Thad Kellstadt's SPACE exhibit gives play to realism and psychedelia
Visitors to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's SPACE gallery, Downtown, earlier this year may remember the exhibit “Romper Room,” in which the show's organizer, Tommy Bud, aka “Ladyboy,” and Thad Kellstadt made a mess of the place in an effort to reflect a gritty urban environment by adding broken skateboard ramps and spreading trash all around the place.
Well, Kellstadt has returned and he's done it again, sort of, with the piece “There is No Such Thing As Luck,” which is a 5-foot-tall, water-and-garbage-filled (i.e, flip-flops, a diaper, beer can, etc.) basin made to look like, in Kellstadt's words, “all the backyard, above-ground pools I've seen from West Virginia to Ohio, filled with trash. This is a hyperbolic version of that.”
Kellstadt, 35, lives in Iowa City, Iowa. But he grew up in rural Circleville, Ohio, and lived in Pittsburgh for many years before leaving for Chicago in 2007 and ultimately landing in Iowa a few years later.
He has returned to Pittsburgh and SPACE, albeit ever so briefly, for his latest solo exhibit, “On the Glass Surf.”
Asked why the unusual title, Kellstadt explains, “I see the show as having two parts — between floating and drowning. There is this sort of psychedelic immersion, and then there is hard realism.”
In regard to the first part, Kellstadt has filled SPACE with a variety of his off-the-wall op/pop art paintings that explore geometry through hard lines, bold shapes and neon saccharine colors. Many of the pieces, and there are more than half a dozen, border on portraiture at the most basic level, such as “Bored Anarchist,” which is a block-headed portrait bust, filled with fluorescent orange paint splatters.
“I get as close as I can tell recognized form, but still stay on the brink,” Kellstadt says.
Kellstadt takes his unusual painting style to the pinnacle with “Dirty Mirrors,” a massive, multi-panel painting installation comprised of 10 stretched and connected canvases that form a pyramid shape. With bricks painted at the base and a diamond shape at the top, the imagery is not perfectly symmetrical. But, for all intents and purposes, it's a mirror image from left to right. “It's a pure psychedelic, ‘through the looking glass' kind of thing,” Kellstadt says, regarding “Dirty Mirrors.” And, as for the mirror aspect, he says, “The dirty mirror is a portal, but not necessarily something you want to jump through.”
All of the paintings were made here in Pittsburgh over the past month. “I kind of like making stuff, not at the last minute, but ‘in the heat,' ” Kellstadt says.
That gives the work, and the show a freshness. But as effervescent as Kellstadt's paintings are, the dream state they create stops short when the visitor is confronted with Kellstadt's other, more somber, works.
For instance, “Disaster Porn” references the overwhelming amount of media images we are bombarded with daily on television and the Internet, especially those related to human tragedies. Here, images culled from those sources are mixed with more psychedelic and geometric portraits, 26 in all. As for the title, Kellstadt says, “ ‘Disaster Porn' is a term I heard for (media imagery), and I agree with it.”
In similar fashion, Kellstadt mixes psychedelic imagery with real-life film footage in “Huffer.” Visitors are welcome to sit on two big beanbag chairs in a closed-off area specifically designed for viewing, and watch slow-motion video of skateboarders mixed in with brightly colored geometric patterns that are animated in slow motion to a space-age soundtrack of the artist's devising.
Other video pieces, like “Funny Cry Happy” and “Wolves Abound,” feature more psychedelically inspired animations. The two-channel video “Pure American Extreme,” which features two identical jet airplanes on a tarmac facing each other, gives yet-another unnerving twist to the lighthearted nature of the previously mentioned works. “It's about stress,” Kellsdtadt says of the piece.
The rest of the show is filled with a variety of explorations that are hard to categorize, such as “The Summoning,” a massive digital print of an amalgam of death-metal band logos laid one atop another digitally. Not far away hangs a small blanket, printed with a graphic design of a highway. Having the prosaic title of “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” it is a take on rest-stop graffiti, Kellstadt says.
“It's a common phrase you see on bathroom stalls at highway rest stops,” he says.
This piece, like many in the show, celebrates the mundane. And perhaps no piece does this better than “Slight Flight,” which is a suspended piece made of two ceiling tiles that are stuck with a variety of pencils and pens — an obvious nod to classroom boredom.
“I like taking the mundane and exalting it a little bit, giving it a home, a fresh start,” Kellstadt says.
Ultimately, the show comes off as a mishmash of ideas, styles and modes of working. All of which is fine with Kellstadt.
“I'm not a purist,” he says. “If I have an idea, I'll either make it as a painting, a video or something else entirely. It's all about how an idea comes to me and how I execute it. I work equally on all of it.”
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.
- Officials identify man, woman killed in apparent Oakland murder-suicide
- Fayette coroner’s office at scene of truck-car crash on Route 51
- Porch roof collapses in Pitcairn
- LaBar: WWE not backing down from controversy
- Driver leaps from sliding truck just before it topples down hillside in Fawn
- Somerset County man dies in mine accident
- Kennametal plans plant closings, job cuts in fallout from oil and gas decline
- Stat dropoff, road struggles have Penguins seeking consistency
- Fort Pitt Tunnel work cancelled this weekend
- Pa. Treasurer McCord resigns without explanation, to leave Feb. 12
- Rossi: In Super city, everything but football matters