Friday, March 21, 2014

5th YEAR FOR GA/GI FESTIVAL: Art, Fashion, Firemen--Fun for All!

On Friday, April 4, 2014 GA/GI’s grand 5th Anniversary theme is: "Earth, Wind & Fire." It's a tribute to three of nature's greatest elements. Just weeks before the 43rd international Earth Day it's also to thank Pittsburgh's fire-fighting forces for their tireless, brave work within the community.

     GA/GI 5 (99% free to the public) will be held on April 4 with some events extending into Saturday and Sunday in the Garfield/Friendship business district, primarily between 4800 and 5500 Penn Avenue and it's part of the monthly "Unblurred" First Fridays art crawl. One of primary elements of  focus is “fire.” The festival will host a "Fire Safety/Family Circle" sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield which features a fire truck, fire dancers and a raku pottery firing in association with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Another venue will host a fashion show celebrating local firefighters titled: Hotter Than Hell.
City of Pittsburgh now recruiting!

Mary Brennan,  Mrs. PA 2013
     The fashion showcase, held at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, will include designs styled by Crazy Hot Clothes, Katy Dement, J. Chernovet, Jazmeen, Elaine Healy, Sew Addicted, Sweetheart and Casa de Bolas and looks created by CAPA High School Students. One of the top models walking the runway will be former Mrs. Pennsylvania, Mary Brennan.
Brian Kane's iconic balloon sculpture
     The "wind" element will be represented at the Most Wanted Fine Art gallery with internationally known balloon sculptor Brian Kane. For "earth" there will be an educational art/farming experience at Assemble's art and technology space. Other key partners are Kelly Strayhorn presenting "The Secret History of Love," a trailblazing LBGT performance by Sean Dorsey (buy tickets for this one) as well as Artist's Against Fracking (free) exhibiting at Garfield Artworks. And you'll see: amazing posters by Louis Boston the "Pi guy;" Don Jones' robot art ; Gyreworks laser cuts (GBBN/Edge Studio), a fire piano, Pittsburgh firefighters, Jody Choder, an expert on raising chickens in the city, and enjoy a multitude of other artistic and scientific experiences. Also on hand to thrill and amaze: Three fire performances: Sirkus Dayz, Steel Town Fire, and Pyrotopia.
From the mouth of Pyrotopia /GBBN/Edge Studio

      The mission of the Geek Art/Green Innovator's Festival (GA/GI) hasn't changed since its inception as one of the key events of World Environment Day held in 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: To present unique, emerging, and existing technology and environmental projects to the general public in an open, artistic venue. Since that time, no other neighborhood arts event has hosted a more diverse range of scientists, environmentalists, green vendors, fashion designers, video designers, architects, art galleries and artists, local businesses, DIY'ers, universities or students in all levels of education in the city of Pittsburgh.

     The festival's dedication of purpose was recognized and rewarded by the Pittsburgh Technology Council in 2012 with a DATA award. The festival is produced by Passports: The Art Diversity Project in collaboration with The Penn Avenue Arts Initiative, a partnership of Bloomfield Garfield Corporation and Friendship Development. Over 50 businesses and galleries will participate in the GA/GI event! Visit the website for regular updates. Click here.

     Contact: Christine Bethea /

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Unblurred March

Fun a Day at Mr Roboto
Fun a Day at Mr Roboto

Warmer weather brought a few more people out for the first Friday Unblurred event. Including me, and my erstwhile companion. I have really missed going to these events, but this winter has had some really rough weather, not to mention a sprained ankle.

The Fun A Day Project was a fun show. (See what I did there?) Lots of artists took part in this, and it looks like it might be an annual event. The premise is to make and artwork a day during the month of January. It lends itself to small works, but the installation can make them seem like a larger work. This ws particularly true of Laura Vincent's small ceramic pieces. If you missed the opening of Fun A Day at Mr. Roboto Project, you can always swing by for the closing this Friday.

Sherry Rusinack at the Clay Penn
Sherry Rusinack at the Clay Penn

Across the street is Laura McLauglin's Clay Penn. Laura's work is interspersed with pieces from other artists. In March, she is featuring the work of Sherry Rusinack. It's a very inviting venue, full of color and cats. Even on a busy Unblurred night, the Clay Penn is restful.

Sophia McGuire
Sophia McGuire

I got to ModernFormations just before the gallery closed for the night. Note to self: Plan on starting at ModernFormations instead of ending there! I had just enough time to look at the work and get a couple of pictures. The March exhibit, AMALGAMATIONS: Paintings by Brad Heiple and Sophia McGuire, is lovely.The works are textured, color fields. The fields, blended from a disparate palette, remain dynamic.

Although we are nearing the end of the month, there is still time to view the exhibit for yourself. There's a gallery of images for March's Unblurred below, including some from the Amalgamation exhibit.

Head's up to all my fellow First Friday travelers: April brings the return of the GA/GI festival, so extra everything this coming Unblurred. The schedule is full, and spills over throughout the weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Carnegie International 2013 (Part 2)

Phyllida Barlow -TIP
Phyllida Barlow TIP
Last week, I finally posted about the Carnegie International, which is within days of its closing on March 15. I have made two trips to see the exhibit over the last month; I waited until after the second to try to put my thoughts in order. So, continuing with where I had left off --

Zoe Strauss
Zoe Strauss

Special care was taken to involve community groups in and around Pittsburgh with the curators and artists involved in the current exhibit. An apartment was rented in Lawrenceville, where curators and CI!# artists met with selected members of the Pittsburgh arts community. Zoe Strauss (above) set up a portrait studio in Homestead. Transformazium has instigated an Art Lending Collection in Braddock.

