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Jozef Bajus in Buffalo Spree

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This beautifully installed show in the Burchfield-Penney’s Sylvia Rosen gallery is dominated by the ethereal Acid Rain (2016), a luminous construction of wire tubing, metal, and hardware remnants. Hanging in the center of the space, this work, more than any other in the exhibition, utterly transcends its prosaic materials to come as close to clouds and rain as tubing and lengths of wire can. It is a continuation of the artist’s ongoing project to transform the discarded into the desirable.

In most of Joseph Bajus’s works, the prosaic origins are usually easy to figure out—an art catalog becomes an intricate, colorful paper sculpture, discarded pieces of industrial felt are changed into graceful abstract hangings or rippling waves of color. The artist makes his intentions clear with titles like Metamorphosis and Lendfield (a permutation of landfill). This transparency rarely detracts from the impact of the art; it’s just as compelling whether you know its commonplace components or not. After all, all art materials are commonplace at some point in their development.

It is easy to glean an environmental message from these works, and the artist, to some extent, encourages it in the various statements he’s written over the years. But it’s not only trash that’s being transcended here. Bajus is also fighting gravity, space, dimensionality, and audience expectations with every new construction. As he continues, the work is getting more complex—and yet simpler at the same time. The materials are beginning not to matter as the results become singular accomplishments rather than transformations.

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