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Ingrid Calame: Step on a Crack . . .


Artist Ingrid Calame (American, born 1965) launched the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s community-based Artist-in-Residence program with a major project that transformed imagery gathered in and around the City of Buffalo into an exhibition at the Gallery.

Buffalo tracers work on a drawing on the floor of the ArcelorMittal Steel plant. 

In May and June of 2008, Calame and a group of assistants, all of them local artists and students, traced marks left inside the ArcelorMittal Steel plant, on the tarred and re-tarred Gallery parking lot, and in a dilapidated wading pool.

Calame then returned to her Los Angeles studio to create the drawings and paintings that would make up Ingrid Calame: Step on a Crack . . . . Through weeks of painting and drawing, the artist said that her thoughts turned “playfully morbid,” seeing the drawings both as evocations of “decades of loss and disintegration of those places, but also as raw material for the childhood game that begins with the words, ‘Step on a crack . . . .’”

The Western New York environments she traced, retraced, and painted have kept their integrity, but the resulting work evokes a more universal mindfulness. As Calame commented, “the traced numbers, paint, and cracks, like individual workers in a factory or children playing games, have retained their integrity, but have stopped short of being symbols—they are captured images that combine history, physical fact, decay, memory, and personal experience.”

The exhibition, which was on view from September 25, 2009, through February 28, 2010, was accompanied by an audio tour and materials designed to engage visitors with the artist’s work, her ideas, and the ways in which the work connects to the Buffalo community.

Learn More about the Exhibition Ingrid Calame: Step on a Crack . . .


Ingrid Calame installed Secular Response 2A.J., 2003, as part of the 2005 exhibition Extreme Abstraction. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Ingrid Calame traces evidence of human presence in the form of stains, graffiti, tire tracks, and more anonymous marks on sidewalks, floors, walls, and other surfaces. She collects her tracings and combines them with the actual floor plans of places that interest her and layers them into paintings and drawings that look like colorful abstractions but are really one-to-one scale representations of real things. She has created works in places such as the New York Stock Exchange, the streets of Las Vegas, the Indianapolis Speedway, a planetarium, and a church.


Elmwood Village Charter School students work on their Mylar sheets with traced images of stains and architectural blueprints in the AIR workshop The Ins and Outs of Tracing. Photograph by Sarah Ruszczyk.

The Albright-Knox presented a series of hands-on workshops, culminating with Ingrid Calame’s arrival at the Gallery. These workshops were held during Gusto at the Gallery Free Fridays and at community and school partner sites. Participants in all four workshops received an AIR Calame degree.

AIR Calame 101: My Fantasy Residency

What is an artist residency? How do you select an artist for residency? How do you decide what the artist will do once he or she is there? Students learned how the Gallery brings together artists and community while they created their own fantasy residency plans for an invitee of their own choice.

AIR Calame 102: From the Ground Plan Up

Ingrid Calame uses the floor plans of buildings to create a basis for her work. Students learned about her process and created the basis for their own artwork using floor plans as source material.

AIR Calame 103: The Ins and Outs of Tracing

Ingrid Calame traces stains, spills, paint marks, and other evidence of human presence to create energetic paintings that look entirely abstract. Are they really abstract or are they exact representations of things found in the real world? Students found their own marks and created a drawing or painting using Calame’s process.

AIR Calame 104: Welcome to Buffalo, Ingrid Calame!

Using what they learned in the first three workshops, students created a page for Ingrid Calame’s Welcome to Buffalo book. They were encouraged to tell her what they learned or create a work of art for her to enjoy. The pages were collected, bound, and presented to Calame when she arrived in Buffalo for her residency.

Sincere thanks are extended to the local management at ArcelorMittal for their participation in the AIR Calame project.


The Artist-in-Residence Program (AIR) is made possible with major funding from the MetLife Foundation Museums and Community Connections Program and through the generous support of Sandy and Margie Nobel.