The Burchfield Penney Art Center, this Gwathmey Siegel building and the legacy of Charles E. Burchfield reflect our commitment to the environment and to culture. Alberto Rey carries this torch. Water is the basis for all that sustains us physically and philosophically; it connects us.
Lucy Lippard: artist, curator and cultural theorist, has provided a contemporary lens to understand connections among people, place and spaces. She asks that we consider the water table as a metaphor. What better achieves a model for a complex understanding of relatedness? In Rey’s case it is both real and metaphorical.
Science asks us to test and retest hypotheses and learn, over time, whether our original ideas hold true. Alberto Rey is a scientist who communicates in visual terms, evident in his series of works in Biological Regionalism.
Essayists have written about Rey’s Biological Regionalism – Lynette M. F. Bosch, Mark Denaci, Jorge Gracia, Isabel Alvarez Borland, John Orlock, Sandra Firmin, and Benjamin Hickey— each insisting the artist to take precedent. This exhibition flips the alignment from artist/scientist to scientist/artist.
Rey visually documents circumstances over time and reconsiders the motivations that started processes: evolutions that initiate and complete works of art… or movements of individuals from location to location… or biological realities and their transformations over time. With Rey’s paintings, videos, installations, and sculpture, we gain visually stimulating information, parts of our shared record. What remains is greater than a data set or a pie chart, it’s a compelling statement that helps locate the artist, our community, and ourselves in the world.
The premise of examining ecological change is also a compelling way to understand the relationship between Rey and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. In addition to the series, Biological Regionalism: Scajaquada Creek, Erie County, New York, USA, Rey’s work has been in exhibitions at the Center, a relationship more than two decades going. As Rey has studied life in his work, we have studied Rey. His work in the collection the Center becomes a record of the artist. We initially captured a sample of his work in 1987, with Holy Angels Church and Chair. The Center was the first museum to collect his work. The museum has made four additional acquisitions since, and each of these—Binary Forms: Floating Between, 1991; Appropriated Memories: Vinales, Cuba, 1996–97; Waters of Caibarien, Cayo, Brujas, Cuba, June 14, 2004; and Aesthetics of Death VII, 2008—have contributed to our understanding of the scientist/artist and his work.
In his series, Biological Regionalism, Rey achieves what we discover in science and celebrate in the arts; by extrapolating information from accumulated data, we better understand a subject— and that helps us come to know ourselves.
Associate Director, Chief Curator
Burchfield Penney Art Center