Today's News from Planet Buffalo
Musings and Meanderings. MM
| 14 December, 2016 22:06
I am looking out the windows of my storefront gallery watching a lake effect blizzard blow in. Think I will head home early, as I don't expect too many shoppers will be coming in even though there are only 12 days left 'til Christmas. The scene out the windows is familiar and reminiscent of Winters past.
I first learned the term local color when I was a student of American Studies at the University of Buffalo. Local Color usually describes the flavor and character of place. I try to carry that through my art work.
Growing up in Buffalo has informed the color of my life. Local Color Editions
Next to subject matter, I think color is probably the most important element in my work. It is the dressing on my salad. I add to the collection in the gallery and on the website whenever I am inspired.
I am still chasing my muse through the greater design of everyday life and, although sometimes a little late, I continue to show up to work every day. Here are a few of the recent additions to the collection. To see more, stop by the gallery or visit the website... http://www.localcoloreditions.com
| 05 August, 2015 16:26
1982 was a very good year. I opened my first storefront gallery on Elmwood Avenue between Allen and North streets, right in the middle of what is considered Buffalo’s artsy, bohemian neighborhood. I had been in limbo for about a year, having sold my silkscreen printing shop to my business partner and was starting to get itchy to do something with my life. One night, as I was driving down Elmwood Avenue I saw a cardboard “For Rent” sign in the window of a small storefront of a very attractive brick building. The storefront had been a bookstore that I frequented and loved for its unique collection of art books. Sad that the book store had gone out of business, a lightbulb nevertheless popped on in my head. The next day, I called the number and made arrangements to see the place.
It was a small store, about 800 square feet, with a basement. Directly above the storefront was a dentist’s office. Dr. Maggio had been filling cavities and pulling teeth there for fifty years and was needing to retire. There were three apartments down the hall that were usually occupied by students from nearby Buff State College. All the elements were beginning to pull together like metal shavings near a magnet.
The first thing I did was to clean the basement and set up a darkroom and a silkscreen printing table. The storefront was a tight space, but had a high, classically stamped tin ceiling. I had the idea to mount t-shirts onto board and hang them across every wall as high as they would go, like fine art in a French gallery. The atmosphere of the space was starting to drift together. The other stores on the block were mainly tattoo parlors and antique dealers. My own vision of what I was doing developed as I was making it happen, much in the same way as my designs come to life.
My creative imagination had already been stimulated by taking on every design job that came my way, even the ones that didn’t pay. I realized early on that I needed to get my work out there and known. Making posters and logos for cultural organizations did not pay much, if anything, but it was a way to get my brand out, when branding was known as self-advertising. My brand showed up on almost every custom design job I took on…. In the form of a simple and primitive looking icon of a Buffalo. I painted a sign that said “New Buffalo Graphics” and hung it in one of the two windows. In the other window, I draped a Rainbow BFLO t-shirt over a ladder to give passersby an idea of what was on the way.
Because I think of my work as public art, I have always thought that having a great looking window on a heavily trafficked street was my best way to advertise. This proved to be very true during the 1980’s, when I had a storefront on Elmwood Avenue. The neighborhood, known as Allentown, is an arty mix of small stores and galleries and Elmwood Avenue. which runs through it, is a well-traveled street. Buffalo’s two major art festivals take place on and around Elmwood Avenue. I changed the windows once a month to display the latest t-shirts and posters we were producing in the studio/printshop behind the store. Most of the time foot traffic was brisk and business was pretty good.
It didn’t take long before people were flocking to the store, lining up outside the door in any weather, waiting their turn to get one or more of these hot new Buffalo t-shirts. The whole thing became such a phenomena that I had to rent more space in the building for inventory storage and to expand my printing area. I hired help and became a boss, as well as a graphic designer, silkscreen printer and store owner. It was all happening very quickly. I was happy to be making money at doing something I liked doing and not having to work for someone else. Eventually, the building came up for sale. And I bought it. It had been an apartment building with five apartment units. By this time, my business had taken over three of the apartments, as well as the storefront. It felt like the hand of destiny when I signed papers for ownership.
