In late March, Dan and Tina and I drove up to Buffalo for the opening of Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde in the 1970s at Albright Knox Gallery. The show was curated by former Carnegie International assistant curator Heather Pesanti, and represents the culmination of three years’ intensive research. We came into the city from the south, and passed through Buffalo’s (post)industrial waterfront on our way to our hotel. I’ve seen a few abandoned steel mills in my day, but found the scale of Buffalo’s grain elevators astounding. Wish made a similar impression later that evening: all three of us were pretty well floored by the sheer scope of the show—which includes not only visual art, performance, and film, but literature and music as well—and the extraordinary roster of artists that have called Buffalo home.
Despite its big ambitions, Wish is a well curated show that makes good use of the Albright Knox’s rambling gallery spaces, transforming an expansive classical atrium into an approximation of Artpark, for instance, including documentation of land art works by Ant Farm and Nancy Holt, among others; one of Ree Morton’s celastic ladders; and the hermaphroditic dog costume from Lynda Benglis’s video The Amazing Bow Wow (1979). Other stand-outs included a large (and rarely exhibited) fragment from Gordon Matta-Clark’s Bingo (1974), Hollis Frampton’s photographic work and lesser-seen film, Gloria! (1979), a live-feed video installation by Woody and Steina Vasulka, and Paul Sharits’s Shutter Interface (1975) and Frame Study drawings. In aggregate, the works suggested an amazingly vibrant creative ecology, and gave profound visual form to a unqiue moment in history. The afterparty was pretty fun too…I’ll resist the temptation to post those photos.