Visual Arts Program

Friday, September 6, 2019 — Saturday, October 5, 2019

Douglas Ewart, George Lewis & Douglas Repetto

Rio Negro II

Duende & Marine A Silo in Silo City
85 Silo City Row, Buffalo, NY 14203

George Lewis
Douglas R. Ewart, photo by Glen Stubbe
Douglas Irving Repetto

Artist Talk & Exhibition Opening - Friday, September 6 at 7:00 p.m.

Exhibition continues through October 5
Hours at Marine A at Silo City: Thursday - Saturday 3 p.m. - 9 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Douglas R. Ewart: bamboo sculptures, rainsticks, chimes
George Lewis: electronic sounds
Douglas Repetto: robotics and software

Layout by Douglas R. Ewart and Douglas Repetto

Rio Negro II features an array of auto-kinetic sound sculptures made from bamboo, found objects and other natural materials which are activated by robotics and accompanied by a surround sound electronic composition, all inside the massive and awe-inspiring Marine A Silo at Silo City in Buffalo, New York. This major site-specific installation honors the 50th Anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and celebrates the rebirth and renewal of Buffalo’s iconic grain elevators & historic waterways.

The Rio Negro project dates from 1992, when Douglas R. Ewart and George Lewis, with the help of technological artist Christopher Furman, created the work for a show at Chicago’s now-defunct Randolph Street Gallery. Rio Negro is centered on the sound of rainsticks. As Ewart has remarked, “The reason that I use rainsticks is because I like the idea of something that can be functional and at the same time be esoteric. There is something life-like about a rainstick.” Ewart’s rainsticks range between four and six feet in length. With their complex blend of sonic and visual aesthetics, which reference the African-descended Jonkonnu performance traditions of his native Jamaica, Ewart’s rainsticks may be considered more as totemic sound sculptures. In the original Rio Negro, these sculptures were performed by computerized motors selected and mounted by Furman, controlled by software written by Lewis that also composed and performed electronic music in real time. In Rio Negro II, first shown at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2007, Douglas Repetto designed individualized robotics and micro-controllers for each of the rainsticks, while Ewart crafted giant bamboo chimes that are also mechanically activated and controlled through Repetto’s robotics.

The polymathic Douglas R. Ewart has been recognized internationally for his work as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, improviser, conceptual artist, sculptor and instrument designer and builder. Also an educator, Ewart bridges his kaleidoscopic activities with a vision that opposes today’s divided world, culture-fusing works that aim to restore the wholeness of communities and of the individuals within them, while emphasizing the reality that our world is an interdependent entity. This is highlighted in Rio Negro II – a work that combines organic materials & modern technology to create a deeply engaging atmosphere that calls attention to a time when human beings had a more balanced relationship with our living environment.

The title of the work references the Rio Negro in Brazil, a major tributary of the Amazon river, and the largest black-water river in the world. Lewis’ sister visited the river basin in the early 1990s, and her piquant description of the environment inspired Ewart and Lewis to settle on the name “Rio Negro” as a way of referencing both indigenous people and notions of blackness. The name also suggests the sounds of rain-forests, and the work’s strategically conceived silences enhance the nature of the work as a space for contemplation. The assemblage-like layout of the work, designed in site-specific fashion by Ewart and Repetto, includes stones, soil, bamboo, and leaves, all of which evoke aromas along with the visual and sonic aspects. Electronic sounds appear along with the physically generated sounds. The works provenance as an evocation of the forest proves highly compatible with the raw, post-industrial aesthetic grandeur and other-worldly acoustics of Silo City’s Marine A Grain Elevator.

Rio Negro II is well-suited to Buffalo’s historic and recently re-purposed cultural venue Silo City – a magnificent, canyon-like place featuring the monolithic grain elevators that were an integral part of Buffalo’s renowned industrial past. The structures are positioned along the Buffalo River, an essential waterway for indigenous peoples for centuries and, as the terminus for the Erie Canal (built in 1825), the main conduit for the food and resources that supplied well more than half of a rapidly growing United States. Years of heavy industrial production have led to contamination of the river and widespread pollution in the region, which is only now beginning to be cleaned up. Ewart says “There’s a consciousness that we need to spark in people about water, about water reclamation, about its importance... Water is the source and sustainer of all life on Planet Earth!”

The extreme acoustics of the grain elevators also present an ideal environment for a sound-oriented installation like Rio Negro II. The sustained reverberation created by the silos themselves enhances even the tiniest sounds and allows the listener to experience the physicality of sound vibration in a way that is unique to these structures. George Lewis has adapted the electronic music to accompany the installation, adjusting the piece to accommodate the unique sonic environment.



George Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1952 and graduated from Yale University in 1974 with a degree in philosophy. In the 1980s, he succeeded Rhys Chatham as the music director of The Kitchen. Lewis is currently the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A 2015 Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Lewis has received a MacArthur Fellowship (2002), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), & an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999). In 2015, Lewis received the degree of Doctor of Music (DMus, honoris causa) from the University of Edinburgh.

A prolific trombonist and member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis's work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisative forms is documented on more than 140 recordings.


Perhaps best known as a saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist, composer, improviser, sculptor, and maker of masks and instruments, Douglas R. Ewart is also an educator, lecturer, arts organization consultant, and all around visionary. In projects done in diverse media throughout an award-winning and widely-acclaimed 40-year career, Ewart has woven his broad gifts into a single sensibility that encourages and celebrates the wholeness of individuals in culturally active communities.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1946, Douglas R. Ewart immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in the United States in 1963. He joined the internationally renowned Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and eventually served as chairman. He has taught School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1990. Mr. Ewart leads several of his own ensembles, runs his own record label, Aarawak Records and has collaborated with a wide range of master musicians.

Douglas Repetto:

Douglas Irving Repetto is an artist and teacher. His work, including sculpture, installation, performance, recordings, and software is presented internationally. He is the founder of a number of art/community-oriented groups including dorkbot: people doing strange things with electricity, ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show, organism: making art with living systems, and the music-dsp mailing list and website. Mr. Repetto taught at Columbia University, where he was the director of the Sound Arts MFA program in the School of the Arts and Computer Music Center. He lives with his wife, writer Amy Benson, and their young son.

This Hallwalls Artists-In-Residence Project (HARP) is made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Hallwalls Music Program is made possible through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, & a generous grant from the Cullen Foundation. The visual arts component of this project (installation at Silo City, including Douglas Ewart’s bamboo sculptures and Douglas Repetto’s robotics and software) is supported in part by a grant to Hallwalls Visual & Media Arts programs from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. All Hallwalls projects, programs, and operations are supported by arts & cultural funding from Erie County.

t: 716-854-1694
f: 716-854-1696

Tues.—Fri. 11-6
Sat. 11-2
Sun. & Mon. closed

from Jan. 10, 2020
through Feb. 28, 2020

Sarah Sutton
Knots and Pulses

This exhibition by Ithaca-area artist Sarah Sutton will feature a series of monochromatic oil paintings that combine representational imagery with distortions and abstractions that create scenarios in flux. They are essentially landscape paintings, but Sutton's treatment of the landscape toys with its sense of space and the notion of the built vs. the natural environment.

Katie Bell
Abstract Cabinet

Katie Bell’s exhibition is a site-specific installation conceived of as a one-act drama starring anonymous artifacts. Functioning like a theatrical set, the gallery holds static characters that reference the interior architecture of corporate and commercial spaces. Sculptural objects are often fractured or untethered to a contextual structure. Functioning as a whole, the individual artefacts are a nod to players on a stage, held captive in space and time.