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Reflections: Lucas Samaras at the Albright Knox

Exhibit Duration: Saturday, June 21st until Sunday, November 16th

Update 12/5: Lucas Samaras’ “Mirrored Room” is staying at the Knox until Jan 4, 2015.

The Albright Knox is one of Buffalo’s hidden gems:  In my opinion, people often underestimate how much the museum contributes to culture—not only locally, but, worldwide.

Located in the heart of Elmwood, The Albright Knox houses some of the most beautiful and eclectic collections in Buffalo, ranging from classical to contemporary eras.  The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate it.  I still remember visiting the museum for the first time on a field trip in high school.  Even then, I knew that it was something special, and we should celebrate it.  According to albrightknox.org, the gallery was built in 1862, making it one of the oldest art museums in America.  The building itself is a monument, and the space is perfect for large groups and couples alike.  Possessing tranquility and refinement, the Knox lends itself to you if you’re feeling thoughtful, and also works as a place to spend time alone while cultivating your thoughts; it is the epitome of inspiring.

Recently, I visited the Knox for the first time this fall season.  With the weather steadily cooling, the Knox provides a pleasant space to cozy up inside.  After this past weekend, I found that my appreciation for the museum had been greatly rejuvenated.  During most of my visits, I always appreciated fawning over artists like Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso (just a few examples of some of the most revered artists the Knox showcases!).  On this chilly fall day, however, my attention was unexpectedly held by an artist I had not yet heard of.  During my ritual walkthrough of the museum, I found myself paused in front of a collection of photos by Lucas Samaras.

Lucas Samaras’ collection, Reflections, is the embodiment of eerie and foreboding.  With that being said, it’s appropriately creepy for this upcoming Halloween!  Hanging neatly against a grey backdrop were portraits of several men and women, both young and old.  The photographs were deep and opaque, and mainly colored in grey-scale, with the exception of a few neon highlights on the subjects’ faces.  Every face seemed to look down upon me, as if I were being scolded by a parent or teacher.  The photographs were strange— in the best way possible.  Looking away was difficult; I spent a lot of time peering into each set of eyes, wondering what the photographs were supposed to represent.  Were these family members?  Did Samaras know these people personally?   Or were they random subjects?  Although each person was solemn, they seemed alive–almost frighteningly so.  If you don’t celebrate Halloween extravagantly, or if you find yourself without plans this year, you should consider going to see Samaras’s collection, especially since it will only be for a little while longer.  Perhaps you can come up with some answers to the questions I haven’t figured out!

After I finally moved myself from the photos, I started to look around at the surrounding pieces.  I had no idea that Samaras had created just about everything next to the photographs—and I was eager to see what other surprises he had in store.  Across from the photographs was a small glass case with three levels; on each level sat little multicolored-boxes sat.  They reminded me of miniature presents combined with oragami.  Similar to the photographs, they left me perplexed.  I had no idea what they were intended to represent, but enjoyed looking at them nonetheless.  On the wall to the left of the photographs was a giant, colorful canvas.  Entitled Reconstruction 28, the canvas was entirely created out of fabrics that had been deconstructed and reconstructed into an abstract piece.  I was hypnotized by the canvas, and intrigued by Samaras’s manipulation of fabrics—there were so many intricate lines running through it.  I didn’t know which thread to follow!  Unlike many other pieces of artwork, Samaras’s Reconstruction was interactive: just like a magnet, it pulled me in.

By far the strangest, and simultaneously, the most fascinating piece in the Reflections collection was Room No. 2.  More commonly known as Mirrored Room, the piece, as the title suggests, is literally a room made entirely out of mirrors on wood.  Despite my initial hesitance, I decided to go into the room (make sure to wear socks if you want to go inside the room, as you have to remove your shoes before entering).  As you might expect, the experience was surreal.  I looked at myself in the mirrors, and didn’t know where to focus: it seemed like there were millions of reflections of me, coming from every angle.  It was intense–and slightly claustrophobia-inducing (which Samaras professes is one of the effects he wanted to achieve in making the piece).  When I was in the room, the security guard advised me, “Look down!  It seems like you’re in an elevator shaft.”  He was completely accurate in that statement: I definitely felt like I was standing in an elevator shaft, removed from place and time.  Even more surprisingly, there, in the middle of the tiny mirror-room, sat a mirror-table and a mirror-chair.  The mixture of these common-place household items with the dream-like atmosphere created an unsettling effect.  Admittedly, Samaras is known for just this type of contrast, and if you think about all of the pieces collectively, you’ll realize that all of his pieces combine the abstract with the mundane.  Standing in that room was the closest I have ever felt to floating.

So, if you do get the chance to visit the Knox before November 16th, don’t leave without at least going inside the mirrored room.  Samaras’s collection is only up for a little while longer, and it’s certainly worth the trip!

Albright Knox Art Gallery

1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York 1422

(716) 882-8700

WEBSITE

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