gallery_walkby Doug Sitler

Allentown is most definitely one of Buffalo’s most celebrated and beloved neighborhoods. The historic district is chock-full of art galleries, restaurants, shops, and some of the city’s most colorful residents. A great way to fully explore Allentown is by participating in the monthly “First Fridays Gallery Walk” event: a free self-guided art gallery walk throughout the beautiful and inspiring neighborhood.

Allentown’s cozy streets built generations ago provide the perfect setting for some urban exploration and an intimate look at Buffalo’s energetic arts scene. Most of the arts spaces are doors apart, thus you can experience numerous showings in a relatively short walk. Some of my favorite stops are Buffalo Big Print (the name says it all), College Street Gallery (small gallery with an ever-changing exhibition schedule), Hero Design Studio (nationally recognized poster art designers), and El Museo (featuring multi-cultural artists). There are also some new additions to the Allentown arts scene that I am eager to survey, including the arts collective Sugar City on Wadsworth Street.

After your gallery exploration, there are no less than 37 food and entertainment establishments awaiting your visit. Some restaurants, including Merge and Allentown Hardware, feature ongoing art showings inside their establishments so essentially you can dine within the confines of an art exhibition.

For more information and a map regarding the First Fridays Gallery Walk in Allentown, click here

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by Doug Sitler

convergenceAfter making a visit to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to view the newly installed Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976, I not only walked away learning about Abstract Expressionism, but left with a tremendous appreciation and admiration for the gallery’s permanent collection.

Our guide, chief curator Doug Dreishpoon Ph.D. said “To a great extent, this (exhibition) is what we are about. To the world, this (Abstract Expressionism) is what we are known for.”

This is the first major U.S. exhibition in twenty years to reconsider Abstract Expressionism and the art movement that followed. To a frequent visitor of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, it seemed at first that the exhibit showcases many of the important works from the gallery’s permanent collection – Jackson Pollock’s Convergence and Willem de Kooning’s Gotham News to name a few. I was told about 25 percent of this national exhibition actually consists of works owned by the Albright-Knox.

However, once you see the gallery’s feature pieces, next to other great works created by Rothko, Krasner, Oldenburg and Guston it hits you like a ton of bricks – the Albright-Knox Art Gallery cemented its place in art history back in the 1950s by having the guts and foresight to collect these works, quite often with the paint still wet on the canvas. Simply, Buffalo has been the home to Abstract Expressionism long before the importance of these artists were widely recognized.

The exhibition is broken up in four distinct areas: historical perspective on Abstract Expressionism, sculpture, paintings, and an exhibition of Buffalo’s role in the movement. There is a fantastic exhibition guide with something for everyone. From the serious art scholar to children, the guide provides tons of information and fun for all.

You have until June 10th to witness what Buffalo, New York and Abstract Expressionism mean to the art world. Visit www.albrightknox.org to learn more about this exhibition.

by Doug Sitler

bigorbit_sign

Going to an exhibition at Big Orbit Gallery is certainly one of the most unique art experiences in Buffalo. I was reminded of that last Saturday night when some friends and I attended the gallery’s annual members’ show. As with most of Big Orbit’s openings, it came as no surprise to find a huge crowd checking out the works, sipping glasses of wine, and socializing with fellow members and friends.

The gallery is located in the confines of an arts compound called the Essex Arts Center – just off Richmond Avenue. The Essex Arts Center is a story in itself: a former ice house turned into an artist studio, gallery and living space in the late 1960s. It’s a cool place. Legend has it that famous photographer Cindy Sherman once lived in the complex’s artist apartments. In the back of the compound, off the loading dock resides Big Orbit. I’ve been to a few shows at the gallery and let’s just say it never fails to deliver a great conversation between your friends about the concept of art. 

Big Orbit’s member show (which features one piece of artwork from their members) will be hanging until the end of February. The gallery is open on weekends from noon to 5:00 p.m. See www.bigorbitgallery.org for more details.

If you really want to make a trip to Big Orbit even more special, go around the corner to one of Buffalo’s favorite restaurants Left Bank . Everyone loves this place, in fact, it is so beloved that you better call in advance for reservations.

by Ed Healy

cloche-in-situOpenings at CEPA Gallery, Buffalo’s gallery dedicated to the photographic arts, are always fun affairs. And no opening is more fun than the annual members exhibition when Buffalo’s photographers gather to celebrate their latest work, share some insights and partake of some delicious food and drink. This year’s Members Exhibition, which opened on Saturday night, was no exception. A full house reveled in the high quality array of still images and video.

The 2009 exhibit is highlighted by a solo show from Canadian photographer Penelope Stewart. Stewart’s “Echo Topias” is an impressive exhibit of beautiful large scale, multiple panel color photographs, interspersed by a series of duraclears that resemble large format glass plate negatives. Impressive as the color photographs are, the negative images are startling in their originality and presentation and well worth a visit by anyone with a love of visual art. A second solo show, “Memory Mapping” by artist Sue O’Donnell, is a provocative piece of conceptual art executed with skill and panache.

The members show, housed in CEPA’s Underground Gallery, is an eclectic array of contemporary photography. Buffalo’s photographic community never fails to impress with its creativity and experimentation and this year you’ll find gorgeous old school black and white prints, large-scale digital color work, video, and collage. It’s yet another example of the vibrant arts community to be found in Buffalo. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center may be Buffalo’s internationally recognized art museums, but smaller spaces like CEPA, Hallwalls, Big Orbit and Buffalo Arts Studio each contribute to a vibrant visual arts scene that equals or surpasses those found in much larger cities.

CEPA Gallery is located in Buffalo’s historic and beautiful Market Arcade, 617 Main Street. The Members Exhibition and the Penelope Stewart and Sue O’Donnell solo shows run through March 21st.