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AK Historypin of the Week
Larkin Administration Building, Seneca Street

The Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) held an exhibition of photography in January 1940, which commemorated Buffalo’s vast architectural triumphs. Participants using the Historypin website and mobile app on supported devices can explore photographs and related content about numerous historic sites and buildings featured in the AAG’s 1940 exhibition. Every week, we will feature a pinned location from the Albright-Knox’s Historypin channel and provide detailed information and archival photographs about the site. This week’s pin is the Larkin Administration Building, formerly located on Seneca Street.

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The Larkin Administration Building, located at 680 Seneca Street, was designed in 1904 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) and built for the Larkin Soap Company of Buffalo in 1906. The Larkin Administrative Building was a five-story, dark red brick building that drew international attention for its many innovations, including air conditioning, stained glass windows, metal built-in desk furniture, and suspended toilet bowls. Although it was an office building, it was easily apparent that it was a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Sculptor Richard W. Bock (1865–1949) provided the ornamental globes on the tops of the central exterior piers of the building.

The Larkin Soap Company was founded in Buffalo in 1875 by John D. Larkin (1845–1926). The company would later expand into manufacturing other items, including groceries, dry goods, china, and furniture. The company became a national pioneer of the mail-order business model, with branches in Buffalo, New York, and Chicago. After failing to recover from the Great Depression, the company went into bankruptcy in 1943.

The City of Buffalo sold the building to the Western Trading Corporation in 1949 and, despite local and national protests, the architectural marvel was destroyed. Demolition of the Larkin Administration Building by the Morris and Reimann wrecking company took six months to complete. The demolition process took a very long time due to the fact that the building was built to last forever. Questions still remain today as to why it was torn down. The only part of the building that remains is a single brick pier along a railroad embankment. 
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TOP: Images courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Photographs by Jay W. Baxtresser, Albright Art Gallery staff.
BOTTOM: Screenshot of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s channel on Historypin.

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Mr. Price at the Albright-Knox

Vincent Price’s relationship with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery dates back to the early 1960s. Many people might not know, but Vincent Price studied art history at Yale University and was an avid art lover and collector. Public access to fine art was important to Price, so it seems fitting that he helped promote the Collection and the benefits of membership at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

In honor of the posting of this 1979 video by the Gusto Blog at the Buffalo News (originally posted this morning by Retrontario) in which Price talks about the benefits of becoming a member of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, here are photos from Mr. Price’s visit to the Albright-Knox on October 18, 1963.

Photographs by S. Greenberg. Images courtesy Albright-Knox Art Gallery Media Collection.

Recent Acquisition Highlights
Philippe Decrauzat’s Vertical Wave 02, 2012

Philippe Decrauzat is influenced by a broad range of abstraction, from Russian Constructivism and Op art to Minimalism, all of which he explores through various mediums, including wall painting, film, sculpture, painting, and installation. Vertical Wave 02, 2012, evokes the early shaped, minimally painted canvases of Frank Stella (American, born 1936), which emphasize the painting as an object. Learn More

Philippe Decrauzat (Swiss, born 1974). Vertical Wave 02, 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 83 1/4 x 48 3/16 inches (211.5 x 122.4 cm). Charles W. Goodyear Fund, by exchange, 2012. © 2011 Philippe Decrauzat.

Docent Stories: Mary Therrien
Fifth Graders Respond to Mark Rothko’s Orange and Yellow

In honor of our first Art’scool tour of the season today, here’s a favorite story from our docent Mary Therrien:

I led a group of fifth graders to Mark Rothko’s Orange and Yellow, 1956, and asked, “Would anyone want this painting in their bedroom?”

A boy’s hand shot up, and he said, “Yes!”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I see a pillow (yellow) and a blanket (orange).”

Then, a second boy’s hand went up, and he said, “Me too!”

“Why?” I asked.

“I want it directly across from my bed. When I wake up in the morning, I’ll see a sunrise (yellow), and when I go to bed at night, I’ll see a sunset (orange).”

Image: © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A Thanksgiving Mini-series: Gluttony

Finally—because we all overeat on Thanksgiving—here’s Jacques Callot’s aptly named Gluttony. See you at the gym tomorrow.

IMAGE: Jacques Callot (French, 1592–1635). Gluttony from the series “The Seven Deadly Sins,” 1612–21. Etching, 3 x 2 1/2 inches (7.6 x 6.4 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Bequest of Miss Maria L. Wilkeson, 1905. 

