In honor of its 150th anniversary, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery commissioned the artists Eric and Heather ChanSchatz (American, born 1968) to create a unique work of art that was on view as the museum celebrated its Founders’ Week.
Eric and Heather ChanSchatz have been collaborating through a creative process that marries traditional approaches to artmaking, such as painting and sculpture, with socially engaged and event-based practices. They create artworks based on their interaction with the public and invited participants through a process they have explored and developed over the past fifteen years. At the beginning of the process, participants are invited to select from a series of drawings, texts, and color combinations composed by the artists.
ChanSchatz’s distinct visual language is exclusive to their working practice, and serves as the basis for each of their works. Past project guests have included American soldiers in Iraq, coal miners in Pennsylvania, Cairo citizens in the Egyptian revolution, and stateless children in Thailand.
Although abstraction is a part of ChanSchatz’s visual endpoint, themes of identity, communal relationships, and socio-political networks are referenced throughout their creative process and ultimately form the foundation of each of their final works.
150 Western New Yorkers were selected to participate in the creation of Universals Albright-Knox 150 through a submission process and lottery drawing. Each participant met with the artists in Buffalo in May 2012, during which time they interacted with a site-specific event artwork involving a questionnaire designed for each guest and participated in a one-on-one conversation with the artists. Documented from multiple points of view, each element and phase of the project was recorded as the on-site social engagements unfolded in succession. The artists have commented that they situate their practice and define their artwork by developing projects such as this one, which brings together “the museum, the community, and artistic methodology in a context of participation, exchange, and collective creation.”
For five months, Eric and Heather ChanSchatz used the information and observations they gathered during their meetings in Buffalo to create 150 unique, hand-painted works—one to represent each participant. These paintings—the central component of this exhibition—are accompanied by a video installation created by ChanSchatz that incorporates the footage of the participants’ sessions. This component not only reveals another layer of the artists’ working process, it emphasizes that a person’s identity resides much deeper than their façade, and includes personal preferences, the cadence of one’s voice, and even the intimate gesture of how one holds a writing instrument. Part of an ongoing series, the 150 paintings in Universals Albright-Knox 150 will augment a growing number of Universals paintings that ChanSchatz have created, totaling 400 to date.
This exhibition was organized by Albright-Knox Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes in collaboration with the artists.