Not long after the ink on the paper dried, Trudy and I decided to move the family upstairs, into the two remaining units. I should mention here, that Trudy is an amazingly creative person in many ways, but especially in the arrangement of space. In every place we’ve ever lived in, we have redesigned the living area to fit our aesthetic. This usually included, at Trudy’s direction, the knocking down of walls and any other obstruction to making it different than it originally was.
The store got popular very quickly and I started getting calls to create custom design. One of my favorite projects at the time was making t-shirts for the The Buffalo News at the Albright Knox concerts. Here are a few….
| 02 April, 2015 10:16
This image, Rainbow BFLO, is one of the first poster and t-shirt designs I created. I made it for a Rainbow Coalition event, back in the late 1970's. As a logo, it was intended to represent all the groups that worked together under one umbrella for equal rights in our Buffalo community. It is a simple, but inclusive icon. Like many of the logos I've created over the years, it has become an icon that encompasses even more than originally imagined. I am happy to see that, like a rainbow, it has retained its magic and continues to have meaning in a world that often seems overwhelmed by dark clouds.
| 01 April, 2015 11:05
I have been threatening to retire for years.The fact is that I love what I do. I've been doing it for over 40 years and I still love it. But, I am a one man band. I'm at the store most days from 12-6 where I enjoy creating designs and working on my 2 websites, www.newbuffalographics.com and www.localcoloreditions.com and also take care of customers when they walk in. So, I am pretty happy having all these creative, entrepreneurial things to do every day. It's just that, at 73 years old,I'd like more time to travel, hang with my grandkids and just play in the studio. Not sure I want to hire anyone to run things, because I am such a hands-on guy (control freak). So, thinking to just close the store and sell my wares exclusively on the web, because I can do that from my blanket on the beach. Or, find someone to buy into and run the brick and mortar space. But don't know how to go about doing that. Help. Any good ideas out there?
| 15 March, 2014 09:39
Photography by Michael Morgulis at Queen City Gallery
Remember free air? A stark image of an auto shop features red signage over an air pump stationed at a blue and yellow wall. The crisp image tells one small story. Before coin-operated air pumps, garages would happily announce “free air” as a generous bonus given to their customers.
Michael Morgulis captured this moment. More than just documentation, his artful images also suggest a narrative. In this case, we are reminded that there was once a time when everything was not a commodity. A stack of small prints of this photo were available to guests (free) at the intimate Queen City Gallery. Friends and fans stopped by on the sunny winter afternoon to greet the artist and enjoy refreshments while pondering the storied prints. I am reminded of flash fiction, haiku poems, short films, and the small moments we all experience each day. An old advertising slogan taken from a Chinese proverb reminded us that “One picture is worth a thousand words.” More and more, the universal world communication style is trading the complication of language for pictures and symbols. Visual art has always operated in this territory.
Primarily a printmaker and graphic designer, Morgulis studied with Milton Glaser and has honed his own visual language in a body of silkscreen posters, prints, and t-shirts of scenes and images related to Buffalo. Some may remember his Local Color Gallery on Elmwood, but these days Morgulis is found working behind the desk at his Hertel Avenue shop, New Buffalo Graphics. His studio is in full view. Interesting books and art journals are strewn about. Jazz is likely playing in the background. Visitors may be greeted by Kiki, his companion dog and frequent subject. You will notice the rather large professional printer that lends a high-quality look to his signed, archival inkjet prints. He will likely offer you a piece of candy from the bowl by the register.
