The Front Yard Turns the Burchfield Penney Inside Out
Monday, July 8, 2013
The Front Yard, an outdoor permanent installation for electronic image and sound will open at the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State on Friday, October 18, 2013, transforming the Elmwood Avenue 38-foot façade of the Center into a 24/7/365 new media gallery with works by artist and project co-designer Brian Milbrand followed by film and video makers: Steina, Barbara Lattanzi, Meg Knowles & Chris Gallant newly re-mastered pieces by the late Paul Sharits and Hollis Frampton.
“This new installation is being made possible by a generous lead gift from M&T Bank, a long standing benefactor of the Center, and by an enthusiastic group of donors” said Peter Fleischmann, chair of the Board of Trustees, Burchfield Penney Art Center. “We are grateful for the support of Louis P. Ciminelli and LP Ciminelli, Rigidized Metals, Buffalo Structural Steel and Klein Steel as well as as well as Structural Engineer Mike Pratt and the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Architecture and Planning for their in-kind support of the Front Yard.”
The sweeping curve of the Burchfield Penney’s exterior will become a projection surface, creating the world’s first permanent environmentally-responsive, outdoor audio and video environment. The Front Yard will turn the Center inside out both architecturally and socially. Installations are curated from image and sound art including new work created for this project, as well as from the Center’s collection.
“For centuries, extraordinary architecture and art in public places have changed the way that we experience the places we live and work,” said Anthony Bannon, Ph.D., executive director of the Burchfield Penney and research professor at Buffalo State. “The Front Yard extends what we have come to expect from our mediated environment and challenges the definitions of ‘gallery’ and ‘museum’.”
Created through Collaboration
The concept for The Front Yard is the brainchild of Buffalo State staff member/media artist Brian Milbrand and artist/architect and clinical assistant professor of architecture at UB since 1997, Brad Wales, who imagined transforming the exterior of the Burchfield Penney into a backdrop for audio and image, created and presented based on a variety of cues drawn from changes in the weather. Moreover, the project is a direct homage to the art and vision of Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), the American watercolorist whose art and archives are preserved in the Center’s collection, whose art, in a unique way, incorporates the phenomenon of nature.
Milbrand and Wales, along with undergraduate architecture students from Small Built Works at the UB's School of Architecture and Planning and communication students from Buffalo State, brought the design concept to fruition over the course of the 2012/2013 academic year. Wales and his students led the final design and production of the towers, which were constructed in the School of Architecture and Planning’s fabrication shop on UB's South Campus.
“This creative collaboration was an incredible partnership between two SUNY institutions that brought a breadth of innovation and perspective to an engaging project that will greatly enrich Western New York’s artistic community. We are proud to have been involved in such a dynamic visual arts endeavor,” said Dennis K. Ponton, Ph.D., Buffalo State provost and officer-in-charge.
“The Front Yard design will invigorate the Burchfield Penney’s facade. It makes a performance space of the front yard and allows for greater public engagement of the site,” said Omar Khan, associate professor and chair, Department of Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. “The Department of Architecture is happy to be part of this transformation of the space. The projection towers designed under the supervision of Professor Brad Wales provide for this new capacity with an understated and elegant design. We look forward to the first projections that will bring new life to the street.”
Technology Meets Art
The Front Yard will feature the architectural addition of three 24-foot steel and glass-clad towers, each housing a 7500-lumen Christie DWU775-E WUXGA DLP projector. Details of paintings by Charles Burchfield from the Center’s collection: Moth and the Thunderclap (1961), Wind-blown Asters (1951) and Oncoming Spring (1954) are etched onto the stainless steel cladding of the sculptured units. In addition, audio will be presented through 6.1 channel surround sound comprised of six 112M, Pops15a speakers and two PopsSUBa sub-woofers by One Sound.
Curated by Nature
“When I proposed the theme of seasonal cycles for the triple screen video, it was to honor Burchfield’s life-long interest in the changing seasons, which is such a large part of life in Buffalo,” said Wales, who directs the UB Department of Architecture's Small Built Works program and is active in the Buffalo community as an architect and video artist. “Many possibilities were inherent in that concept, such as the beauty of projections passing through snow in the winter. The idea of the projected light on snow flakes, reminds me of how Burchfield painted sound waves passing through space.”
Customized sensors installed on the grounds of the Burchfield Penney will read environmental conditions, including temperature, rain, light levels, wind, movement and other factors, which determine audio and image displays. The electronic basis on these audio and image displays will be stored in a SQL database and cued from environmental factors.
