“Kelly Richardson: Legion”

Feb. 16 through June 9

Buffalo arts organizations have had something of a love affair with Kelly Richardson, the Canadian-born artist whose often entrancing video work combines elements of science fiction with 19th century landscape painting. Richardson, who lives in the United Kingdom, had a well-received exhibition at Hallwalls in 2008, and the Albright-Knox featured her work in its monumental “Videosphere” show in 2011. The Albright-Knox has collected more work by Richardson than any other institution. And “Legion,” initiated by British curator Alistair Robinson and expanded for its Albright-Knox visit by the gallery’s Holly E. Hughes, is the artist’s first major traveling museum survey.

Richardson recently answered a few questions about her show by email:

Tell me a bit about “Mariner 9” (her newest work that is part of “Legion” and will receive its United States premiere at the Albright-Knox) and what you hoped to represent, capture or evoke with it.

Over the last few years, I’ve been increasingly interested in the function of science fiction, which allows us to experience what life might be like in the future. Scientists and futurologists can speculate on what the future might look like, but artists are capable of visualizing those futures, making them tangible. If hindsight is always 20/20, experiencing these potential futures offers us a window through which we can view our present time and direction we are headed in with some measure of clarity.

“Mariner 9” presents a Martian landscape set several centuries into the future, littered with the rusting remains from various missions to the planet. Despite its suggested abandoned state, several of the spacecraft continue to partially function, attempting to do their intended jobs, to ultimately find signs of life while possibly transmitting the data back to no one.

That search for life – to know that we’re not alone in the universe – is fascinating on many levels, but it’s also a beautiful, endearing endeavour, particularly for us as a species which is destroying life we know to exist on this planet at a truly alarming rate. I’m interested in that contradiction at this critical time in human history when current predictions for our future are not just unsettling, but terrifying.

Was there a moment in your career when you vacillated between painting and video? I ask because your installations, of which I’ve seen only a few at the Albright and Hallwalls, strike me as very painterly.

Yes; I actually studied drawing and painting in my undergraduate degree. Although video eventually took over my practice, I think I still approach it with a painterly sensibility, altering almost every pixel, controlling tone and color. As well, the works behave more like moving paintings or photographs than video in a sense, where the narrative is collapsed into a specific scene rather than delivered over time. As with paintings, viewers can spend as little or as long with the work as they like.

The Albright-Knox has been an early champion of your work. What does it mean to have an institution like the Albright follow your career so closely?

It’s almost impossible to measure the impact on my practice from the collection and presentation of my work within such a notable museum, but it is substantial, far-reaching and continuous. The Albright-Knox has been a tremendous support for which I’m eternally grateful and honored.