Sunday, September 28, 2008

NYC Art On The Streets and In The Galleries

Art everywhere...the election campaign has been going on long enough that this Obama poster has become part of a street art collage.

While shooting photos for a project in the oldest part of Manhattan's Chinatown, I happened to come upon one of The New York City Waterfalls by Olafur Eliasson. This is one of 4 in the city, the works are monumental in scale, and stunning. For more images see

And of course this experience sums up what is so great about never know what interesting thing you will find. It's one gigantic visual treasure hunt.
While the bloated and extravagant feel of the Chelsea Galleries can sometimes remind one of the excesses of Wall Street.......there are plenty of interesting exhibits there. My personal favorites (of those I saw...missed many) starting with those closing soonest.
Collages made out of money. Sounds trite. Isn't. Unfortunately, the photos don't really give a sense of the 3 dimensional quality of the work.
Again, I'm afraid, the 3 dimensional aspect of the work doesn't come through. These pieces were really breathtaking....most of them are quite large. They have an all encompassing you are there in the work "The Falls" pieces above, or the wonderful JMW Turner paintings that were on view until recently at the Met.
Jay Kelly: Sculptures & Drawings Sep 13 - Oct 25, 2008
Beautiful, small and intense works.
Cecily Brown at Gagosian: 9/28/08
Abstract expressionism, this time mixed with images from lanscapes.
Jean McClung
(occasional contributor)

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives ...

You missed the opening screening, but had you gone, you'd have been SOL. The Regent was packed last Thursday for the first viewing of Pittsburgh Neighborhood Narratives film festival.

Showing again tonight at the Brillobox, and in other venues throughout the city through early November, the 90-minute film is a composite of short narrative films created by filmmakers for distinct neighborhoods within the city. Its well worth the measly $5 door at each show, if you can get in.

Project coordinators Andrew Halasz and Kristen Lauth Shaeffer solicited filmmakers from all over Pittsburgh to make the film shorts they stitched into one piece. "Inspired by the way the neighborhoods of Paris were celebrated in the film Paris Je T'Aime, we thought it would be really cool to see the diverse neighborhoods of Pittsburgh celebrated in the same way."

Nine films quilted together. My favorite was the short produced for The Hill District by Timothy Hall & Marc Neison. Breaking away from the narrative storytelling style of most of the other films, Mr. Hall's photographs were presented photo-roman style. His narrative, an intimate story told like he was sitting on my porch telling me himself, puts the viewer squarely into the protagonists experience growing up in the Hill, departing for greener suburbs, and being called back to the home he grew up in later in life.

Themes of departure, return, reunion, and reconciliation spread across many of the pieces. Justin Crimone's piece for Downtown, Bus Stop, weaves together narratives of 'never left' with 'coming back to care for family'. Downtown becomes the seductive backdrop inviting change into the storyline.

Means of production even echoed the neighborhood identities. The hippest of genres (the zombie flick) was applied to our hip Lawrenceville, wisely poking fun at the fear of a future mommy-hood with Mombie.

Catch it if you can, screening in the neighborhoods they were made in through mid-November. But get there early. Judging from the packed house's enthusiastic response, this show should be standing room every night it screens. for a nicely-dressed flash website with screening schedule.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Voyeuristic Intentions by Sam Thorp at the Wizard of Oddities

Works from Sam Thorp'sVoyeuristic Intentions series are on exhibit at Wixard of Oddities. The gallery does short shows, so try to get there soon!

Several of the pieces are framed with reclaimed windows, playing up the sense of watching a private moment. The palette that Ms. Thorp uses is sweet and pale. The subject matter addresses starkly intimate moments, which creates enough tension to intrigue.



Wizard of Oddities
4314 Butler Street
Pittsburgh PA 15201

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Tikkun" means "to mend" : Suzanne Slavic at the PCA

Star lilies often decorate viewings of bodies before funerals, as their heavy sweet scent covers that of the body. I didn't notice the bouquet of star lilies gracing Suzanne Slavic (PCA's Artist of the Year) opening Friday night until I was making my second tour of the work.