In addition, three Panasonic WV-SW395 PTZ weatherproof dome cameras will be installed on the grounds of the Burchfield Penney chronicling images from around the Center. The pictures, also recorded based on weather and time of day, will be compiled for artists to use in new work. The camera images also may be presented in real-time based on the predetermined environmental factors. All audio and image output will be controlled by a software program designed by Milbrand using Max/MSP/Jitter.
“I’ve always been interested in Buffalo’s dramatic cycles of the seasons, and how we shift from season to season, a similar curiosity to that of Charles Burchfield,” said Milbrand, technical director for Buffalo State’s Communication department. “Bringing public video art to this region is also a passion that I wanted to create with the talented media artists with whom I collaborate. Avant garde audio, film and video productions flood out of Western New York, and all the practitioners are presenting very experimental and challenging work.”
“Obvious in all of Burchfield’s work is how attuned to and motivated by nature he was. Cyclical patterns and weather highlights mark our time and experience of life,” said Scott Propeack, associate director/chief curator at the Burchfield Penney.
About Charles Burchfield (1893-1967)
According to Burchfield's friend and colleague Edward Hopper, "The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best." Watercolorist Charles Ephraim Burchfield is one of America's most original artists. Best known for his romantic, often fantastic depictions of nature, Burchfield developed a unique style of watercolor painting that reflected distinctly American subjects and his profound respect for nature. The Burchfield Penney is the museum of record for Burchfield’s work, and the artist is represented in collections across the United States including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, where Burchfield was the first solo artist exhibition in the newly created museum in 1930. The Burchfield Art Center (now the Burchfield Penney Art Center) was founded in 1966 to celebrate the artist. He was also featured in the groundbreaking exhibition Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield in 2010. Curated by artist Robert Gober, the exhibition was on view at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, Burchfield Penney and Whitney.
“I think I see nature with a more complicated eye than earlier. Where once a fleet of clouds blown by a wind across the ragged sky was enough for me; now I look at it, troubled how best to put it down ‘on canvas’. When this—the grammar of expression—has become as much a part of me as seeing, then can I return to my simpler sight,” wrote Charles E. Burchfield on February 11, 1915.
Always Turned On
The Front Yard turns on forever on Friday, October 18, 2013, launching a continuous audio and image installation by nearly 100 of artists. The opening will be a world premier of Afterglow Arrangements (2013), a work by Front Yard co-creator Milbrand followed by works by legendary film and video makers Steina, Woody Vasulka, Peer Bode and a newly re-mastered piece by the late Paul Sharits. Works from more than a dozen artists then will be presented through the night. An audio piece by J.T. Rinker will accompany the sunrise, cued by the change in light levels of the breaking dawn. Pieces by David Felder, Lejaren Hiller, Cort Lippe, and Harald Bode are part of the daytime environment.
“The Front Yard will ‘project’ the sunset, ‘play’ the sunrise, respond in colors to a rainstorm and create music from the wind,” said Bannon. “Spectators will enjoy a powerful visual illumination in the midst of high quality sound where they are the subject or focal point of the production unfolding all around them.”
A permanent gallery space of the Center, new audio and image content will be added on the second Friday of every month as part of M&T Second Friday at the Burchfield Penney.
The History of Media Arts in Buffalo
The Front Yard developed from a legacy of media art innovation in the Buffalo area. Artists created important source work in the Niagara region during the 1960s and 1970s, significantly among them electronic music pioneers Harald Bode (Wurlitzer 1959) and Robert Moog (Moog synthesizer 1971). Composer Lukas Foss established in 1964 a new music center at the University at Buffalo called The Center of Creative and Performing Arts and engaged computer composer Lejaren Hiller to join composer Morton Feldman as its leadership. David Tudor and his electronic music associates, along with the legendary John Cage, joined in. Tudor then led development of complex environmentally cued sound systems.
Comparable innovation occurred in image-making at SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Media Study, likely the first university media art concentration in higher education, led by Gerald O'Grady. After establishing The Kitchen in New York City in 1971, the pioneer video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka moved to Buffalo where they were joined by another video pioneer, Peter Weibel, and independent film artists Paul Sharits, Hollis Frampton, and Tony Conrad. Nearby on the Niagara River at Artpark, Stan VanDerBeek projected film images of Niagara Falls on walls of mist, and Elaine Summer Dance created Illuminated Workingman, a dance for live shadow and projected film image on a four story high screen hung on Buffalo City Hall, both in 1975. More artists followed to show, teach, or visit including Jean-Luc Godard, Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller, Michel Foucault, Nam June Paik, Vito Acconci and Meredith Monk, among others.
