Bruce Jackson (b. 1936), Buffalo City Hall, 2014; Digital photograph, 17 x 22 inches; Courtesy of the artist
Discovering Deco: Photographs by Bruce Jackson
On View Friday, November 14, 2014–Sunday, March 29, 2015
Bruce Jackson continues his investigation of the environs that form Buffalo's social and physical fabric. His work looks at the legacy of the Art Deco Era on the urban identity. In conjunction with Alexander Levy: American Artist, Art Deco Painter exhibition, Jackson's photographs provides us with a focus on the details that remain from the time of Levy. A focused selection, from a much larger body of work which explores the Deco DNA, these images examine the details in our archetecture. His insight is best understood through his description of Deco in Buffalo:
In the international art world, Buffalo is probably best known for three things:
—the outdoor architectural collection that includes such masterworks as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex and Graycliff; Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, H. H. Richardson’s Buffalo State Hospital and the Roycroft Inn;
—the astonishing collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery;
—Frederick Law Olmsted’s grandest and most extensive single work: the integrated series of parks, parkways, access roads, and grounds of contiguous public buildings.
Many other great architects have also worked here and some of their buildings still stand: Stanford White, Daniel Burnham, E. B. Green, and the mostly unknown architects who designed the magnificent grain elevators (the largest single machines made by man, except for aircraft carriers) which had a huge influence on twentieth century Modernist architecture.
Buffalo is also known for two massive Art Deco buildings: the New York Central Terminal, built in 1929, once one of the grand railroad station complexes in the United States, closed in 1979 and now the subject of serious restoration efforts; and City Hall, in continuous use since its completion in 1931. Both buildings are huge—City Hall is 32 stories (398 feet) and Central Terminal is 17 stories (271 feet)—and are easily seen from any nearby road.
There are many other Art Deco buildings and structures around the city: the Kleinhans Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery, the Courier Express Building (now the Catholic Diocese Chancery), the Vars Building on Main Street, Kensington High School, the Liberty Bank Branch on Genesee Street, the Rand Building, and the Pierce-Arrow Showroom (now a branch of the Greater Buffalo Savings Bank). They’re all over town.
Some of the buildings—like City Hall and Central Terminal—are easy to see in outline; most of the others are harder to see because they tend to be on busy thoroughfares, and if you turn your head to look you risk running into the car or pedestrian crossing the street in front of you.
But what you see from a car, as I more and more realized while working on these photographs, won’t help you anyway. The heart of Art Deco is in the details, and you can’t see those when you’re on the move. You’ve got to stop and look, and the more you look, the more you find. All of the Deco buildings in Buffalo are rich in exquisite detail, ranging from the typography carved into the stone of Central Terminal to the friezes and sculptured figures on the Pierce-Arrow Showroom and City Hall. Many of these architectural elements are three-dimensional, so they change with the time of day and season of the year.
We know we’ll see great art if we walk the corridors of the Albright-Knox or the Burchfield Penney. We’ll also see it if we walk the streets, take our time, stop and look. Buffalo is a city of art, inside and out. I’m happy for this project because it forced me to stop and look at building façades I’d taken for granted for decades. In the process I found a world of art I’d been looking at but never before really seen.
(My thanks to Chuck LaChiusa for his wonderful web site, Buffalo Architecture and History—http://www.buffaloah.com/—which helped me enormously in finding these sites.)