2013 Carnegie International welcomes the world

Kurt Shaw
| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 6:37 p.m.

If you've driven by the Carnegie Museum of Art at any time during the past week, you may have noticed the massive stack of scrap wood wrapped in brightly colored fabric billowing forth from the museum's main entrance.

Like flags in a parade, the blue, magenta and orange strips of fabric herald the coming of the 2013 Carnegie International, which will open this weekend with much fanfare.

Held every three to five years, it's the oldest international survey of contemporary art in North America and the second-oldest in the world.

The aforementioned piece is titled “TIP” and is by Phyllida Barlow, a Brit with a 40-plus-year career as an artist and one of the 35 artists from 19 countries featured in this exhibit.

The exhibition is actually three in one: “The Playground Project,” “The Collection” and the 2013 Carnegie International.

It encompasses the whole museum, from the Lozziwurm, a colorful play sculpture situated in front of the museum, to the work of New York-based digital painter Wade Guyton, whose massive untitled paintings fill the coat room.

Yes, the coat room.

“We ripped out all the coat racks from the coat room,” curator Daniel Baumann says. “It's a pity to have one of the most beautiful spaces in the museum used for coat racks. It's still the coat room, but now it's filled with paintings.”

Baumann is one of three curators, along with Dan Byers and Tina Kukielski, who each traveled the world looking for artworks that not only spoke to one another, but spoke to the world and life at large.

They say one of the main themes to arise from this 56th iteration of the International is diversity.

“It's diverse in terms of it being international, as far as race, class, etc., but it's also diverse in terms of difference, how you distinguish between things,” Byers says. “Because, this show is almost an index of how (artists) make contemporary art today.”

Baumann says it's also about where their art is made or “takes place.”

“It can take place in a coat room, it takes place in a gallery, it takes place outside, it takes place in Krakow and Poland, it takes place in Braddock. It has very specific origins, but then it speaks out to the world,” he says.

Founded at the behest of industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896, this international exhibition series was started as a way to build the museum's permanent collection, so the collection itself is a kind of archaeological record of the exhibit's history. And thus, “The Collection” portion of the exhibit features an ambitious re-installation of part of the museum's permanent collection.

Here, you will find pieces like Winslow Homer's “The Wreck” (1896), one of the very first pieces to be acquired by the museum from the very first International exhibition, hung not far from steel road plates that weigh a few tons placed on the floor of the Sarah Scaife Galleries, compressing sheets of fine French silk, in an installation by Italian artist Lara Favaretto.

“The Playground Project” portion of the exhibition occupies the Heinz Galleries. There, visitors will find photographs, models and videos of different kinds of recreational sculptures and play parks throughout the United States, Europe and Japan, such as the Lozziwurm, which was designed in 1972 by the Swiss sculptor Yvan Pestalozzi.

The remaining works of the 2013 Carnegie International are housed in the Heinz Galleries, which showcase drawings, paintings, sculpture, video and installation art by 10 artists exploring a variety of different mediums and modes of expression, including a massive display of 57 drawings by the late Joseph Yoakum (1890-1972), a self-taught landscape artist of African-American and Native American descent.

It is “the largest exhibition of (Yoakum's) drawings to date,” Byers says.

The exhibition is not without elements of performance. On Oct. 5, visitors will be privy to performances by a few of the exhibiting artists:

• Rodney Graham, whose silent film “The Green Cinematograph (Programme I: Pipe smoker and overflowing sink)” is on display in the Heinz Galleries, will perform an acoustic set, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Carnegie Music Hall.

• Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl will perform “Soccer Ball and Figure,” a performance and interactive experience for all ages in the Museum of Art lobby, beginning at 11 a.m. and ending up across the street on the lawn of the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.

• Serbian artist Mladen Stilinovic, whose work fills Gallery One, will read from his text, “The Praise of Laziness,” in the coatroom gallery on the museum's first floor, beginning at 2:30 p.m.

• And Polish puppeteer Paulina Olowska's “Museum Piece (For Margot Lovelace)” will be performed by Kristen Barca and Joann Kielar in the Carnegie Cafe on the museum's first floor, beginning at 3 p.m.

Then on Oct. 6, Transformazium, a Braddock-based artist collective that has created an art-lending collection in the Braddock Carnegie Library that includes pieces by all of the artists participating in the 2013 Carnegie International, will celebrate the opening of their project with a day of festivities, activities and tours of the Braddock branch of the Carnegie Library. Buses will run to and from the Carnegie Museum of Art during this event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Visit carnegieinternational.org/calendar to browse upcoming events.

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kshaw@tribweb.com.

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