Visual Arts Program

Friday, January 16, 2015 — Friday, March 6, 2015

Amid/In WNY 2015

Amid/In WNY 2015
Amid/In WNY 2015
Amid/In WNY 2015
Amid/In WNY 2015
Amid/In WNY 2015
Amid/In WNY 2015

Part One

Opening Reception: Friday, January 16, 2015, 8:00 p.m.

Kyle Butler - Studio Dust (a year's worth) by Marc Tomko, redrawn from memory - pencil and colored pencil
Co-curators Kyle Butler, Rebecca Wing, John Massier, after a day of studio visits, atop the biggest pile of snow in Buffalo, 11/22/14.

Marie-Claire BozantEmily ChurcoMartin FreemanKate GaudyBrian MilbrandTommy NguyenDavid SchirmPeter StephensMarc TomkoJeff VincentvirocodeAlfonso VoloKurt Von Voetsch

Curated by Kyle Butler, John Massier, Rebecca Wing

Amid/In WNY 2015 is a conversationally-derived casual survey of the art of our region at this moment. It does not include everyone and, in the end, will not include everyone. It’s not planned as some all-encompassing, omnibus survey. We have used the term “studio trolling” to describe our process and that’s an apt description. We consulted with each other to cobble together a list of artists whose work we were interested in investigating at this time. Between November 11— December 9, 2014, 45 separate studio visits were undertaken for the first part of this project. Artists and their work were discussed before, during, between, and after our visits.


Amid/In WNY 2015 will be (with the exception of the summer members’ exhibition—its own kind of casual survey) the only 2015 project in Hallwalls’ gallery schedule. Four additional exhibitions will premiere in March, May, September, and November 2015. We have no idea what these remaining four exhibitions will contain. They will be similarly culled from an ongoing process of studio trolling, conversations, and lunch.


Our Thinking:

We selected what we loved.

We selected what we remembered.

We selected what moved us.

We selected the poetic, the inexplicable, and the hilarious.

We selected what we thought was ready to show.

We selected things we wanted to put in the same room.

We selected things we thought would want to talk to each other.

We didn’t want to overthink things.

We nonetheless used our brains quite frequently.

We more frequently let our hearts drive the bus.

We inclined toward the iconoclasts and weirdos.

We are probably iconoclasts and weirdos ourselves.

We may add a subtitle for this first part of the project.

We are not in agreement on a subtitle.

We do not think a subtitle is essential.

We thank the artists again for their generous spirits.

We can’t wait to share their work with everyone.

We love that they make what they do.



Q & A With the Curators



Q: How did this all begin?


John Massier: I wanted to do something without a long lead time, without the time to over think it, based in a certain spontaneous sense of who we were all interested in checking out….NOW! No submission process. No time for artists to get all strategic about what they would show us. We’re coming to your studio. Sock it to us, baby. 

Kyle Butler: The premise for the show was John's and otherwise it was pretty straightforward: met for lunch, picked some names, and sent out studio visit invites. 

Rebecca Wing: I had no idea of the scope of this project when we began. After the first week of studio visits, when I realized the commitment was much greater, (45 visits in 1 month) I really didn't hesitate. I was excited to learn from John and Kyle but also, couldn't wait to see the work of each of the artists on our list.


Q: Does the cheeky title bear any connection to the three-time regional biennial Beyond/In Western New York?

JM: It’s more perfunctory and functional than cheeky and while I offered to change it because of its sheer banality, neither Kyle nor Rebecca agreed with that. Which is fine. The ordinary tone of the title maybe underscores the low-fi nature of the project. Its only relation to Beyond/In might be an a bit of an antithesis to that gargantuan project—no call for entries, only three cooks in the kitchen, fast, loose.

KB: The exhibition is at most a downplayed perversion of the Beyond/In model. The reference is more a nod to the contrasts than the comparisons. Beyond/In approached a more comprehensive survey, one heavily deliberated and considered. We wanted a flawed, idiosyncratic survey based on the fleeting interests of a few people.

RW: from the moment John proposed it, I always liked the idea of a show called, "Amid/In WNY." Maybe because I was one of the many people who asked, "So, what ever happened to Beyond/In?" But I think our title accurately suggests a regional survey that is somehow different from the biennial.


Q: Why involve your co-curators?

