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Maher sees Buffalo as Undone-Redone City


By Joyce Kryszak


Buffalo, NY –

Some people see the remnants of Buffalo's industrial past as eye-sores. But architect and artist Dennis Maher sees vacant houses and buildings as material for his abstract vision of urban renewal.

In his latest exhibit, Undone-ReDone City, Maher takes Buffalo's urban waste and turns it into art that reflects that vision. The massive artwork is on view now at the Burchfield Penney Art Center as part of the Beyond-In Western New York regional art exhibit.

Buffalo artist and architect Dennis Maher constructed an eight foot cube out of two-by-fours and drywall. Then, for lack of a better term, he sided it with four junk covered panels that jut out at alarming angles.

You might say, oh, come on. It's art. How alarming can that be? Well, just picture this several hundred pound sculpture - probably at least a ton - hoisted with industrial chains and suspended from the two-story exhibit space. Then go stand underneath it.

Maher said that anxiety helps the viewer truly feel the energy of his work.

Maher got the idea of creating art to represent a city's ever evolving layers while he was doing demolition work in Buffalo in 2002. He needed the money to supplement his income as a part-time adjunst professor of architecture. Maher said the work made him realize there is a relationship between building and unbuilding - and the space that's created there for transformative space.

And what does society do with that space? Maher stares up at the soaring structure that is dripping with architectural remnants. He said the imagination holds infinite possibilities.

He said, on one level, he understands that his work might be seen as pessimistic. Kind of a literal reminder of what is lost when that space remains unfilled.

But amidst the sculpture's crumbling, decaying materials is one suggestion of hope. A fading, green vine twisted around a broken piece of porch railing dangles from one edge of the sculpture.

Maher said even a blighted city can thrive again.

He said Buffalo is the inspiration for his Undone-Redone City exhibit. But Maher said his work is relevant to all cities. Another version of the sculpture is also on exhibit now in New York City.