When was the last time you tasted a piece of art?
Visitors to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's new show will have a chance to do just that when its multi-sensory exhibition "Out of Sight! Art of the Senses," opens on Nov. 4.
No, patrons will not be permitted to lick the Cylfford Stills and Giacommetis. Rather, they'll be able to participate in an array of sensory art experiences like sipping Thai tea in a tent or inhaling the smell of a giant ziggurat covered with fragrant beeswax.
The show, curated by gallery director Janne Siren along with chief curator Cathleen Chaffee and deputy director Joe Lin-Hill, is designed to expand ideas about what qualifies as art. Despite more than half a century of increasingly brazen efforts by artists and institutions to expand the popular conception of art, most still think of an artwork as one of two things: a painting or a sculpture.
"Throughout modernism, you've had artists that were steadily chipping away at that notion and attempting to expand the idea of what a work of art can be," Chaffee said, noting that Seurat began painting on his own frames in the 19th century and later Brancusi created his own bases for his sculptures.
She pointed to Lucas Samaras' popular mirrored room -- a local favorite returning for this exhibition -- as an example of the artist's compulsion to make multisensory art that is in some sense "created" by viewers anew each time they interact with it.
"As we know, the mirrored room is a visual experience, but it's also a haptic one. You're in the work itself, and you're making the work itself by being in it."
The exhibition features works by 16 artists, evenly split between Albright-Knox holdings and loans from other institutions.
One installation, by the Argentinian-Born, Thai-raised artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, features a saffron-colored tent in which visitors sit, converse and sip tea poured by an on-duty attendant. An enormous ziggurat covered in fragrant beeswax, the work of the German artist Wolfgang Laib, reaches almost to the ceiling of one gallery. And a rotating carousel by Ronald Ventura whirs away in another space.
"The choice of works were all intended to present, as broadly as we could, the range of artists in the past few decades who have been teaching people to think of art as involving all these other senses," Chaffee said, especially "the feeling of your body's presence in the space being called into question.'
"Out of Sight! Art of the Senses"
Opens Nov. 4 and runs through Jan. 28 in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave. Admission is $6 to $12. Call 882-8700 or visit albrightknox.org.