Artist Eric N. Mack of New York City tweaks one of his works called “For Us by Us” at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Since November, the big draw at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery has been the work of Pablo Picasso, an undisputed master of 20th century art. Now, as Picasso: The Artist and His Models" draws to a close, the gallery is shifting its focus to five artists you've probably never heard of.

On Feb. 18, the Albright-Knox will open solo exhibitions featuring five new kids on this hallowed artistic block: Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj, a duo from Brazil and Denmark; New York-based sculptor and painter Eric Mack; Lewiston-born artist Jacob Kassay; and photographer Willa Nasatir of New York.

The public can take a free sneak preview at the exhibitions on Feb. 17 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The shows are the first solo exhibitions for each of the artists in an American museum. Willa Nasatir and Eric Mack's exhibitions are the first-ever museum solo shows for those artists. Collectively, the openings serve as a reminder of a longstanding commitment by the Albright-Knox to exploring the vanguard of contemporary art.

"Doing four exhibitions at once allows visitors to really see this commitment at the Albright-Knox not only to contextualizing the collection and bringing in masterpieces, but also introducing audiences to new voices," said Albright-Knox Senior Curator Cathleen Chaffee. "I love the idea that for a lot of people, this is an opportunity to say you saw it here first."

The artists will be on hand for a public discussion with Chaffee at 7:15 p.m. Feb. 17 in the Albright-Knox auditorium. A fifth exhibition, featuring a single sculpture by French artist Camille Henrot, also opens Feb. 18.

Here's a look at the five artists.

Jacob Kassay: "OTNY"

The Lewiston native and University at Buffalo graduate rose to prominence in the art world in 2010, when his pieces began selling at auction for up to 1o times their estimated value. It is therefore somewhat remarkable that he has never had a dedicated solo exhibition, and it is fitting that the Albright-Knox has singled out this hometown boy -- still early in his career -- for special attention. Far from the shiny, metallic paintings that brought Kassay his first taste of art-world fortune and fame, his Buffalo show features 10 new sculptures. They are, according to a release, "dispersed through the museum's galleries and transitional spaces" and meant to "draw attention to the way we rationalize, navigate, and narrate our own movement through space."

Artists Kasper Akhøj and Tamar Guimarães present a work-in-progress based on a spiritualist village in Brazil.

Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj: "Studies for A Minor History of Trembling Matter"

A Brazilian town much like the local spiritualist community of Lilydale is the focus of a new work-in-progress by the artistic duo of Brazilian-born filmmaker and installation artist Tamar Guimarães and Danish conceptual artist Kasper Akhøj. This three-channel video, which follows a 2013 documentary on the same subject, explores the small Brazilian town of Palmelo, "where half of the town’s inhabitants see themselves as spiritual mediums while also holding day jobs as civil servants."

Artist Willa Nasatir poses with her recently installed photograph "Out of the Blue, Part 3" in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Willa Nasatir

By arranging found objects in her studio just so, Nasatir photographs and creates abstract compositions that might be interpreted as distant landscapes or architectural structures. Working in the same mode as Rochester-based photographer Carl Chiarenza, her artwork attempts to create mystery out of familiarity. According to a release from the gallery, "her cobbling and filtering is a sleight of hand that unmoors her subjects from their origins, and the resulting photographs call on us to create our own storylines."

Eric Mack: "Vogue Fabrics"

The notion that pieces of clothing and fabric carry hidden stories seems to be much on the mind of Albright-Knox curators, who have initiated two fabric-based public art projects: Kaarina Kaikkonen's sprawling gradient of donated shirts on display in the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Amanda Browder's fabric-covered Buffalo buildings. They share an affinity with the New York-based artist Eric Mack, who will present a collection of assemblages fashioned from found materials and aimed at "expanding notions of beauty."

 

 

ART PREVIEW

What: Four solo exhibitions
Where: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave.
When: Feb. 18 to June 18
Tickets: $6 to $12
Info: 882-8700 or albrightknox.org

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