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Buffalo artists take over an abandoned department store in honor of David Lynch

Around dusk on Jan. 20, a strange collection of art installations will flicker to life on the ghostly ground floor of the former Eckhardt Depart Store at 950 Broadway.

For one night only, the abandoned Art Moderne structure will host one of the strangest art exhibitions Buffalo has seen in recent memory: A popup show designed to celebrate the work, creative spirit and 72nd birthday of filmmaker David Lynch.

The exhibition is called "The Dreamer Who Dreams," and features videos, paintings and inscrutable activities designed to feed art-lovers' appetites for the surreal and the bizarre. It will be preceded by a screening of Lynch's film "Mulholland Drive" at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center at 2 p.m. Jan. 20.

The event is the brainchild of Buffalo gallerist Emily Tucker of the Benjaman Gallery and her fellow David Lynch devotees C.J. Szatowski, Samantha Lonczak and Beth Smith. The idea for the show came to her last summer during a series of viewings of the new Showtime version of Lynch's career-defining series "Twin Peaks."

"We decided we would like to celebrate this with an exhibition and have it be a short, one-night only surreal moment in time, kind of like a David Lynch movie," Tucker said. "Aesthetically, it looks a lot like a set from 'Twin Peaks.'"

The 1940 building, with its curved terracotta facade and elegant mid-century staircase, has long been a source of fascination for local artists and urban explorers. In 2016, it served as the canvas for a large-scale fabric installation by Amanda Browder. And it sits close to Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez' "Welcome Wall" mural at 751 Fillmore Ave.

Tucker, who has also secured a deal with the owner of the property to open a small permanent in the former department store, said that the exhibition is likely the first of many non-traditional approaches to exhibiting art she plans to mount.

Gallerist Emily Tucker installs a piece called “Flight” by Rich Tomasello in the former Eckhardt's Department Store on Broadway. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

"One of my missions is to get people to look at artwork in whatever way possible," Tucker said. "If it's going into a weird department store, then that's a reason to do it," she said. "I hope to get people there that haven't been to a gallery."

Among the enticements will be Lynch-inspired paintings by Bruce Adams, A.J. Fries and even the famed surrealist René Magrite, along with photographs of abandoned spaces by Christina Laing and installations by Dana Tyrell, Michael Bosworth and the artist duo known as Virocode.

For Virocode's Andrea Mancuso, the chance to participate in an homage to Lynch fit directly into the surrealistic approach she takes with her partner Peter D'Auria.

Virocode's installation will feature cushions painted to look like logs, an electrical outlet that appears to be on fire, and portions of its video installation "A Disappearance of the Source," which captures the aftermath of a series of explosions.

The Virocode installation is based at least in part on a Lynch-related experience Mancuso and D'Auria had while in graduate school in San Francisco in the early '90s. At the time, they were so obsessed with "Twin Peaks" that they took their home television set with them on a camping trip to Yosemite. When they plugged it into the outdoor power supply at the campsite, it received only static -- creating a scene that seemed to emerge directly out of Lynch's strange imagination.

The ground floor of a former department store on Broadway will become an art exhibition space for one night only on Jan. 20.

"I was interested in participating in it, which is what we do here in Buffalo when weird opportunities come up to inhabit old spaces," Mancuso said. Her hope, she added, is that when people enter the space, they will "feel like they've entered into another Buffalo" -- a very Lynchian idea indeed.

In addition to the artworks and installations, the evening will feature music by DJ Tokyo Drifter and will be capped off by a brief performance from Buffalo band Tenderlung.

"There's this crazy staircase that goes to nowhere that they can set up on," Tucker said of the band's performance. "It should be pretty dreamy and bizarre and cool."

"The Dreamer Who Dreams" runs from 7 to 12 p.m. Jan. 20 at 950 Broadway. Tickets to the 2 p.m. screening of "Mulholland Drive" at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (341 Delaware Ave.) are $5, $10 for the event itself and $13 for both. More information is online at tdwd.brownpapertickets.com.

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