When we grow accustomed to our day-to-day environment, we may come to believe that the spaces we live in are unremarkable. Artists like Tonawanda, New York, native Sarah Braman (American, born 1970) hope that we can take another look. Braman encourages us to think about the ways in which function, history, aesthetics, and spirituality continually shape our immediate environment. Brought meaningfully to the forefront of our minds when we encounter Braman’s sculptures, we are, at least momentarily, unable to remain indifferent to these spaces.
Braman makes domestically-scaled indoor and monumental outdoor sculptures that celebrate everyday life. In her indoor practice, she combines found objects like furniture, doors, and pieces of scrapyard vehicles with colorful geometric volumes. Composed by similar means, her outdoor sculptures made from concrete culverts that lie beneath our roads and buildings, are enlivened by the addition of colored glass. Finding Room brings Braman’s indoor and outdoor sculptures together for the very first time.
Situating Finding Room on and within Graycliff, designed by Wright in 1926, places Braman’s work in conversation with this architectural masterpiece. In their practices, Wright and Braman explore the relationship of nature and found elements to humanmade objects, drawing attention to lived experience with deceivingly simple formal gestures. Wright combined glass, wood, and stone taken directly from the site to create the intricate details of the organic style of architecture that became his legacy. Braman uses similar materials to create forms that revere commonly overlooked aspects of daily life. The interaction between natural and humanmade materials and, perhaps especially, the dialogue between light and glass are springboards for both artists.
Braman’s sculptures can be viewed in relationship to the formal legacies of modernism, like Color Field painting and Minimalist sculpture. Instead of the white cube gallery space and what it implies, Braman’s preferred context is domestic, so that the sculptures be experienced as part of one’s everyday life. As such, placing her sculptures in a home that is itself part of the modernist tradition yet also carries the warmth and intimacy of a beloved family home, underscores how Braman’s work both resists and embraces modernist traditions to reconsider our lived environment.
Like Graycliff itself, the monumental outdoor pieces on its grounds will respond to and be changed by the seasons: over the course of the exhibition, all of these structures—containers for life—will look out onto Lake Erie, be bathed in the heat of sunlight in the summer, witness to autumn, and be draped with snow in the winter. Changing weather and light conditions will provide varied visual and physical experiences of Braman’s sculptures, inviting multiple visits and fostering an ongoing engagement with this important site.
Finding Room is the first collaboration between the Curatorial and Public Art departments to take place outside of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum campus. The exhibition will open July 30, 2022. The interior works will remain on view through March 19, 2023, and the outdoor works until October 1, 2023.