Exhibits take visitors to extremes at 707 and 709 Penn Galleries
Two very different art exhibits, side by side in two Pittsburgh Cultural Trust galleries Downtown, offer moments of contemplation and comic relief.
“Adult Arcade,” on display at 707 Penn Gallery, is an installation by Marc Burgess, an artist and art installer for the Trust's Wood Street Galleries. In it, visitors are submerged in a darkened gallery that is filled with Burgess' paintings, which are lit only by the glow of red lasers that are focused on a tower of white box-like constructions in the center of the gallery.
Burgess says the installation, which is accompanied by a futuristic soundscape, developed in his mind and on sketches for about a year before he was able to put all the pieces together.
“My installation is basically another three-dimensional extension of my paintings and or drawings,” says Burgess, whose goal was to combine the mediums he was interested in.
“I'm an electrician, so my pursuit of imaginative lighting has been a staple in my art for years, based on a background from my father, William Burgess, and his 30-plus-year company as Burgess Electric,” Burgess says. “This is one factor that has allowed me to learn about the electrical field and start experimenting with my own artistic ideas.”
That explains the lasers.
“I use them all the time in my work,” he says. “Initially, I had an interest in how the laser crosses a white surface and reveals the shape of any object, almost (like) being scanned by a robot in our ongoing futuristic world.”
The piece does take on an entirely futuristic feel, even in the paintings, which look like aerial views of abstracted lunar landscapes.
“Painting is always a must,” Burgess says. “I feel like it was the most relaxing part of my installation and is a way for me to manage a large-scale scene, mixing organic and geometric environments.”
Burgess says he felt like a “mad scientist” while creating his installation, playing with motors, lasers, soldering irons, audio equipment, electronics, etc. “I love to build, design and create in general, so, this type of installation is truly exciting but rewarding to me to see my creations come alive, Frankenstein-style.”
Next door, at 709 Penn Gallery, curators Vicky Clark and Cindy Lisica brought together six very different artists with the exhibit “Cast of Characters.” The artists were selected because they use and explore characters or character identity in their work.
“Each artist added another dimension, and, once assembled, the artworks in the show really spoke to one another,” Lisica says. “As a group, there seems to be an active dialogue and a playful energy.”
The exhibit is colorful, fun and sensory, while also profound, and sometimes serious and contemplative. And, even though it is on display in a small space, it includes paintings, illustrations, photographs, ceramics, animation, and even knitted and inflatable sculptures.
Visitors will likely be drawn in by the four life-size macramé superhero suits created by Mark Newport of Detroit. Pinned to the back wall, they look like a superhero line-up of the most unlikely heroes, including “Argyleman,” “Rawhide Kid” and “Bobbleman.”
The center of the gallery is filled with several ceramic busts by Jeff Schwarz, a former Pittsburgher who maintains a studio in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.
Since moving to Brooklyn two years ago, Schwarz says his work has been significantly influenced by New York City.
“I have always been interested in people, their behaviors and their interactions between each other,” Schwarz says. “These figures and the one drawing in the exhibition is a reflection of the people that I have interacted with either for an extended period of time or a brief moment on the street or subway.”
However, instead of trying to imitate a likeness of these individuals Schwarz uses his own likeness and incorporates some of each person's attributes. “As a fusion, personal qualities enter,” Schwarz says. “It's entertaining to me, melding my quirks and others into a series of pieces.”
For example, in “Good Tooth” Schwarz took the qualities of a beloved older woman he knows from his neighborhood and fused them with his own image. In “Jeff Ramone,” his love of punk rock, fashion and graffiti becomes personal and anonymous.
“The surfaces of the work are directly influenced by graffiti,” Schwarz says. “It is part of my life all of the time and made sense to incorporate it directly onto the pieces.”
Other works — like the puzzle-faced “Plasma Bright” by the Los Angeles-based art duo “FriendsWithYou” (Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III) and starry-eyed “Punk” portrait by a Tijuana artist who goes by the name Mr. Glaubitz — make up the rest of an exhibit that is sure to bring smiles to the faces of visitors who will no doubt be drawn into the gallery by the fun and funky works on display.
Both exhibits will be open until 9 p.m. April 26 during the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's quarterly Gallery Crawl, which is free and open to the public beginning at all Downtown galleries at 5:30 p.m.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offering free admission
- Art Review: ‘Cataloguing Pattern’ at Space
- Wood Street Galleries’ interactive ‘Miracles’ exhibit asks tough questions
- Pittsburgh Glass Center opens doors for a night of teen art