Point Park, Warhol collaboration 'Kaleidoscope' examines art from many different sides
“Point Park Project 1: Kaleidoscope,” a collaboration between Point Park University and the Andy Warhol Museum of Pittsburgh, includes the work of four artists who were selected by four students from the University of Pittsburgh, under the direction of Nicholas Chambers, the Milton Fine Curator of Art at the Warhol Museum.
“The idea of the project was to provide a supportive context for a group of emerging curators to develop an exhibition of emerging Pittsburgh-region artists,” Chambers says.
“We started, quite simply, by looking at art and meeting with artists. The four student curators and I spent four months undertaking studio visits and meeting regularly to discuss ideas,” he says. “We saw a lot of fantastic work but in the end invited four artists whose work we felt would come together in the gallery in an interesting way. Spatial factors had a strong impact on our decisions — we were interested in the flow of students through the space during the day and also in the potential for aspects of the show to be visible from the street.”
Chambers says there wasn't a theme, as such.
“None of the artists had exhibited together before and each had quite distinct approaches to artmaking,” he says. “We liked the idea that the selection of artists would be surprising, or at least unexpected, but nevertheless work visually and feel coherent as an exhibition. So, while the works may have emerged from different kinds of art practices, they reveal shared interests in ideas such as the absurd and the surreal.”
Surreal would be a good word to describe the three video works on display by Di-Ay Battad, a multi-disciplinary artist from Lawrenceville. The works include tight shots of body parts, such as the artist's fingers in the aptly titled work “Finger,” and were created as part of a series of 40 one- to two-minute videos each made in less than two hours.
“It was created using my moving fingers, hair and face, and it intends to be a grotesque and mesmerizing transformation of the body,” Battad says. “There's also something sexual implied in the title, the pink-red palette, and the bilateral symmetry of the image.”
Conversely, absurd is the word for the work of Katie Mackowick of Lawrenceville whose fun and funky collages are part of a series of “desert collages” that she says are inspired by “daydreams of disappearing into this harsh but beautiful, alien-like land on a spiritual journey and the evanescent mirages, heat-stroke hallucinations and ebb and flow of the land and its inhabitants you might experience there.”
Works like “Telecom Oasis,” in which Indian chieftans stand beneath a home atop a desert mesa, lit up by an astral explosion in a night sky, are visual fantasy, pure and simple.
Then there's the large tabletop installation “Replica of the Universe Methodology (Artifact Collection)” by Daniel Luchman of Friendship. This combination of artifacts, collected over the past six months throughout the city, was created “through a mix of lyrical archeology and creative production” to produce a narrative about a place, in this case, Pittsburgh, Luchman says.
Arranged on a table in front of a window facing the Boulevard of the Allies, the objects include everything from toy animals to kitchen knives, making for endless opportunities to make connections between all of the objects on display in some very unusual ways.
“I make custom worktables on which to create and later present the artifacts,” Luchman says. “Through the methodology, I produce artifacts until the table is full. At this point, the collection is complete and the table becomes a sculptural record of the time and place. I use the collection, and the experience of producing it, as vehicles for the narrative.”
Finally, the show is made complete with a variety of paintings by Chris McGinnis of Regent Square that combine scenes from select films and musical productions of the early 20th century with mechanical production processes in factory interiors from the same eras.
For example, the painting “Consumption Ethic” was painted in part from a screenshot of Charlie Chaplin's film “Modern Times.” Chaplin's film chronicles the mounting impact of mechanization on one assembly line worker. In the film, the worker's actions and movements grow ever more machine-like until he finally relinquishes all evidence of autonomy.
“In this particular still, Chaplin is tied to a chair and being fed dinner by the machine at his table,” McGinnis says. “I placed this still amidst a gridded platform in order to reference the Gilbreths' scientific-management studies. These time/motion studies were intended to increase the efficiency of assembly line workers and often took place within a gridded room.”
For his part, Chambers says his role was to mentor the curatorial students and oversee their development of the show.
“We were all so happy with the process, as well as the resulting exhibition, and envisage that this format would be repeated on a biennial basis,” he says.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.