“Cubes and Rectangles, Boxes and Containers”
Through April 20 in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave. 882-8700 or www.albrightknox.org
Artists like rules.
Some of the best of them, no matter their chosen medium, find a sort of paradoxical freedom while working within a set of constraints. Think of Shakespeare’s words, which flourished when fitted to the forms of sonnets or iambic pentameter. There are universes of creativity possible within the apparently simple framework of a pop song. Or, for that matter, in the continually surprising permutations of the one-hour television drama.
Sometimes, the simpler the rule, the more fascinating the art becomes. The cube is a perfect illustration of that concept, and it’s on full display in the Albright-Knox’s gallery for small sculpture. This visually addictive exhibition, organized with exquisite taste by Education Curator Mariann Smith in what must have been an extremely difficult search through the gallery’s vast collection, turns the apparently simple form of the cube or rectangle into a metaphor for art-making.
The first room features one of Joseph Cornell’s trademark boxes containing what looks to be a beautifully chipped painting of a cathedral, a sculptural cube by Stuart Arends overlaid with mysterious writing and three playful sculptures by the Canadian artist Kim Adams, masterfully constructed from miniature replicas of shipping containers.
In the main exhibition area, Smith has drawn out a series of entrancing highlights from the gallery’s vast collection, including a model for Lucas Samaras’ famous mirrored room and two kaleidoscopic pieces by Leroy Lamis, each made of multiple colored Plexiglass cubes that seem to illustrate some beautiful mathematical concept.
Eric Tillinghast’s 1996 sculpture of cubes arranged simply on the floor is alluring, as are two Plexiglass pieces by Louis Nevelson that say something about the tension between order and chaos. Marcel Duchamp’s “Why Not Sneeze Rose Sélavy?” from 1964 is a white cage containing white marble cubes that look perfect for dropping into your tea but might carry darker implications.
Through Oct. 25 in the Paul William Beltz & Family Art Gallery, Villa Maria College, 240 Pine Ridge Blvd. 961-1833 or www.villa.edu/gallery
Robert Lyall Flock is one of Western New York’s most prolific and insistent abstract painters, hanging on to the form of pure abstraction long after it went out of style. A small selection of his work is on view at Villa Maria, and it pays tribute to that commitment in simple and straightforward terms.
While the quality of the work varies widely, three pieces stand out. One, a large untitled oil painting from 1987, features thick swaths of aquamarine paint drawn across the canvas in a mazelike pattern around little circles and triangles whose full forms seem to be floating invisibly somewhere beneath the paint. The painting gives the effect of glimpsing mountaintops under thick cloud cover through the scratched plastic of an airplane window, each snow-capped piece of rock hinting at some vast unknown architecture below.
Two pastel drawings from 2001 also are fascinating for the way they forcefully combine different colors and textures. From a certain distance, they look like quilts pieced together out of used coats from Amvets or the Salvation Army by someone who had never made a quilt. They had a DIY-ness about them before DIY was a thing.
“Tate Shaw: The Ground”
Through Nov. 2 in the Western New York Book Arts Center. 348-1430 or www.wnybookarts.org
To most people, the framed images now hanging in the Western New York Book Arts Center might look like graceful watercolor landscapes of verdant fields or winter forests. They actually are inkjet photographs taken by artist Tate Shaw, printed on large pieces of paper and quickly modified by applying water to the surface and drawing the still-wet ink across the surface of the paper. They are beautiful.
If that’s where the work’s appeal ended, it would still be worth a look. But Shaw’s pieces, which are compiled in a book, “The Ground,” are really reflections on the impermanence of the landscape. They were shot in two fascinating places: In the seething geothermal landscape of Iceland and in rural Tioga County, Pa., where the pipes of hydrofracking course through the green landscape like industrial varicose veins.
Shaw’s show is not some activist screed against fracking – there are plenty of those, and surely more on the way – but is instead a graceful reflection on what “landscape” really means. In Shaw’s view, it is a breathing creature that is impossible to pin down, something captured beautifully in his murky prints and book, both of which seem almost to breathe themselves.