“This project is the culmination of the Burchfield Penney’s decades-long commitment to media arts,” said Don Metz, associate director, Burchfield Penney Art Center. “The Front Yard provides an environment to celebrate the history of the genre in Western New York while offering a forum for both new and re-imagined sound and image.”
Follow The Front Yard Online
Always a source for understanding the Burchfield Penney’s exhibitions and collections, the internet allows visitors to learn more about the audio and image presented in The Front Yard at www.BurchfieldPenney.org and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BurchfieldPenney. The Front Yard will tweet at @BPArtCenter #FrontYard when works transition and reveal the environmental conditions which signaled the change.
Initial tower designs were created in a competitive charrette format by a team of undergraduate and graduate students as part of Wales’ Small Built Works (SBW) class at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, working with media artist and software developer Brian Milbrand. Students participating in the initial design investigations included Brian Belluscio, Andrew Durkee, Ryan Dussault, You-chiang Feng, David Heaton, Hanna Ihrke, Ian Liu, Alex Marchuk, Mike Mieszczanski, Maya Shermer, Ryan Sidor, Trenton Van Epps, and Isabella Brito whose sleek shape & dot-pattern concept was selected for construction. The finished structures have been co-designed by Brito and Wales.
Professor Brad Wales, R.A. has been practicing sustainable architecture in Buffalo since 1989 including passive solar designs for SPoT Coffee, Buffalo Rising, and the Pilates Loft. He joined UB’s faculty in 1997 and, in 2001, established SBW, a design-build program dedicated to working in the city of Buffalo. The Front Yard is the culmination of 12 years of public art projects involving more than 400 students and over 40 local businesses. In 2005, SBW won the prestigious National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Grand Prize for the creative integration of teaching and practice. In 2012, Wales presented SBW projects at the 2012 Venice Biennale in Jordan Geiger and Joyce Hwang’s Workshop “CITTA” for the US Pavilion. Wales is the co-founder of Nimbus Dance and Gallery 164 in Buffalo’s eclectic Allentown neighborhood. He has been merging multi-media art and architecture for the past 30 years in Boston, New York, Princeton, Edinburgh, London, Barcelona, Rome, and Buffalo. Wales is a graduate of Princeton University.
Isabella Brito is a Brazilian architecture student from the Federal University of Goias currently enrolled at UB under a full scholarship from the Brazilian government. In addition to her designs for the UB Small Built Works Program, Brito has won prizes in domestic and international competitions including the International Student competition held by the Sao Paulo Biennial in 2011.
Brian Milbrand works as technical director of Buffalo State’s Communication Department. A multidisciplinary artist, working with video, film, performance, audio and painting, his work has been shown nationally at the Museum of Modern Art, Scope New York Art Fair, PS 22, Richmond Moving Image Co-op, Artists Television Access, Athens International Film and Video Festival, Detroit Film Center and Philadelphia Museum of Art. For their 2012-13 season, Milbrand worked with Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra including music director JoAnn Falletta and conductor Paul Ferington to create live edited and mixed visual interpretations of classic compositions including Satie's Gymnopedie, Rimsky-Korsakov Sheherazade and Ravel's Mother Goose Suites. In 2013, his work was included in Pirate Cinema for the Maldives Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Milbrand is a graduate of the University at Buffalo Media Studies program. He is a member of the board of directors of Squeaky Wheel Buffalo Media Resources.
About the Burchfield Penney
Established on the Buffalo State campus in 1966, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is a multi-arts venue and a national model of service to its region dedicated to the art and vision of renowned American watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) and others whose lives have touched Upstate New York.
Home to the largest public collection of paintings by Burchfield, the Burchfield Penney is home to more than 10,000 pages of the artist’s handwritten journals, 25,000 sketches and drawings and ephemera. The Burchfield Penney is the museum of record for archives of The Frank K.M. Rehn Galleries, Roycroft, Artpark, Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo, Paul Sharits, Milton Rogovin and Marion Faller.
In 2008, the Burchfield Penney opened the first “green” LEED-certified art museum in New York State, a $36 million, 86,000 square foot museum designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects. The New York Times included Buffalo and the Burchfield Penney as one of the “Top Places to Go in 2009.”
The Center was the last museum completed before the death of principal architect Charles Gwathmey (1938-2009), one of the leading modernist American architects of the last century. The firm designed the addition to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1992 and the United States Mission to the United Nations which was completed in 2010.