Exhibitions dedicated to work by artists from Western New York have been held at The Albright-Knox Art Gallery since 1934. The original exhibition entitled Western New York was presented at the Gallery annually until the mid-1960’s, at which time it was reenvisioned as a biennial event. Notable to Western New York was its juried format and its call for work, which extended to the eight counties in Western New York: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming. Western New York jurors were often prominent members of the art world, including curators and artists such as George Segal, Nancy Graves, and Hedda Sterne. Entries were numerous, and the resulting exhibitions were large and well received.
When Western New York 1974 exhibited only thirty-seven works out of 1,401 entries, protests arose regarding the validity of the juried format, and artists claimed the exhibition had become more of a competition than a carefully chosen exhibition. Local artists accused the Gallery of a lack of interest in and support for their work and “protest exhibitions” ensued at other Buffalo institutions. In response to the outcry from local artists, the Gallery instituted a change in the Western New York exhibition format.
In 1977, the In Western New York series launched. In Western New York differed from Western New York in that it abandoned the juried format and was the first regional, invitational exhibition held at the Gallery, with participating artists selected by Gallery curators. The inaugural exhibition, In Western New York 1977, showcased seventy-two works of art by forty-one artists, including Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman. The invitational format offered Gallery curators the opportunity to take a closer look at the work in the community, resulting in an exhibition with fewer artists and more works of art by those who were selected. Instituted as an experiment in 1977, In Western New York gained momentum and eventually, in 1998, replaced Western New York, with which it had alternated every other year. The last In Western New York exhibition was held in 2002.
Beyond/In Western New York 2005 represented yet another change in the exhibition’s format. For the first time, the call for artists was extended beyond Western New York to include Central New York, Southern Ontario, Northeastern Ohio, and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Beyond/In Western New York 2005 was an invitational exhibition, the collective effort of a curatorial team representing a number of participating institutions, including Big Orbit Gallery, Buffalo Arts Studio, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Carnegie Art Center, Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, CEPA Gallery, El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Squeaky Wheel, UB Anderson Gallery, and UB Art Gallery. Because of the success of Beyond/In Western New York 2005, this format continued for Beyond/In Western New York 2007.
Beyond/In Western New York 2010 will continue to take a concentrated look at the artists who are working and living in and beyond the eight counties of Western New York, while at the same time the exhibition will undergo yet another transformation. The 2010 exhibition will ask artists to respond to the theme Alternating Currents. While this theme grew out of conversations amongst the Beyond/In Western New York 2010 curatorial team about the history of Buffalo, New York and its subsequent trajectory, “Alternating Currents” welcomes a broad range of interpretations and applications. Under this thematic umbrella will be a Non-Regional Component made up of artists from outside of the established Regional parameters, who will participate in the exhibition through invitation.
Beginning with a stunning tightrope walk on September 23 by artist Didier Pasquette, the exhibition will open at all venues beginning September 24, 2010, and remain on view through December 2010. Beyond/In Western New York will explore the regionally relevant theme Alternating Currents, and its implications of power and energy.