Many visual artists take photographs as a dimension of their creative work. “But I’m not a photographer,” they will say. Richard Prince refers to it as “practicing without a license.” Seeing the world through a lens defines a personal point of view. An avid movie buff, Morgulis remarks, “I sometimes see the world in front of my camera as a still scene from the movie of my life.” Along with his printmaking work, he has always made images with a camera and shoots what he sees during his daily travels around North Buffalo, Elmwood, and Delaware Park. Buildings, bicycles, and dogs come up often in the artist’s work. Titles such as Fancy Little Dogs on Leashes elaborate on the story. Gauzy cloth drapes sunlit windows in Morning Window at Sweetness 7. He finds “urban folk art” in an eclectic corner storefront, a diner counter, mannequins, and layered views through reflective glass. We once referred to everyday photographs as snapshots (usually taken with a Kodak). Today, almost everyone has ventured into a bit of photography with their phone pics and easy editing tools. Incorporating images into our online text is almost a necessity. Yet there is a tradition of documentary and narrative photography that goes beyond the snap. I think of Sylvia Plachy, Mary Ellen Mark, Annie Leibovitz, and more. Morgulis melds together these approaches in his process-oriented art. He utilizes the digital print process to achieve painterly effects in his photographs, as evidenced in vivid color, detail, and texture. Finding authentic expression in this region is only part of the story. Buffalo is the container—the narrative is infused in the objects, arrangements, and ambiance of situations (moments). Morgulis does this with beauty and humor. Local Color Editions is the brand name for his poetic print series, book covers, and hand-bound books. Local color is what he does best. In addition to the dozen-plus framed and matted prints on display, there are numerous unframed photographs available to look through. My personal favorite is one of three large cloths blowing in the breeze on a backyard clothes line—ordinary yet magical.
| 03 February, 2012 09:53
Trying to keep up with all the latest news, I just read a new Leonard Cohen poem in last week’s New Yorker. I should admit here that I am a big fan. If you walk into my store on any given day, you may hear one of LC's songs streaming in the background. The story in the poem, "Going Home", is a look at the poet looking at himself. It is a portrait of the artist as an old man. It stimulated some thoughts, memories and a story of my own.
Here is my “Leonard Cohen” Story
The year was 1966. I was a grad student in American Studies at the University of Buffalo . I was addicted to browsing bookstores. On one of my frequent weekend trips over the border to Canada, an easy ride from Buffalo, I happened to be browsing through a bookstore in the Kensington Market section of Toronto when I saw a small paperback snuggled at the end of a cluttered bin with the title on its spine, “Flowers for Hitler”. In those days I was still wrestling with my identity as a Jew and very sensitive to any clue that might explain anti-semitism . I grew up in a house with parents who were holocaust survivors who did not like to talk much about their experiences. The unusual title became even more curious as I saw the name of the author next to it: Leonard Cohen. I was overcome with curiosity at this seeming contradiction in terms. So, there I was at a crossroads of consciousness. Should I pick it up and see what’s inside, or pass it by with a sneer? I picked it up and read the inscription on the first page: "In an earlier time this would be called Sunshine for Napoleon, and earlier still it would have been called Walls for Genghis Khan."
“Flowers for Hitler” was a mind-blowing experience for me. It was like nothing I ever read before. It was definitely not an anti-semitic tract. The lyrical lines of poetry from one page to the next were so sad and beautiful that reading it made me smile and cry. I was hooked. I wanted more. So, long before Google or Amazon, I searched for anything I could find by L. Cohen. It so happened that his novel, “Beautiful Losers” had just been published. I rushed to the local independent book store to buy it. After reading “Beautiful Losers”, I became an even bigger fan, started dating a girl from Montreal and began to alert all my English department buddies to my new find, the Canadian author, Leonard Cohen. As it happened, I had friends on the English department literary committee that invited emerging and interesting writers to perform at the university. Not long after, there was a mimeographed poster on the student union walls announcing that “Canadian Poet, Leonard Cohen will be reading….”
