The rear of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery was awash in a sea of illuminated, moving images Friday night. Not the grounds, but the edifice itself.
The spectacle featured a large-scale, 3D video projection show in celebration of the gallery’s 150th anniversary, using a technology called 3D video projection mapping. It makes large buildings seem to come alive with color, depth and motion by manipulating a series of moving images to fit seamlessly onto a building or piece of architecture, creating the illusion of three dimensions without the need for 3D glasses.
“Welcome to our special evening,” said Louis Grachos, museum director, addressing thousands who had assembled for the free show in the drizzling rain.
“This is going to be a remarkable event. The artists that produced this beautiful presentation are to be commended,” Grachos added.
Holly Hughes, curator for the collection, worked for six months with a digital media collections manager to pull together images featured in the projection.
A version of 3D video projection mapping technique caused a sensation last year when pop singer Beyonce employed it in a performance at the 2011 Billboard Awards show.
The video images can be projected onto a variety of surfaces, transforming them into dynamic video displays that give the illusion of being three-dimensional images. Specialized computer software is used to distort the projected images in order to make them fit seamlessly onto irregularly shaped screens and other surfaces.
“You’ll see images from our permanent collection, images from our archives. We also worked with a gentleman named Daniel Harnett out of New York City, who also created some of the abstract imagery you’ll see tonight,” said Hughes, before the start of the first showing.
She and other gallery officials worked with the Advantage Company in Williamsville to basically mask the building.
“So the building will actually be like a screen, but a three-dimensional screen,” said Hughes.
“They started setting up on Wednesday, working two overnights for this project, but we’ve been working on this for six months,” she added.
The show, with musical accompaniment, lasted about 20 minutes and featured about 500 images from the gallery’s archives and collections, in addition to other types of imagery that were integrated into the projection.
“If they see something tonight and they’re like, ‘What was that image?,’ they’ll actually be able to go online and utilize all of the images in the collection and the captions that go along with them,” said Hughes.
The images that were presented will likely be available online by Monday.
“It was really cool to see the building transformed into a work of art,” said Michele Bewley of Amherst, who attended with her son, Johnny, 7.
She had heard about the event through a site promoting local kid-friendly events.
“A colleague, a co-worker, told me she was bringing her kids here, so we came.” said Bewley. “I thought it was great.”
“It was awesome,” added Johnny. “I love art.”
Tonya Philippone, of Elmwood Village in Buffalo, said she had seen photographs of the technology but had never before seen it applied in person.
“I think it’s cool. It could be a little warmer, but [the imagery] makes up for it,” she said.
“There’s another [showing later]. I’m going to stay for the whole thing,” she added.
M&T Bank and the Advantage Company were co-sponsors of the event.