The Foundry Pattern Exhibition was hung for the WNYBAC building preview during TypeCon in July of 2008. A closing reception was held on Thursday Oct 16, 2008 from 6-9pm. The handmade wooden foundry patterns were sourced from one of Buffalo’s defunct iron foundries and were displayed and sold with all proceeds benefiting WNYBAC.
The concept of WNYBAC’s first exhibition was threefold:
Buffalo as a steel town:
This is an undeniable legacy that helped build the city in the early 20th Century and unfortunately led to its decline towards the end of the century. As the steel industry declined, Buffalo also served as an incubator for an entire new generation of artists and a new “creative class”. The University at Buffalo in the late 1960s was a haven for the avant garde. The low cost of living and diverse population has made Buffalo an attractive place for artists to cultivate their work since.
The intricate process of pattern making:
The process of casting objects in metal requires a pattern or replica of the object to be cast to form a cavity into material such as sand. Molten material will then be poured during the casting process. Patterns used in sand casting are made to exacting standards of construction so that they can last for a reasonable length of time and stand up to repeated casting. Patternmaking is a skilled trade that is related to the trades of tool and die making and moldmaking. It may also incorporate elements of fine woodworking. Pattern makers learn their skills through apprenticeships and trade schools over many years of experience. Although an engineer may help to design the pattern, it is usually a pattern maker who executes the design.
Patterns as art:
The patterns in the exhibit were rescued from the Atlas foundry on Elmwood Avenue near Kenmore (current site of the Regal Cinema). The anonymous craftsmen who produced these utilitarian objects may never have imagined an art exhibit showing this work. The choice of colors was not an aesthetic choice, but rather designation as part of the pattern. Looked at as found objects, individually or as a collective body of work, there is undeniable artistry, craftsmanship, and an industrial beauty in these pieces. Primary colors over carefully shaped hardwoods such as mahogany evoke a clear, but unknown, intention to these mysterious objects. As the inaugural exhibit for the WNY Book Arts Center, the two-part patterns can be seen as covers for conceptual sculptural books. They can also be seen with fresh eyes as historic relics reminding us of Buffalo’s past with a view towards Buffalo’s future.