Survey shows really are meant to expose trends and not necessarily an individual vision. This survey exhibit covered a lot of ground, showcasing work in several mediums. The artists are from as close as Philadelphia and as far away as China. Some are steeped in the nuances of current art trends while others can easily be categorized as outsider artists. Figurative, abstract, time-based; whatever your preferred form, has their own trends within the larger sphere. A few years go, the term pluralism was used to try to tame the tangle of directions. But it seems now like that term was just a way to make it seem like a fractitious‎ period of art-making had a unifying purpose.

Over the last week, reviews began to roll out for the Whitney Biennial. I was very interested to read what Jerry Saltz had to say. The Whitney Biennial, like CI13, was curated by a team, but included a producing artist along with the professional curators. It made me wonder if CI13 would have been better served if the curatorial team had included somebody whose career wasn't dependent on curating.

CI13 was self-referential, with art and artists chosen that furthered the dialog of the art sphere rather than the expressive value of the art itself. It would have been a pleasure beyond belief to discover a masterwork among the works in the exhibit; something that compelled to action or contemplation. But I think that the art sphere isn't really meant to support that level of work.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Carnegie International 2013

Phyllida Barlow  -TIP
Phyllida Barlow TIP
I am getting this in just as late as could be, with the Carnegie International closing on March 16. I have talked to several friends over the course of the last few months, but only made my first trip to see the exhibit a few short weeks ago and visited again this past weekend.I'll say this, right off. I don't usually read the catalog. I like to go into an exhibit cold, without reading a bunch of statements. The first thing that I would tell anybody about going to see the exhibit is to at least look at the installation map in the gallery guide supplied by the museum. Otherwise, you'll miss some of the installation.

The work by Phyllida Barlow, pictured above, greets visitors to the museum at the street level. I thought that the juxtaposition with Richard Sera's monumental work really set the tone for the International. If you look into the structure, you'll see how it has accumulated detritus at its roots, with empty fast food containers and Big Gulp cups, which may be unintended but surely not unexpected. So many of the works and artists in CI13 were working with ephemeral materials, but not on this grand of a scale.

Sadie Benning (back wall) and Vincent Fecteau (foreground sculpture)
Sadie Benning and Vincent Fecteau
The exhibit is installed with especial care. For instance, the dialog occurring between the works of Sadie Benning and Vincent Fecteau is really well thought out. Both artists have an interest in the obvious mark of human hands in their work, and their palettes are similar. It's a harmonious pairing in this case.

In fact, there is a sense of deliberation on the curators' parts throughout the exhibit. This International was co-curated by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski, and I am sure that there was a lot of discussion and negotiation to reach a consensus on which artists and works to include. The curators' selections, according to the statement, "...presents new voices rooted in history, a sense of place, and play." The curatorial team, and artists whose work is included in the exhibit, went beyond the walls of the museum to work with community members, as well as some local artists.

There are a few buzzwords floating around the art world lately, and types of work that seem to be garnering a lot of attention. The sculptor as painter, artists whose work is a curation of life, abstraction, and anti-monumental art are all concepts that have surfaced in recent critical discourse. The curators of CI13 certainly included examples of these types of art in the exhibit. Since these are current trends, and this is a survey exhibit of contemporary art, there is real reason to acknowledge this type of discourse. Many of the works referenced the artworld and previous art movements. The exhibit reflects the pluralism prevalent in the arts community, with narrative paintings sharing space with found object assemblage and an exhibit that runs the gamut of static to ephemeral to installation.

While I did enjoy several of the pieces and artists included in the exhibit, I would be hard-pressed to say that I found anything particularly compelling. I suppose I've grown jaded, after decades of producing and viewing art. Although the politics and social commentary in some of the pieces is well-expressed, they are already points of view that I hold; I need no convincing. Nothing really stopped me in my tracks and made me say I've never thought of it that way or I wonder how that was made. But that's okay. I may be outside the demographic that the show is trying to reach.

Pedro Reyes - Disarm
Pedro Reyes Disarm
Pedro Reyes' Disarm is unequivocally the most popular installation in this edition of the Carnegie International. Disarm is an orchestra constructed from salvaged guns and other weapons of destruction. It's such an uplifting piece, with its idea that you can undermine the violence of war by repurposing its tools. I found myself waiting for those moments when the instruments would produce a concert of sorts, with several instruments producing sound at the same time. Honestly, I really enjoyed this work. It would be interesting to see a performance of musicians using these instruments.

Guo Fengyi
Guo Fengyi

Guo Fengyi's scrolls were installed in the last of the line of galleries. Of all of the works presented in the exhibit, these were the ones that tugged at my heart.These seemed very personal, from their subject to their execution. The marks were practiced and deliberate while the work itself freely flowed.

Nicole Eisenman
Nicole Eisenman
The museum had an interesting photography policy allowing visitors to take pictures of some of the exhibit. It wasn't permitted with Nicole Eisenman's work, so I linked the above image from Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. The work pictured above is not included in CI13, but I think it is representative. Ms. Eisenman's presence in the exhibit is a retrospective of her work, spanning twenty years of painting.

The paintings borrow from several movements, heavily influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and Fauvism. Her hand on her tools is as varied, from flat, broad brushstrokes to areas where contrasting colors are blended into harmony. Her work is very art meta, talking about style and technique in a cacophony of colors and figures that become the focus rather than the vehicle of expression.

This post has gotten long, and I don't think I've said everything I'd like to say about CI13. So, even though I didn't intend to, I will post a second installment in the next few days. There are a couple small details that I want to mention. CMoA is closed on Tuesdays but is open on Mondays, with extended hours on Thursdays. The Museum is free every Thursday evening in March.