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It has been more than a decade since art patron Sylvia L. Rosen established the Sylvia L. Rosen Endowment to support craft art at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center through a biennial exhibition and purchases for the center's collection. As home to the only regional craft exhibition on this scale in Western New York, the center was propelled into the limelight of important craft venues in the region. Over the years the exhibitions have attracted the leading craft artists working in clay, wood, fiber, metal, glass and in various combinations of mediums. Because no lines were drawn between functional and aesthetic objects, the work in the exhibitions has always included a mixture of objects of straight utilitarian beauty, extravagant free-form inventions and all variables in between.

The 1998 edition of the biennial is no different. Among the 37 artists in the show, there are a number who make functional objects -- Cosmo Barbaro, for instance, and his finely crafted desk, and William Herod, who weighs in with another of his inventive chairs. For others function is chiefly a starting point, a way to focus on the idea of, say, a vessel or a box. Stephen Merritt's elegantly proportioned "One Flower Vase" is an example. It's so beautiful, the fact that it can hold that single flower is more or less incidental. At the other end of the scale is the show's purchase award winner, Kathi Roussel. Her big, reclining ceramic pod bristles with spikes and extensions, proclaiming its self-sufficiency. Nobody -- other than perhaps a passing alien -- will find this intriguing object especially utilitarian.

Responsible for the range and variety in this exhibition is Paul J. Smith, who since 1963 has overseen more than 200 craft exhibitions. Today he is director emeritus of the American Craft Museum in New York City.
-- Richard Huntington

The exhibition continues on view through Nov. 8. Burchfield-Penney Art Center is in Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College (878-6011).

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