In a skinny little room on the ground floor of the Belesario luxury apartment building on the 500 block of Main Street, the walls are lined with some of the best-dressed paintings in Buffalo.
The pieces, each made from high-end fabric pulled across canvas stretchers and modified with a strategically placed gash meant to represent an enormous buttonhole, are the work of Eric Magnuson and Lisa Z. Morgan.
The new art space, named after Magnuson and Morgan’s two-person art collective and known as the Lavender Hinge Showroom, will open with a reception at 6 p.m. Friday. It features a selection of their recent work, which combines their interest in art and fashion with boundary-pushing ideas about the role of gender, desire and sexuality in our lives.
Magnuson, who rents a loft that doubles as his studio space in the Belesario, recently moved to Buffalo from New York City to work as an art installer for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Morgan, his romantic and artistic partner, lives and works in Providence, R.I.
In 2011, the pair formed the Lavender Hinge, “a sensuous collaborative venture” that “resides within the blurred boundaries of what is considered art, fashion, ethos, poetry, love and life.” They’ve since collaborated on a series of paintings that combine obvious and oblique references to art history – one is titled “The Seduction of Saint Thomas (After Caravaggio),” others more subtly reference the modernist grid – with tactile fabric that’s more closely associated with the fashion world.
“This is a trial to see how it works,” Magnuson said on a recent afternoon in the small space as construction equipment clattered outside on Main Street. The space will be open between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment, with more hours to be added, depending on the interest.
The local art community, Magnuson said, has been remarkably open-armed and receptive to the new space and to the work itself.
In other cities, “there are walls of suspicion you have to chip away at,” he said. “None of that is here. We just continually meet interesting people.”
As proof of the community’s immediate interest in the new venture, Friday’s opening will feature two models from the local arts scene. Buffalo booster and Echo Art Fair founder Frits Abell will model a custom jacket created by Morgan and Magnuson, while Buffalo Rising blogger Newell Nussbaumer will wear a fabric sandwich board screen-printed with the Lavender Hinge logo.
Upstairs, in a loft and studio space straight out of Architectural Digest, Magnuson’s pieces line the walls. His individual art, paintings featuring two overlapping phrases, is cool and conceptual in the vein of West Coast artists such as Ed Ruscha and Joseph Kosuth. But the collaborations with Morgan, known for her 2011 book “Design Behind Desire: The Sensuous Textures of Wanting,” are much warmer and more tactile in nature.
The gash in the paintings, Magnuson said, is meant to evoke any number of things. Beyond the buttonhole that ostensibly inspired it, the most obvious connection is to female anatomy. And that’s intentional. But it’s also meant to be viewed as a kind of invitation into the vast unknown, a symbol of infinite possibility.
“For us, it takes you to a different place. We can use it as a cipher and a vocabulary to talk about other things,” he said. “We’re toying with the idea of what art is and what does it really mean any more to people. For me, it’s a pleasure to have something mean more than one thing at any given time.”
What: The Lavender Hinge grand opening
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Lavender Hinge, 520 Main St.
Info: thelavenderhinge.blogspot.com or (917) 209-9618