DECADE Theme Preview: The Wayward Line
Day Four: Nancy Rubins’s Drawing, 2007

From a distance, Nancy Rubins’s Drawing appears to be a metal sculpture, but as one moves closer, it becomes clear that it is, in fact, a work on paper. To create this work, Rubins heavily applied graphite onto large sheets of paper which she then tore and attached to the wall with pushpins. Evoking images of splayed skin and crumpled metal, this piece is an example of how contemporary artists are pushing the spatial and dimensional limits of drawing.

Image: Nancy Rubins (American, born 1952). Drawing, 2007. Graphite on paper, 139 x 121 inches (353.1 x 307.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Pending Acquisition Funds, 2011. © 2007 Nancy Rubins.

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DECADE Duo: Linda Besemer and Jim Lambie

In their works featured in DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012, Linda Besemer and Jim Lambie expand traditional notions of painting through their use of vivid lines of color. In Linda Besemer’s Fold #88, painting is pushed into the realm of three-dimensionality as acrylic paint is transformed into a solid, rubber-like material that is draped from an aluminum rod in long, brightly colored vertical lines. Jim Lambie’s Zobop (Stairs) transforms stairs in the museum’s 1962 Knox Building into a work of art by the deceptively simple means of colorful vinyl tape installed in a dazzling linear pattern (see photos from the installation here).

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Artwork History: Jason Middlebrook, Underlife, 2013

The most recent addition to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s campus is Jason Middlebrook’s Underlife. Inspired by an actual uprooted tree found by the artist, this large-scale sculptural work resembles a tree stump that has been yanked from the ground, complete with gnarled, mangled roots. 

Creating this work was an involved process which began with the creation of a scale model. Middlebrook then made multiple study drawings of the potential sculpture.  One of these study drawings was gifted to the Gallery by the artist and is now part of the Albright-Knox’s Collection. 

The final work was constructed using steel, foam, and fiberglass.  Glass tiles were then broken into pieces and applied to the structural form, creating a surface that reflects the various forms of both the day’s and evening’s natural light. The roots and tree stump were created in the studio. While on the museum’s grounds, over the course of many weeks, Middlebrook joined the roots to the trunk and finished applying tiles at the newly connected joints.

The glass tiles on the roots, while incorporating many colors, do not display any particular pattern. The top of the tree stump, however, only uses brown and gold tiles and is positioned to display a ring pattern similar to that which would be visible on a real tree stump’s base.

Casey Riordan Millard (American, born 1973)
Shark Girl, 2013
Painted fiberglass
Public Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Shark Girl is the absurd, hilarious, and bittersweet creation of the artist Casey Riordan Millard. While Shark Girl might appear sorrowful or lonely, there is also a comic element to this “fish out of water.” Here, in Millard’s first public sculpture, Shark Girl patiently waits, legs daintily crossed, hands folded, for a companion to join her.

Appearing in nearly all of Millard’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures, Shark Girl was originally conceived as the artist reflected upon the existential conundrums of life, love, family, and loss. Shark Girl can be seen as Millard’s diversionary tactic or as her mechanism for confronting the challenges of contemporary life.

Shark Girl’s yearning and desire for normalcy and acceptance trigger equal parts laughter and empathy. The boulder upon which she sits provides viewers with the opportunity to bring the work to life by taking a seat and initiating a friendship with this bizarre half-shark, half-girl.

This work is part of the Public Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and a product of the Public Art Initiative, an innovative partnership between the Albright-Knox and Erie County established in 2013 to enhance our shared sense of place and cultural identity in the urban and suburban landscapes of Western New York. The City of Buffalo joined the partnership in 2014. The Initiative promotes education about the arts through its Collection, related programming, and creative partnerships.

Shark Girl is currently on view at Canalside in downtown Buffalo. Photograph by Kelly Carpenter.

Recent Acquisition Highlights
Rodney Graham’s Welsh Oaks #1, 1998

In 1979, Graham constructed a monumental, walk-in camera obscura from plywood in a field adjacent to his uncle’s ranch and positioned it in front of twelve different trees for one month. The public was invited to enter the camera to view the luminous image of the tree cast upside-down on the camera’s back wall. In the early 1990s, he again approached the subject, this time using a four-by-five large-format camera to produce a series of sepia-toned images of seven ancient oaks in the English countryside. Learn More 

Rodney Graham (Canadian, born 1949). Welsh Oaks #1, 1998. Chromogenic print, edition 1/2, 89 x 72 inches (226.1 x 182.9 cm). Albert H. Tracy Fund, by exchange and bequest of John Mortimer Schiff, by exchange, 2013. © Rodney Graham; courtesy Lisson Gallery 