It is a mixed symbol, a gorgeous flower that hides the smell of death. How appropriate to artwork in which Slavic applies a screen of beauty to photographs of human-wrought destruction.

I may be able to describe the physicality of the work with that single sentence, but the complexity and depth of experience provided by viewing it shows the artist's genius in her exploration of that single decision's possibility.

She has appropriated the visual language of disaster photography (the illusion of a represented reality) and applied another language, that of Islamic painting techniques to both the physical and illusive surface of the image.

Each still image contains competing narratives, the photographed 'reality' of destruction underneath the painted image. At times the photograph was printed in a way that points to it having been manipulated in some way, a manipulation that further indicates the illusion-atop-illusion parameters set up by Slavic.

Her painting technique echoes Islamic miniaturist tradition, and speaks to a vocabulary of inner reality referenced in Sufi poetry. I walked room to room recognizing scenes and passages from a variety of Arabic story-sources and comparing them to the contents in the photography. I considered the tension between 'real' and 'imagined' - photo referencing our belief in 'reality', and painting speaking to our 'imagined' re-creation of reality ...

And in the images wherein she overlays imagined repairs to a 'reality' destroyed by war or natural disaster? While in this room, the phrase "tikkun" means "to mend" insistantly ran through my mind. It made sense to me, looking at images of the middle east reconstructed with a Western hand in an Islamic gesture, that I would think of a phrase that comes from Kabbalah (another Middle-Eastern practice, although Jewish) - that the highest calling of a spiritual practitioner is to work to repair reality and the connections we have to, in, and with reality.

Slavic's work may not pull at those strings of those viewers who are not interested in those ideas, but instead it will challenge those who have a hard time looking at the consequences of human misbehavior. Its one of our oldest problems: Humans destroy things, nature destroys things, how do we look at the brokenness we make? How do we respond? Do we numb ourselves in order to tend to life's mundane necesseties? How can we maintain awareness of our ruined world?

My favorite response from a viewer was, "I feel guilty liking this work, because it gives me that silly childlike hope that we can deal with things." Perhaps it invokes the child's wish to bandage the world's wounds so the sounds of those wounds festering do not intrude on the child's experience of the world.

Suzanne Slavic has provided us with complex art for a complex time, the best food for thought. Check out the second floor of the PCA until the show comes down.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sacred Art @BoxHeart


Sherry Rusinack - Keeper of Sacred Things

This is the thirteenth edition of the Sacred Art exhibit at BoxHeart Gallery. As in shows in the past, it represents a range of expressions not only in medium but also in interpretation. The gallery's statement for the exhibit is admirable --

The Sacred Art Exhibition is an Annual Event in the Bloomfield Community. The arts enable contact with The Sacred on an intimate level. By creating, The Sacred is manifested by the hands and a new life is brought into existence. Selection for this exhibition requires that artists submit pieces that explore their personal interpretation of The Sacred. All interpretations, both traditional and nontraditional, are considered. This exhibition does not recognize any difference of authority between the traditions of the God-knowing and the artistic cultures that surround them.

This year, I was particularly struck by the starkness of several of the works. It is almost a reflection on how spirituality has ceased to be a comfort in this day and age. Not all of the works, really. But enough of them that I was left with a sense of mourning. It is, I think, a fitting statement for the times in which we find ourselves. Definitely a show the offers more questions than answers.


Diane Fleisch Hughes - Incubus

The exhibit continues through September 12. Please make an effort to get there.

Box Heart Gallery
Exhibition Dates: August 18 - September 12, 2009
4523 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
P. 412 687 8858

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's (still) the economy, stupid*

Oh man.

