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Memorial Art Gallery

The permanent collection of the Memorial Art Gallery can seem scattered and spotty if you stack it up to the Albright Knox in Buffalo but many well known artists are represented here with some real gems. There is a Philip Guston hanging there called "Reverse", a beautiful Arthur Dove, a Hans Hoffman, a Neil Welliver and a Thomas Hart Benton that are well worth visiting.

These are some of my personal favorites from the MAG's permanent collection.

Philip Guston "Reverse" MAG
Philip Guston "Reverse" at the MAG

Evertt Shinn "Sullivan Street 1900-1905" at MAG
Everett Shinn "Sullivan Street 1900-1905"

The Gallery has brought some very memorable shows to town in the last few years. I'm not talking about the Degas Sculpture or the Maxfield Parrish shows. They may have been moneymakers but they were less than inspiring. The "Twentieth Century Still-Life Paintings" from the Philips Collection was great and the "Self Taught Artists Of The Twentieth Century" Show was sensational. And there was an installation show that was fun (and controversial for some reason).

And the MAG has a great little store with local craft ware, some local art work and and a nice book selection. Nancy Kelly ran this store for years and it still carries her creative touch. We've even seen Ann Havens and Shelley Valochovic work here.

This horse is the perfect antidote to the clumsy Horses On Parade that littered our fair city. You can view it any time you like on the front lawn of the Memorial Art Gallery. It looks like it was made of wood but it is made of metal.

In 2004 the MAG hosted the first Rochester Biennial which like the Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition showcases both emerging and established artists from upstate New York. Unlike the juried Finger Lakes, however, the Biennial is an invitational. The Gallery's director and curators selected six exceptional artists to participate. This is a brave move, the choices were gutsy and the work is beautifully displayed.

The show featured beautiful mixed media, conceptual garment pieces by Judith Olson Gregory of Rochester, amazing welded steel constructions that are formed and lit in a way to cast shadows that suggest forms that are not visible in the metal by Larry Kagan of Troy and books made of willow branches by John McQueen of Saratoga. The books look a bit like the horse shown above. Karen Sardisco also of Rochester filled a room with intriguing, big, mixed media, organic form drawings in red.

Memorial Art Gallery
Extreme Materials - January 29 - April 9, 2006

The Memorial Art Gallery pulled out all the stops with "Extreme Materials" Jan.29 - April 9, 2006. The Exhibition opening on February 4 featured live music from Margaret Explosion and Dreamland Faces.

MAG art

Dirt Baby 2000 (edition of 10) is from James Croak's Dirt Baby series and was cast in dirt. In an interview James Croak says, "I had a bad start: my mother died when I was only two, I was passed around relatives for the next four years, typically living in one place during the week and another during the weekends. Hence my sense of the world is that it is a very unstable and scary place."

Most of the work in Extreme Materials was created since 2000 and these contemporary artists use non traditional materials like garden hoses, pencil shavings, fish skins, carrots, rubber tires, eggshells and smog. Vietnamese-born photographer Binh Danh, uses the sun to print pictures on leaves.

MAG art
Binh Danh, Found Portraits Collection: from the Cambodian Killing Fields at Tuol Sleng, 2003 Chlorophyll print and resin 18.25 x 53 inches framed

Two installations from Extreme Materials went on view early in MAG's Lockhart Gallery before the show. This "teaser" featured Kim Abeles' dishes etched with smog. She created her Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates by exposing stenciled plates to the elements on the roof of her Los Angeles home; the more egregious a president's record on the environment, the darker the exposure. The work was made in 1992 so it stops at the first Bushman. There are quotes from each of the presidents and Reagan's was interesting. "Approximently 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards". Needless to say his image was one of the darkest.

MAG artLarissa Brown creates her pieces from office supplies.