrative history. It’s kind of like the Artpark model. They come in, they install, and if people come by, they’re able to talk about what they’re working on.”

Other highlights of the event include:

“Looking For Guides to an Alternative,” a performance by artist Johannes Zits on Sept. 28 in Mutual Riverfront Park, 41 Hamburg St. Performance repeats Oct. 4 outside Maureen’s Wholesale Flower Market.

An outdoor sculpture by Cohen and Tamara Suber will go on view Oct. 5 near the Wilson Street Urban Farm, on Wilson Street between Broadway and Sycamore Street. Another outdoor sculpture by Cohen will be outside the Broadway Market at 999 Broadway. It will be unveiled Oct. 5.

Dawn Weleski of the Pittsburgh-based food project Conflict Kitchen, which serves food from countries the United States is in conflict with, will give a presentation at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in the UB Center for the Arts.

The official exhibition opening is Tuesday in the Center for the Arts, which will feature a constantly evolving collection of documentation of the various projects as well a space for visitor feedback.


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