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The Art of Summer

Eight gallery shows you must see, no matter how nice the weather

Tom Holt painting his mural at the Castellani Art Museum

Western New York’s salubrious summer weather is upon us, so get outside and enjoy it. However, despite the lure of the outdoors, our bustling art venues thankfully aren’t on hiatus. The following are a few recommended exhibitions that are (or will be) on view in the coming weeks—all worthwhile reasons for a gallery/museum visit.

You have until June 25 to check out the exhibition at Buffalo’s coolest new arts space, the Western New York Book Arts Center located downtown at 468 Washington Street at Mohawk. It’s focus—the art of the book—is a welcome addition to the arts scene, and this first members show is an engaging “who’s who” of the region’s established and emerging practitioners in this field. Make your visit a full immersion into book arts with a look at the printing studio, library, bookshop and display of antiquated printing equipment.

Wunderkammern at the Niagara Science Museum
"Couple 1956" by Hugh Neil

The open, unjuried nature of members’ exhibitions usually means presentations of work widely ranging in merit. However, I always look forward to the Hallwalls Members’ Exhibition (July 24-August 28) because curator John Massier skillfully and thoughtfully installs the exhibition so that everything “works” together, and every year he suggests a theme that invariably brings in a number of inspired entries. This year’s is “Status Update,” a partial reference to ubiquitous internet social networking. Also, leave August 6 open on your calendar for Hallwalls 35th Anniversary Art Auction, sure to be a spectacular, milestone-marking event.

On the heels of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s internationally celebrated (and deservedly so) Abstract Expressionism exhibition is an opportunity to see for the most part heretofore unseen paintings that Hugh Neil, a longtime art education professor in Buffalo, was creating during that same time period. Neil’s exemplary works from the 1950s and 1960s are being shown by mid-century art impresario Dean Brownrout at Atlas Antiques & Art, 1495 Hertel Avenue, through July 25.

There are a least three reasons for Buffalo art aficionados to venture into Niagara County this summer and two are at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University: an abbreviated 30-year retrospective of realist painter Jed Jackson’s work (through September 20) and an exuberant exhibition/installation by emerging artist Tom Holt (through September 13).

Jackson, a highly accomplished artist who had a brief but active tenure in Western New York in the 1980s, is inexplicably not represented in any public collections in this area, so this is a rare opportunity to see his extraordinary and enigmatic paintings, which have been described as “modern mythological allegories.”

Tom Holt’s exhibition, Test for Echo, is his best yet, because it incorporates all of the visual forms of expression this young artist voraciously explores including wall murals, illustration, painting, painted objects, assemblages, and digital video. Especially intriguing is a display case full of (just a fraction of) the artist’s sketchbooks—Holt’s constant companions and the lifeblood of any serious artist. Curator Michael Beam aptly refers to them “an extensive record of his uncompromising daily ritual as a visual diarist.”

A museum of antiquated scientific equipment may not sound like a “must see,” but the newly opened Niagara Science Museum located at 3625 Highland Avenue in Niagara Falls, a short distance from the Castellani Art Museum, is an amazing place. The artistry here is the fact that the inaugural displays of its founder’s extensive collection of scientific apparatus and instruments have been expertly arranged (with an emphasis on poetic juxtapositions) by UB professors and artists Gary Nickard and Reinhard Reitzenstein in the style of the wunderkammern or “wonder rooms” centuries past. If you have never seen a collaborative installation by Nickard and Reitzenstein, who have often explored the interstices between art and science, this is one to see due to the sheer volume of material they had to work with and its unique historic setting, a 1910 building that was the former headquarters of the industrial manufacturer Union Carbide.

Finally, you shouldn’t miss the massive retrospective chronicling six decades of the prolific Duayne Hatchett’s work that is on view at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center through August 30. Winding your way through this abundant, labyrinth-like exhibition, you’ll discover the artist’s impressive ability to explore geometric form and texture through a range of virtually all media including sculpture, painting, drawing, and printmaking. A unique feature of the exhibition is the fact that some of the tools (many of them handmade by the artist) that Hatchett used to manipulate metal or create textured painted surfaces are on display amidst the artworks providing insight into the artist’s working methodologies. The exhibition and accompanying catalog is a well deserved, comprehensive tribute to an artist whose storied career includes having work acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art and Smithsonian and exhibiting at the 1965 New York World’s Fair.

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