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Works From the Gerald Mead Collection at Castellani Art Museum

Public/Private, works from the Gerald Mead Collection at the Castellani Art Museum


Gerald Mead was the always-helpful staff member at the Burchfield Penney Art Center when it was located at Rockwell Hall in the early 1990s. I took my senior dementia day-care group there on field trips. Over the years I often met him at art openings. He is a genuinely respected artist, writer, curator, and collector. Through mutual friends we are now connected on Facebook. Despite all this, I have never taken the opportunity to view his collection at one of the many venues to which he has lent or given works over the years.

He was kind enough to send me a copy of the catalog for his current exhibition at the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University. Included with the text portion is an insightful foreward by Anthony Bannon, the former director of the Burchfield Penney and now director of the George Eastman House International Center of Photography and Film in Rochester, and an excellent essay on both the formation of the Gerald Mead collection and the archival acumen of Mead himself by Eric Jackson-Forsberg, the curator of the Martin House Restoration Corporation.

Gerald Mead’s idea of collecting as a “narrative of relationships” is especially evident in Public/Private. The exhibit presents the work of local, regional, national, and international artists in paired profusion, almost all of which would fit neatly in the back of a small van. This in no way diminishes the scope or impact of the work on view.

"Lost & Found" by Barbara Rowe. From the Gerald Mead collection.

Art by the late John Baldessari, Ad Reinhart, and Buffalo’s own Milton Rogovin significantly represent the individual artist’s ouevre. Baldessari’s photos, the “dot face” color play series, Reinhart’s geometric abstraction in muted weighted tones, and Rogovin’s portraits of proud, implacable immigrants set the hierarchy for both Mead’s and the museum’s contributions to Public/Private. Rita Argen Auerbach’s bright watercolors of Buffalo City Hall and Niagara Falls are beautiful renditions of regional landmarks that build further interest for viewing Patricia Lymon Bazelon’s photographic interpretations of industry. John Pfahl’s Tree Clump situates the Arcadian landscape in a rapturous reverie. Amos W. Sangster’s copper etching of the Niagara rapids is a late-19th-century interpretation from a similar vantage and a glimpse into a favored past.

The paired pieces by Robert Blair are particularly strong works by a Western New York artist of long standing, recently (2003) passed. Charles Burchfield himself is represented in a small but iconographically indicative work: Maple Catching Glow of Lightning in watercolor and graphite.

Gerald Mead’s sure sense of how to show an artist to best advantage within the limited parameters of his collection is remarkable. His largest collected work is by Robert Longo, the Mnemonic Pictures in a series of photolithographs of the artist’s noir-like pictographic visitations. One of Les Krims’s photos presents him and a mock-up camera phallic-proboscis in his trademark bad-boy sunglasses and go-go goatee. The pristinely hand-colored photographs by Russel Drisch are enough to make one want to hand-color photographs; they are sublime.

Juan Perdiguero and Joseph Piccillo are both stylishly recognizable by the immediacy of their subject matter. Cindy Sherman’s disguised portrayals of her dour and perky personages inhabit a world of crypto-creepo simulacrae, as do the Starn twins doppelganger Horses. Collagist Gerardo Tan’s works are intense evocations of multimedia in small scale. Michael Zwack holds title to the largest piece in the exhibit, a gauzy chiaroscuro portrait in somber Rembrandt browns, while Susan Rothenberg’s scumbled screenprint of a figure conducting the sea in tails orchestrates the 1980s New York City art world’s fascination with gestural figuration.

Charles Clough’s two pieces, enamel on board and enamel on masonite, again are representative of the artist’s signature bravura style regardless of scale. Christy Rupp, arguably still the most environmentally activist of the artists in the collection, is adamantly assured in an early mixed media work, Spinal Defect Acid Rain Brook Trout. Barbara Rowe’s ink-jet printer piece also invokes similar emotional concerns for society’s unintended consequences of industry.

Public/Private: Pairings with Works from the Gerald Mead Collection continues through August 14.

j. tim raymond

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