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Dennis Maher: House of Collective Repair

Dennis Maher (American, born 1976), a Buffalo-based artist and educator, was selected as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s second Artist in Residence. Maher collaborated with local tradespeople and invited the community to participate in a project called House of Collective Repair, which focused on the intersections among construction, demolition, art, and architecture. He started the project in August 2012; a related exhibition, Dennis Maher: House of Collective Repair, was on view at the Gallery from January 26, through May 12, 2013.

View Photos from the Artist-in-Residence Art Activities 

For Educators: View Lesson Plan and Presentation

Dennis Maher's The Fargo House, Room for the Image and the Reflected Image, 2012. Photograph by Biff Henrich / IMG_INK.

What is a house?

What if the walls, furnishings, and objects of a house blended seamlessly into each other? What would such a house look like? How would it affect the way its inhabitants live? What if the materials of the house—the stuff inside—were as animate as those who lived within?

Dennis Maher has been building his house, which he rescued from demolition in 2010, in this very way.

Artists have created visionary houses for themselves and others since cave dwellers began painting on their walls. John Soane’s house in London and Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau in Hanover, Germany, are two European examples. Right here in Buffalo, during the city’s industrial heyday at the turn of the century, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Darwin Martin House according to his own aesthetic dreams.

Our houses reflect our unique visions and shape our patterns of living. Are there parts we would change if we could imagine our houses in new ways? If you could change the rooms and furnishings in your house in any way you wanted, what would your house look like? 

Dennis Maher's The Fargo House, Bridge Room, looking west, 2012. Photograph by Biff Henrich / IMG_INK.

What is a city?

What if every house reflected elements of its surrounding environment? How would a house collect and reorganize the components of the city? How would it become a world inside of a world? 

The raw materials Dennis Maher uses for his house are found all over the city of Buffalo and its environs.

A postindustrial city such as Buffalo is continuously being reinvented. Materials are always in flux. The stuff in old homes and industries is recycled not only into useful products, but also into the work of artists who are aware of their potential visual impact and respectful of the histories they contain. These artists explore the lines separating “real” buildings and constructions from the imagined, fanciful, and inventive “unreal” constructions of the art world.

If you could change your community, what would you take away? What would you add? How is your city or outside environment revealed or reflected by what is inside of your imagined house?

Dennis Maher's The Fargo House, Bridge Room, looking south, 2012. Photograph by Biff Henrich / IMG_INK.

About The Project

To begin his project, Maher asked eight skilled tradespeople from the demolition and construction industries—including a carpenter, plumber, electrician, roofer, mason, flooring installer, weatherizer, and painter—to create small sculptures using the materials of their trade. Maher incorporated their creations into an installation of his own work, which was on view in the special exhibition Dennis Maher: House of Collective Repair.

As the project unfolded, there were opportunities for the community-at-large to participate through site visits, artist visits, gallery and community workshops, school projects, and more. View All Related Events

About the Artist

Since 2003, Dennis Maher has been developing a hybrid art/architectural practice that explores approaches to demolition, renovation, and restoration. His work has involved the harvesting of discarded building materials from sites of demolition, and the construction of aggregate environments of urban waste. His ongoing Undone-Redone City project suggests new spaces, places, and events that emerge from assemblages of city fragments. Maher’s current work focuses on the anatomy of the house, as it imagines the walls, floors, and ceilings of his own residence as organic communicators. Exhibitions by Maher have been presented at such venues as Black & White Gallery and Project Space, Brooklyn, New York; PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, Miami; the Pittsburgh Biennial; Galeria Antoni Pinyol, Reus, Spain; SUPERFRONT LA, Los Angeles; The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, Covington, Kentucky; and Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo. He is also a recipient of the Real Art Ways STEP UP Award (2011), the Black & White Project Space Prize (2010), a NYSCA Independent Projects Grant (2010), and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship (2008). His work has been featured in Architect magazine, on the national radio program Smart City Radio, and on PBS television’s “Going Green” series. Maher is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo, where he has taught since 2004. Visit Dennis Maher's Website

The 2012–2013 Artist-in-Residence program is supported, in part, by generous donations from Margie and Sandy Nobel, Scott and Rachel Stenclik, and an anonymous donor.