"Romper Room" exhibit at SPACE gallery balances order, chaos
By Kurt Shaw
Published: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 8:04 p.m.
From the looks of it, the inside of SPACE gallery, Downtown, has been turned inside out. There's graffiti on the walls, empty beer bottles and other garbage strewn about, even an upturned grocery cart. It's as if the gritty urban scene of some parts of the city have come inside for the winter, all in the name of art.
The whole mess is the doing, or perhaps we should say undoing, of seven artists — Jen Cooney, Jae Ruberto, Jacob Ciocci, Matt Barton, Thad Kellstadt, Jim Lingo and Ladyboy. All are in their 30s, and they grew up with a sense of street culture mixed in with the knowledge that it was, and is, a culture unto itself.
Many of them are far flung now (for example, Kellstadt is in Iowa City, Iowa; Ruberto in Boston), but all of them had made Pittsburgh home at some point, and some still do.
“The idea behind the ramps, beer bottles, trash and graffiti was to make an easily identifiable place that many from our generation would instantly recognize as the place that you hung out at as an adolescent,” says the exhibit's organizer, Tommy Bud, who goes by the moniker “Ladyboy.”
A former pro skateboarder who lives in Bloomfield, Bud spent years skating on ramps that were off the beaten path, in poor neighborhoods or worse conditions.
Regardless of why he and his friends ended up in these places, he says, “to some of us, this (exhibit) is a sort of throwback to our youth. To others, this show is just a pile of trash in a gallery. I'm totally into that, too. It's not really for everyone.”
And even though Bud built a career out of skateboarding, he says, “To be clear, this show is not about skateboarding.”
Nevertheless, there are a few skateboards thrown in for good measure, either sticking out of a skateboard ramp or two, or lying, broken in half, in the middle of the floor.
Bud says, “to make what we did was quite a bit of fun.”
He and Kellstadt made the ramps and spread around the trash, while Cooney, the only woman included in the show, had a good old time setting up a blanketed “Tree Fort” off in one corner of the gallery that kids and small adults can climb into and read a book or look at a few of her framed drawings.
Ciocci, who creates what Bud calls “over-stimulated paintings,” has placed several cat-theme works in a line that leads to an animated video he made of them he calls “Copy Cats.” And not far away in distance and spirit, Barton displays an enormous abstract print and a small forest diorama complete with a copulating couple of teddy bears that he has taken to animating, as well.
Not short on imagination, Lingo relocated his bedroom and many of the artifacts he has spent his life collecting, along with paintings and drawings of his own and his friends in an installation he calls “Bedroom O.D./On Your Knees.” And in addition, he has placed a voodoo-inspired installation in the gallery's window that looks like something you'd stumble upon in the backwoods of a swamp, complete with animal skulls, bones and bits of trash that make it look like some kind of pseudo-shamanistic ritual took place there.
Finally, Ruberto displays several shots from his new photography career in Boston where he works mainly as a wedding photographer, as well as shooting other subjects such as the two hilarious (and somewhat creepy) headshots of “Kevin Driscoll: Boston's only professional Santa and ventriloquist.”
“Jae Ruberto added many candid and staged photos and allowed us to graffiti them up if they were in the way,” Bud says, adding, “Jen, Thad, Jim, Jacob, and I were the ones that did all of the graffiti.”
Bud says the show is all about having fun.
“When I was putting together the group I really wanted us to have a good time and made that the driving point in my invitations,” he says. “We all have similar creative tendencies in our individual works, and I knew that we were going to be able to riff off one another and that's what we did. Overall, I really feel satisfied with the balance between chaos and order.”
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Artists’ creative ‘Collective’ on display in Shadyside
- Review: James Gallery collection reveals complex works painted with wax