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Amanda Besl, Millie Chin, Dennis Maher, and Julian Montague at BT&C Gallery

"Futon Chair Temple" by Dennis Maher.
"Ruin 3" by Julian Montague.


Slipping and sliding over to the West Side, I reached an unassuming corner building with an equally unassuming stencil of black paint on clapboard siding naming the gallery. Once in, the sense of ongoing repurpose engages as the interior fairly breathes transition—a metaphor serving the artists in the exhibit. Each has been selected for “significant exposure in other markets,” according to gallerist Anna Kaplan, at a price point that reflects their rising status. This is the first time I’ve ever referenced “price point” in writing about art, which indicates a certain nudge in the current paradigm regarding how local artists are represented in commercial galleries. With her gallery Kaplan intends to build on the careers of artists such as these based in Buffalo, and foster for them a base of emerging and seasoned collectors.

The immediate surrounds are set off by a structural installation by Dennis Maher, Futon Chair Temple, a studied conglomeration of woodwork reassembled in a grid of overlaid chair legs, frame molding, finished pieces, and raw lumber, all generously absorbed into the equally raw interior space. Inset at various intervals of elevation are shrine-like miniature temple constructions calling to mind a tiny cliffside kingdom. Lengths of pipe mounted on cinderblocks support the assembled arrangement. The opposite end of the room displays Maher’s more formal presentation, composite prints in ink stencil in a palimpsest of silhouetted objects framed in stretcher bars.

Julian Montague’s standing vitrine of faux book covers, An Imagined Intellectual History of Animals, Architecture and Man 2010-2914, bisects the room neatly. Working from an aesthetic that astutely references authentic scientific literature, the artist showcases his own restrained graphic designs in digital pigment prints of facsimile cover art and text, complete with authored credentials. The facing wall displays a series of formal photographs of ruined spider webs, isolating in distinct detail the disintegrating webs catching pollen, drops of dew, a blade of grass in a scrawl of entropy caught close-up. Each is framed in black in a field of mustard yellow.

Millie Chen’s digital prints, 4 a.m. notes on horror, death and love—a four-volume travel-log of her trip to the killing fields of Rwanda, Cambodia, Poland, and Wounded Knee—is another kind of scrawl. Chronicling a six-year journey to long aggrieved sites of genocide, her cramped long-hand diary of observations and interviews bears silent witness to landscapes of atrocity—horrors not long seared into history.

Oil on wood panel sets off four paintings by Amanda Besl, expressing in a kind of baroque enthusiasm with flowing tousled and plaited hair—and only hair, except for some equally baroque candlesticks and figurines. In La Sylphe her subject hair is highlighted from above the picture plane, as if seen from underwater. The swirling tresses intimate currents of foreboding depths. Another piece, Adrift, also creates a sense of being out of one’s depth in a limitless sea. Besl has in both a literal as well as figurative sense shorn the figure from the picture, leaving her previous teen scenes and horses’ manes behind to delve into the wispy threads of deeper meaning.

For this accomplished quartet, Blow is the wind of possibility. The gallery is creating a zephyr of its own.

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