FUTURA exhibition at University of Buffalo Art Galleries

University at Buffalo Art Galleries presents FUTURA2000: Breaking Out, a retrospective of artist FUTURA that will span both University of Buffalo Art Galleries locations; UB Center for the Arts and the UB Anderson Gallery. 

Over his career span of five decades, FUTURA has built a reputation and continues to be an unrelenting innovator. He has inspired and influenced multiple generations of creative purists and polymaths while intersecting his enigmatic oeuvre with various disciplines and remains at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. FUTURA2000: Breaking Out is a comprehensive survey featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, studies, collaborations, and archival paraphernalia. The exhibition will also feature new site-specific works. Breaking Out examines one of New York’s most-loved artists’ essential themes and polyphonic output.

FUTURA2000 is the nom de plume of Leonard Hilton McGurr. In his late teens and early twenties, he was an influential figure in early New York City’s formative graffiti-meets- art scene in the 1970s and 1980s, wherein his unique combination of abstraction, pop-culture references, and traditional graffiti elements made him a generational standout in the burgeoning sub-culture. His oft-celebrated infamous 1980 whole NYC subway car piece, Break Train, was a progressive leap for both the genre—and the artist.

He created album art for the iconic punk rock band THE CLASH during the same era. The artist was also invited on the band’s 1981 Combat Rock European tour, where the artist painted captivating, large-scale backdrops behind the band as they performed live to fervent audiences. 

“This retrospective brings a pioneer of the street and graffiti world to the UB and the city of Buffalo,” UB Art Galleries director and exhibition co-curator Robert Scalise said. “Students at UB and the community will be able to connect with and learn from an artist who forged a unique career of independent creation and collaboration.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, The Buffalo AKG Art Museum Public Art Initiative is excited to produce a mural by the artist in the weeks leading up to the opening. It will serve as a lasting memento of the exhibition in Buffalo’s Elmwood Village neighborhood. 

“We are very excited to have a legendary figure like FUTURA working in such a meaningful way around the region and with our two institutions,” Co-curator Zack Boehler, who serves as the Public Art Project Coordinator at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, said. “His impact across street art, fine art, and cultural production is undeniable, and he has been an influence of mine for many years.”

FUTURA will also collaborate with Buffalo-based brands New Era Cap and Oxford Pennant on limited-edition goods available during the exhibition. 

FUTURA2000: Breaking Out is curated by UB Art Galleries Director Robert Scalise and Zack Boehler, Public Art Project Coordinator at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. This presentation will bring together artwork from significant European and American collections. The exhibition is in partnership with Eric Firestone Gallery and the creative and artist management agency ICNCLST/, representing the artist’s fine art and commercial endeavors, respectively. 

FUTURA

FUTURA (b. Leonard Hilton McGurr, 1955, New York, NY) is an abstract artist whose multi-dimensional oeuvre—expressed across painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and graphic design—is venerated for its kinetic power and inventiveness.

Exhibitions of FUTURA’s work include The New Museum, New York; MOCA, Los Angeles; the Groninger Museum, the Netherlands; Yvon Lambert, Galerie De Noirmont; the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris. In 2020, the Isamu Noguchi Museum presented FUTURA Akari, an installation of Akari light sculptures customized by FUTURA; the artist created a large site-specific installation at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and was included in the exhibition Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip Hop Generation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

As a pioneering force when Graffiti intersected with the formal gallery ecosystem, he was the first to introduce abstraction to what was then an almost entirely letter-based genre. Exhibitions of his early work include presentations at Patti Astor’s Fun Gallery and Tony Shafrazi Gallery and MoMA PS1’s landmark 1981 New York/ New Wave exhibition. 

FUTURA’s practice embodies the duality of select contemporary artists dedicated to advancing their fine art practice while simultaneously forging dynamic collaborations with global brands and artists of varied mediums and installation projects. Through both his creative practice and his commercial product brand and design studio company, Futura Laboratories, he has completed projects with a wide range of luxury houses and global companies such as BMW, Comme Des Garcons, Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh’s Off-WHITE, French fashion designer Agnès b., and apparel companies such as Nike and Supreme, and A Bathing Ape.

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