Review: Solo exhibits at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
From a wall of pink fiberglass insulation by Wilkinsburg-based artist John Burt Sanders to an igloo made of colored lights that are programmed to respond to all who enter it by Ian Brill of Bloomfield, the six art installations by as many artists on the second floor of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts are sure to baffle, if not, amaze.
For example, the installation “Women in Time” by Jennifer Myers of Lawrenceville, on the walls of one gallery, are filled with pictures of trophies Myers created for women she knew who were struggling and needed to be appreciated.
“I enjoyed the process of making them so much I kept doing it, and then began photographing them as a way to render another transformation,” she says in regard to the odd-shaped sculptures cobbled together from clay, toys and other objects.
These tiny sculptures, made monumental thanks to the large photographic prints that feature them, are titled “First-Place-Women” and are meant to imply that “all these unrecognized and unsung women are winners,” she says.
In the middle of the gallery, Myers has placed her “Never-Ending Book of Women's Rights,” which, she says, “came about after a long time thinking that this book didn't exist in the world, and I wished it did.”
Composed of numerous pieces of slate, each inscribed with the name of a woman Myers has met, “It is yet another way to recognize women, their greatness and wonder and beauty, and how often their rights are denied them based only on their gender,” Myers says.
Also utilizing natural materials, “Past Presence” by Keith Lemley of Core, W.Va., is an installation made up of hemlock, cedar and oak roots that have been intertwined with white neon tubes.
“I find roots from uprooted trees while hiking near my home,” Lemley says. “These trees are from a particularly windy cliff, and due to the harsh environment, steepness and little nutrients, they grow very slowly and are particularly old. Eventually, the trees fall over and become uprooted as the earth and stone supporting them weathers away. The neon serves to highlight and exaggerate areas of the wood and also to imagine new possibilities for growth.”
Lemley says his installation is about “seeing the unseen — the invisible presence which exists in our minds and surrounds all objects, experiences and memories.”
Wood of a different sort makes up Squirrel Hill-based artist Meghan Olson's installation, “A Mind of Winter.”
Composed of several dozen two-by-fours, each leaning against the gallery's walls, side by side, they are capped with pieces of colored cardboard that reflect colored light onto the walls.
Olson says the idea behind this installation is generally the idea of prose vs. poetry.
“I am interested in the act of perception and how subtle shifts or alterations to a material or form can create a scenario or situation that is much different than one might have thought it to be from the onset,” she says. “As such, I am really interested in the idea of simple changes, processes and materials that are straightforward and common.”
Finally, Daniel Luchman of Lawrenceville showcases his short film “The 2,562,011th Anniversary of the Machine” in his installation titled “Replica of the Universe Methodology.”
Describing his installation as “a sculptural installation, situational performance and video,” Luchman says it was filmed over the course of three months in 2011 in an abandoned chemistry laboratory.
A videotaped performance, it documents the construction of a “sculptural diagram.”
The diagram is, in effect, an assemblage Luchman creates on-screen. “The assemblage (is) made from materials at hand and assembled to represent moments of knowledge sampled throughout history, pertaining especially to scientific investigation, technologic progress and the will of civilization,” Luchman says. “The assemblage mimics the process of cultural accumulation whereby civilization obsessively archives and builds upon itself as if hyper-aware of its own transient existence. The contents of my mind and the materials that I collect are deeply intertwined.”
Partly serious, and seriously tongue-in-cheek, the video is a comic essay in which the Western notion of history is re-created through crude material allegories and performed on an individual scale, concentrated onto a singular site.
A kind of Rube Goldberg-type manifestation of the construct of human history, the piece is a delight to watch and one of the hidden gems among all of the installations on display, which each in their own way are well worth spending time with.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.