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Caught on Camera
March 1968: Allen Ginsberg

The second Festival of the Arts Today, held in Buffalo in March 1968, presented a “broad survey of the latest trends in art, music, drama, dance, films, literature, and architecture.” The Festival, which followed the success of the first Festival of the Arts Today in 1965, featured the art exhibition Plus X Minus: Today’s 1/2 Century and hosted the world premiere of two plays by Edward Albee during its two-week run, among many other cultural events. The poet Allen Ginsberg, above, gave a reading in Upton Hall Auditorium at Buffalo State University College on Tuesday, March 5, 1968. He was one of many literary figures who participated in a discussion or reading, with others including Albee, John Barth, Charles Olsen, and Louis Zukofsky. The Festival combined national and international cultural trends with local impact: sponsors included The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Studio Arena Theater, SUNY Buffalo, State University College at Buffalo, and the New York State Council on the Arts, and the chairman was Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Gordon M. Smith. 

Content and images courtesy the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives, Buffalo, New York. © 2014 Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

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Seven Days…a Halloween Mini-series!

Gillian Wearing is a consummate costume professional. In order to transform herself into various family members for the larger-than-life works in her “Album” series, Wearing worked with with a talented team (including former employees of Madame Tussauds) to create the masks, silicon prostheses, wigs (complete with human hair), and bodysuits the artist wears in these eerie photographs. All six works are currently on view at the Gallery as part of DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012 if you are up for some in-person creepiness.

DECADE Theme Preview: Psychology of Space
Day 2: Catherine Opie’s “Surfers” Series

Catherine Opie’s work often reflects her fascination with people who are living outside the mainstream. In the fourteen untitled photographs in her “Surfers” series, members of the surfing community in Malibu, California, appear as barely visible dots in the vast expanse of the ocean. The horizon line serves as a metaphor for the margins of society these surfers are a part of.

IMAGE: Catherine Opie (American, born 1961). Untitled #9 fromthe series “Surfers,” 2002–03. Color print, edition 5/5, 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery. George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 2004. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Catherine Opie.

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DECADE Duo: Tracey Emin and Jason Rhoades

Text, neon, and sexuality are the commonalities shared by the two works in this DECADE duo. British artist Tracey Emin is perhaps best known for the witty and highly sexual text that appears in her work. The white neon words that spell out the title of Only God Knows I’m Good suggest that Emin’s bad-girl image has become so ubiquitous that only a higher power could be aware of her more angelic side. Sexual references are more overt in Jason Rhoades sculpture Highway to Heaven. In this work, various words describing female genitalia are depicted in colorful neon lights. These, combined with plexiglass, ceramic donkeys, cable, and extension cord, are piled onto a chrome shelving rack, practically beckoning the viewer in for a closer look.

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Anselm Kiefer (German, born 1945). Von der Maas bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt, 2011–12.

German artist Anselm Kiefer’s monumental seascape, Von der Maas bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt, depicts rough waves under a heavy, stormy sky. This work, with its art historical references to nineteenth-century romantic painting and notions of the Sublime, can serve as a metaphor for man’s struggle with his own nature, and also makes reference to the redefinition of personal and national identity.

Kiefer, who was born in Germany during the end of World War II, often explores themes of cultural identity and history in his work while struggling to address and come to terms with the legacy of his country’s actions during this dark period in history. Just as this sea is struggling to withstand the storm and become calm, so did Germany struggle to overcome its actions in World War II and begin again. 

This notion of struggle and rebirth is also made clear in the painting’s title, which references the four bodies of water that formed the German border in 1841. These bodies of water were included in the first stanza of Germany’s national anthem, “Deutschland Über Alles,” which, by declaring that Germany is above everything in the world, became too controversial and is now excluded when the anthem is sung. Through the painting’s title, Kiefer makes a strong statement about the German psyche’s relationship to the land and sea and its struggle to come to terms with its past. 

Images: Anselm Kiefer (German, born 1945). Von der Maas bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt (From the Maas to the Memel, from the Etsch to the Belt), 2011–12. Acrylic, emulsion, oil, shellac, and electrolysis on canvas in artist’s lead frame, 176 3/8 x 248 x 17 11/16 inches (448 x 630 x 45 cm). Collection of Larry Gagosian. Installation photographs by Tom Loonan.

This work is on view as part of the exhibition Anselm Kiefer: Beyond Landscape through October 5, 2014.

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