Recently, the Pittsburgh art scene lost yet another gallery. LaVie was in operation for about two years. Their emphasis was on young and emerging artists. LaVie built a lot of credibility on its exhibits but it was also a lifestyle shop that offered arty products and graphic as well as event design services. Even with the wide range of endeavors that they were covering they still weren't able to keep the boat floating. It hasn't been that long, less than nine months, since Digging Pitt closed its doors; another monumental effort that fell by the wayside. But there are always others to take up the gauntlet, as was pointed out by Kurt Shaw in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review --
Still, there seems to be no end to new galleries opening up in Lawrenceville, with the latest, Luke & Eloy Gallery, planning to open Sept. 27 at 5169 Butler St. (Details: ...

For whatever reason, opening an art gallery seems to be an attractive idea for many, regardless of the outcome; even in a place that clearly doesn't have a public that will support it. Such is life, or should I say c'est la vie? Read the article

In addition to the opening of Luke and Eloy Gallery, Zombo Gallery opened fairly recently in Larryville. So, for every closure, another gallery crops up to take its place. There is also the revolving venues along Penn Avenue, but with only one night each month to view the exhibits, it is difficult to build a meaningful presence. It's no wonder that so many of the visual arts venues in Pittsburgh resort to non-profit status, even though that isn't a guarantee of keeping the doors open.

Oh man, it just gets worse. It was announced today that the Carnegie Museum is taking over the day to day operations of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. The festival budget, even with its shrinking and scattered footprint, is over $1million for the seventeen-day festival. CMoA has already released the festival's executive and associate directors. I am sure that there are other things in the works as they prioritize the budget. From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette --
"By taking this step now, we have an opportunity to not only better assess the organization's finances, but also re-evaluate its operations and its mission. An important first step -- and the responsible thing to do -- was to put a halt on most expenses until we complete that assessment," David Hillenbrand, president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, said in a prepared statement yesterday. Read the article

So, what will happen to the 2009 festival is anyone's guess. There is some question about whether or not the festival will ever regain its home in Point Park or if it will be relegated to scrambling for exhibit space as it has done for the last few years.

Finally, the trend that has been making itself felt in the rest of the country is making itself felt here. I'm not talking about short pants for men, I'm talking about falling home prices. Do you realize how bad things have to be to impact an already depressed market? Western Pennsylvania home prices have been well below the national median for a long time. Currently prices here aren't falling at the same rate as they are in the rest of the world, but really, if they were any lower you could put them on your credit card.

Of course, if you are coming in from outside of the region, Pittsburgh is a property buyer's wet dream. But the low purchase prices are still out of reach for a lot of the residents. The region is also below the national and state average median income. The following figures are from 2005. What's really scary is the 23% living below the poverty level.
Estimated median household income in 2005: $30,278 (it was $28,588 in 2000)
Pittsburgh $30,278
Pennsylvania: $44,537

Estimated median house/condo value in 2005: $74,000 (it was $59,700 in 2000)
Pittsburgh $74,000
Pennsylvania: $131,900

Median gross rent in 2005: $648.
Percentage of residents living in poverty in 2005: 23.2%
(16.3% for White Non-Hispanic residents, 38.6% for Black residents)

Ah, that explains so much. Purchasing art is something that you do when you have a generous amount of disposable income. In this region, the collectors suffer right alongside the artists.

*Attributed to Bill Clinton

Saturday, September 06, 2008

September Unblurred

Another Unblurred has come and gone. Penn Avenue was sparsely attend last night. I admit, I had a truncated evening myself, leaving at about 8:30. At any rate, I went to just a couple venues. First up was a new venue, as yet unnamed, at 5110 Penn Ave. It is the brainchild of Passports, those wonderful folks that brought us Artinin just a few months ago. The venue has a lot to offer, combining art and collectibles. Last night was their first official exhibit.


Lots of appealing stuff, here! Passports is in the process of finalizing the name of the venue. They will be establishing hours shortly, too. So stay-tuned! more to follow.

