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Micro-Architecture: New Collages by Gerald Mead at Studio Hart

"Graycliff" by Gerald Mead

Beyond Kodachrome

The thirty small squares lined up across the gray gallery wall are not conducive to window shopping through the glass gallery storefront on Allen Street. They invite a very close engagement. Walk inside, put on your glasses, and look into the tiny worlds created by Gerald Mead. Within the window of a two-inch square slide mount is a visual story. Each mount is centered on a background of architectural blueprint paper within a burnished silver frame and titled after an iconic Buffalo building.

The techniques of cut and paste have been used since the invention of paper in China in 200 B.C., but it was not until the modern times of the early 1900s that artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque formalized the collage approach. The practice has expanded into “mixed media,” describing the mix of a range of materials that may include just about anything imaginable.

Mead is an educator, curator, writer, and an artist who is known for his small collage works in the tradition of Joseph Cornell and Kurt Schwitters. He favors straight edges within a grid format and simple materials--vintage papers, photographs, and ephemera. His piece titled “Buffalo Savings Bank” even features a tiny gold nugget.

Upcycling materials that have lost their purpose into new usefulness and beauty is the aesthetic of our time. While some artists are making collage from cut-up film negatives and positives, Mead utilizes the humble cardboard slide mount. Anyone working in the pre-digital era will recall the necessity of documenting artwork in the form of a Kodachrome or Ektachrome color slide that could be easily projected large onto a white wall or viewed on a light box. A binder notebook of slides in acetate sleeves was the equivalent of today’s artist website. During the 1980s, plastic mounts replaced the cardboard ones, but the early versions typically featured the Kodak branding or the names of other smaller photo studios, such as Spectrum or Sandak. Mead has several labeled SUNY Buffalo Educational Technical Services. Maybe you can spot them.

These works are two-dimensional, but they have been lightly assembled to suggest a layered depth within the small window. One must look carefully to discover the detailed content. Peering into the center of the slide mount window is reminiscent of mid-twentieth century viewing devices that typically highlighted popular scenic locations. Remember Viewmaster? There is a surprise element to this looking. The subjects of Mead’s show are architectural gems that have been photographed, painted, and written about widely, but his explorations offer a curious poetic whiff of the familiar.

The exhibition is on view at through September 27.

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