JM: I have lots of opportunities to work singly as a curator, but it’s a different kind of dynamic process to engage others in your insanity. Kyle (who exhibited prominently in Beyond/In WNY) has exhibited here at Hallwalls, I’ve known him since his grad schools days, and he’s got a sharp, discerning eye. I knew I could depend on him to be honest in his assessments. Rebecca hung around Hallwalls long enough as an intern to procure actual employment and she’s worked with me for a few years installing exhibitions of all kinds. So, she knows what’s up. Time to further that professional development. It’s also a fun dynamic because Kyle was a teacher of Rebecca’s at UB and I’ve worked with both of them here at Hallwalls.

KB: This might be a question better answered by John. Involving Rebecca and I provides a wider curatorial voice and the cooperative aspect of it feigns a larger, concerted undertaking while still not breaching the casual nature of the visits.


Q: Did you have even a loose premise of what you were looking for?

JM: Not at all. We’ve joked that we should call the project Side Eye because everyone gives you that “What’s this all about?” look. But we had no theme or preconceived idea. We talked about what we liked as we saw it. We can’t say the show built itself, but it very quickly becomes clear what you respond to and what you think will look good together. Or what works look like they should be sharing a space, for whatever reason. My only directive was that we were doing a group exhibition in January.

KB: Nothing as explicit as a premise. There were some contextual reasons for which we chose not to look into a number of prominent local artists that you might expect to see on the list. As John has mentioned, there was a tendency on our part towards the iconoclastic and peculiar. It seemed important that the show exhibit a certain bare minimum of difficulty in its first iteration.

RW: I agree that there were no predetermined guidelines for the types of work we wanted to see in the gallery come January. The pieces that had the most magnetism for me were well executed, surprising & referred back to that artist's particular point of view.


Q: Any surprises?

JM: It’s all a surprise. You never know what crazy wonderful shit you’ll encounter when you enter into someone’s private space. But that’s the whole point of stepping through the looking glass. We didn’t know that Marc Tomko would have a jar of pixie dust or that Marie-Claire Bozant would knock us out with a pile of sweaters. Or that Kurt Von Voetsch would tell us he was trying to draw the soul. You can’t anticipate any of that, you just go with your trust in the seriousness of the people you’re engaging. As I’ve often said about artists, the dice rarely come up snake eyes. Creative people enthrall you in innumerable ways.

KB: Oh sure, plenty of surprises. There is a reassuring number of weirdos populating the art scene. The people we visited were of a pretty wide variety of practices. Having to interpolate between them throughout the visits yielded a lot of unexpected juxtapositions. I think some of the artists might have even been surprised at what—of what they showed us—ended up resonating the most.

RW: This whole thing was a relatively new experience for me so I had no expectations. I was surprised by the amount of work that we got to see that, for whatever reason, had never been shared more widely. I was also struck by how open each artist was about their personal history and private art making practice. That's one of the things that I enjoy most about installing shows at Hallwalls, and we got to experience that almost daily for and entire month.


Q: Any favorites?

JM: Everything we chose. And plenty of stuff we didn’t. There are artists who will be revisited as we move forward in the process through the course of 2015 and they may end up in the remaining parts of the project. In responding to our invitation, one of the artists remarked that they were honored to be in a show with so many “heavy-hitters.” Our position would be you’re ALL heavy-hitters.

KB: Fortunately, a lot of the work I inclined to most ended up in the show.

RW: There were favorites at each of the visits we did. That being said, I was particularly taken with the paintings we saw by David Schirm and Peter Stephens and by the amorphic soft sculptures that Tommy Nguyen has been producing for his upcoming MFA show.


Q: 45 studio visits in one month is a lot. What was your favorite part of that process?

JM: I think my co-curators enjoyed all the various meals we had. And that gigantic pile of snow near the Central Terminal. When I first became a curator, a friend of mine said to me, “Being a curator means that you can call any artist you want and ask to come see their work. And they’ll let you.” It’s a privileged position, when people share that private world with you. Even when it’s weird and awkward and someone is slightly embarrassed that you’re there, or you have to crowbar more information out of them or point behind a stack of something and ask what’s there, it’s always interesting and intriguing. You never know what people are making until you look.

KB: It was a lot of visits, but it was fun the whole way through. We did a lot of our discerning en route and over lunch, and the inquisitive mood of those times together was something I always looked forward to. Though there are a few visits that stand out as particularly novel (like virocode meeting us at an Italian restaurant instead of a proper studio and projecting their work onto the ceiling while we ate), the variety of settings and personalities kept us excited.

RW: My favorite part of the process was being constantly asked to consider the driving force behind why someone makes what they make. It was especially gratifying to work with John & Kyle who were both insightful during our visits and excellent lunch companions.