Across the street at the Clay Penn, you can see that Laura Jean McLaughlin has been very busy! Some new works were on display and the space has been re-organized and freshened over the summer months. I didn't get the title of these pieces, I'm afraid. But aren't they wonderful?



Schedules for events and exhibits taking place for Unblurred are available here. Just remember to block First Fridays on your calendar!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pittsburgh Art Events: 9/5-6/08

We've officially entered into the election season, and people all over the nation are amped up about their favorite candidates. I can definitely be accused of being a bit obsessed myself, but I'm finally starting to run out of steam. So this weeekend should be a good opportunity for me to relax and take in some decent art and conversation with friends. Sorry this is coming a bit late; I just couldn't keep myself from being distracted.


September Unblurred is here. The leaves on the few trees along Penn Avenue will begin to carpet the sidewalks, and it should be comfortable both inside and out. This month sees the re-opening of the Clay Penn (5111 Penn Avenue) after an extended hiatus. Laura Jean will be presenting Mish Mash A Go Go, with the work of various artists including ceramics by Tom Binger and Louise Radochonski. Modern Formations (4919 Penn Ave.) will also be featuring several creators in a show called Of Beasts. "Jason Rosemeyer, Christian Breitkreutz, Bethany Chiarizio, and Michael Ninehouser collectively convey a sense of warning while maintaining a subtle sense of wit as they visually dictate the daunting pleasures and splendid anxieties of modern day living. " Hey, who doesn't have a penchant for modern beasts?

IMAGEBOX (4933 Penn Ave.) is exhibiting the work of a group of emerging photographers from Pittsburgh Filmmakers (Sally Bozzuto, Matthew Robison, and Vanna Weaver) and Jason Sauer is celebrating the one-year anniversary of his Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery with help from Jon Howe from the United Kingdom. Howe is inspired by Picasso's Cubist period, and Sauer calls his assemblages "Neo Classical appropriation with Rauschenberg assemblage".

Unblurred events generally run from 7-10PM.

Friday and Saturday

If you find the time to break away from Penn Avenue between 6 and 11 PM on Friday, you'll be able to see a performance by Andrew the Impaled at the Zombo Gallery (4900 Hatfield Street) in Lawrenceville. I've known him long before his days in real estate, and I can assure you that he is well worth seeing. Have you ever seen a man sew his own mouth shut? This trick would have been especially appropriate for some of the speakers in Minneapolis last night, but they are much more adept at putting their collective foot in their mouth. We'll just have to leave it for the expert. Andrew's appearing in conjunction with Nat the Signgrrrl's exhibition of paintings. Zombo himself promises "Tikis! HotRods! Pinups! and handpainted car hoods!"

In the event that you can't make it, the show will be up for viewing on Saturday as well (sans Andrew, I'm afraid). Michael Devine (aka Zombo) is filling out his monthly schedule with a series of two-night shows on the first weekend of every month. Apparently there are just that many folks around town who would like to show their "lowbrow" work. That's what I'll be doing in December, as it's a nice oportrunity to try and sell art without any commission. And that means that stuff is priced cheap!


Moxie Dada (1416 Arch Street in the North Side) has a reception (6-9PM) for Philadelphia-born painter Maria Napoli. Pieces of the Puzzle draws on the artist's "emotional journey and allows us to see glimpses of her spiritual awakenings and understandings." But I'll probably go anyway. I like the gallery and its curators.

Back in Lawrenceville, The Framery (4735 Butler) offers up There are No Birthdays in Hell (5-8PM), by Satan's Camaro (apparently a collaboration between Justin Strom and Lenore Thomas). The artists themselves claim that their nom de plume represents "the lovechild of eighties rocker Nikki Sixx and teen pop star Tiffany." You can hold them responsible for this at their blog. And while you're at it, drop by the Trinity Gallery (4747 Hatfield St.- right down the block from Zombo) for Anne Lee's paintings of the neighborhood (reception starts at 7PM).