As we get ready to close the book on 2010, Beyond/In Western New York is entering its final days. Most of the venues from the three-month regional art showcase have closed up shop in preparation for new shows, a couple of stragglers remain. One is the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Ave.), the exhibition's flagship venue, which keeps its segment of the show running through Jan. 16.
The Albright-Knox features by far the largest and most diverse exhibition of any other single Beyond/In venue. At first glance the work in the show doesn't seem to have much of a cohesive thread (except for a couple of high-falutin' ones that reveal themselves only after many repeat viewings), but that shouldn't prevent you from taking a trip to the gallery for a little art a la carte.
A good deal of the work demands close examination and sustained contemplation to unlock its many secrets, which can be all the more beautiful for the effort it takes to unearth them.
Take, for instance, Ithaca-based artist Joshua Reiman's immersive video "A Brief Inquiry," which plays simultaneously on four walls in a dedicated gallery. The film, simply and handsomely shot on Super 8mm film in the style of an old educational documentary, features a man traipsing across the barren terrain of Iceland in search of something "sublime." Reiman's work is an exploration of that word -- "sublime" -- and the way its meaning has broadened over time into a cliche. But for Reiman, as for John Milton, the word captures some ineffable combination of discovery, exhilaration and fear -- like the experience of going alone into some unknown wilderness. Think of the feeling that Emile Hirsch's character was addicted to in the 2007 film "Into the Wild," and you'll have a sense of what Reiman is getting at.
Meanwhile, in adjacent galleries, separate pieces by Victoria Bradbury and Sarah and Suzannah Paul have a conversation about life in the Rust Belt. The Pauls (they are sisters) have created an intriguing installation of hanging windows and a projection of smoke or fire pouring from a steel plant's smokestack in Cleveland, all set to an original soundtrack. Bradbury's digital installation, "Midway Projections," transports viewers into a kind of fantasy old-timey Buffalo, where they can insert their faces into a shifting wall projection that tells a beautifully fractured story about a beautifully fractured city.
As painting and drawing go, the Albright-Knox show has a great deal of worthy stuff. For my money, the best and most entrancing of it comes from Randall Tiedman's incredible paintings of imaginary industrial landscapes drawn from his imagination, along with Sheldon Berlyn's dancing abstractions and, finally, the haunting, demonic sketches of Gothic cathedrals, strange religious and mythical figures by Welland, Ont.-based artist Ken Cosgrove.
Also on the don't-miss list are paintings by Richard Huntington (bring your art history book along as a key) thoughtfully and strategically placed amid modern masters on the gallery's first floor, Penelope Stewart's bravura installation of beeswax tiles at the entrance to the old gallery's north wing and, outside, Do Ho Suh's vertiginous sculpture, Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins' clever candy-striped billboard and Andy Goldsworthy's not-yet-completed installation of geothermal rocks.
There's also engrossing photographs by Marshall Scheuttle that allow viewers to dream up their own stories for the people pictured; a cheeky conceptual installation of wall-mounted arrows by Micah Lexier; some great sculpture by German artist Kai Althoff to offset some not-so-exciting sculpture by Toronto artist James Carl; and a very "art-about-art-about-art" experimental digital installation by Buffalo's Mark Shepard that is nonetheless intriguing for its clever use of technology.
-- Colin Dabkowski