Leonard, looking dark and Jewish, as he read from the dog-eared pages of his own books , accepted the audience’s applause in his seriously appreciative way and then did something no one expected. He picked up a guitar that had been leaning against a chair looking like a stage prop and said “I have never sung in public before, so please bear with me.” He began with “Suzanne”. Everyone recognized the song as a Judy Collins hit, but had no idea that it had been written by Leonard. Before long, the audience, made up mainly of 19 year old English majors, were hanging on every note and word. It was hypnotic. This guy with an edgy voice reminiscent of Bob Dylan had reached out and taken their hearts. I was ecstatic.
Approximately 25 years later, I was invited to a Leonard Cohen concert in Hamilton, Ontario by my brother-in law at the time, Paul Ostermayer. Paul played sax and flute with Passenger, an Austin-based jazz-fusion band that (as amazing grace would have it) happened to be to be touring with Leonard that year. Paul took me back to the green room to meet Leonard during intermission where I told him this story. He said, “Ah yes, so you’re the one who got me that college gig back in ‘67 .”
Here is a picture of Leonard and me in the green room.
| 27 January, 2012 11:43
Knock on wood, this winter in the City of no Illusions has been a walk in the park. Except for the occasional near-slip on black ice, it’s been easy come, easy go on these old bones. Which brings me to the delicate subject of memory….
Do you remember where you were 35 years ago during the Blizzard of ’77? Were you stuck somewhere far from home without any way to get there? Were you snuggling by the fire with your sweetie and a warm glass of brandy? Were you even alive at the time?
The Blizzard of 1977 was a deadly blizzard that hit upstate New York and Southern Ontario from January 28 to February 1, 1977. Daily peak wind gusts ranging from 46 to 69 mph were recorded by the National Weather Service Buffalo Office.
In the hardest-struck areas, snowmobiles became the only viable method of transportation. In western New York and southern Ontario, snow which was accumulated on frozen Lake Erie and snow on the ground at the start of the blizzard provided ample material for the high winds to blow into huge drifts. The combination of bitter cold, high winds, and blowing snow paralyzed areas affected by the storm.
Stuck at my studio in the basement of the old Pierce Arrow building on Elmwood Avenue, I spent the night working on a t-shirt design that came to be called, “Buffalo, City of No Illusions”. It was the first of many t-shirt designs I created that celebrate with colorful palette and loving humor the city where I was born and have spent my life so far. So far, so good, knock on wood.
| 17 January, 2012 07:40
For my first blog of the new year, a sad story with a not-so-sad ending.
Last weekend, I got back home after a long weekend visiting kids in New Jersey. It was a great weekend, but I have to admit, I was looking forward to getting back to my winter studio routine, starting a new printmaking project and walking to work with my best friend, KiKi.
As soon as I opened the back door to the house, KiKi ran up to me excited and whimpering. About an hour earlier she had been attacked on the street by a pit bull twice her size. The story goes like this:
My brother, Jerry, usually house-sits for us when we are out of town. He takes good care of KiKi and takes her on long walks. That day, as he turned a corner not far from our house, a big, black unleashed dog was standing in their way. Jerry and KiKi, not troublemakers, usually cross the street or head in another direction when a situation like this pops up. This time they were not given a chance. The big dog pounced on KiKi and locked it's jaws on her neck. KiKi tried to disengage and even fight back but without success. So, my brother stuck his hand into the big dog's mouth to pry him off KiKi's neck. This all happened within minutes and, if the dog's owner hadn't showed up at that moment, it could have gone on and got worse very quickly. The end of this sordid story is that the dog's owner grabbed his dog's collar and took off. My brother's hand was bitten and bloody as was KiKi's neck.
both recovered and okay now, a week later, after trips to the emergency room and vet's. For the few days following the event, they were both traumatized. We did contact the police, who found the dog and owner and, thankfully, the dog's records showed up-to-date rabies shots. Jerry's bandages came off yesterday and he is healing. I bought KiKi a dog sweater (designed by Martha Stewart) to cover the patches shaved from her neck and back where the vet treated her puncture wounds.She doesn't seem to mind wearing the sweater and even gets "how cute" comments
from passersby. Things are back to normal. Everyday is an adventure. So it goes.