Art Review: 'The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni & Student Show'
It has become an annual event, but given the font of talent, “The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni & Student Show” doesn't disappoint.
This year, the work of nearly three dozen commercial artists fills the lobby gallery, and they range in scope and scale, from ingenious examples of graphic design to fine-art pieces that were created to serve more pedestrian roles.
For example, Arthur Germer of McDonald, a 2013 graduate of the Art Institute, works as a junior designer at Gatesman + Dave, located in SouthSide Works. His BRGR logo is a real standout for its clean lines and smart incorporation of two themes in one.
The logo was created for S+P Group for the opening of a new BRGR location in PNC Park. “I was tasked with creating a logo that not only resembled the BRGR brand but brought in aspects of baseball,” Germer says.
With that objective, Germer began experimenting with different baseball symbols such as bats, baseballs, home plate, and so on.
“After a little exploration, I landed on the design that was ultimately chosen,” he says. “The thinking behind the design was utilizing the diamond of the field while incorporating the bases. I also utilized the bull from the existing BRGR logo as a location marker on home plate to signifying the location of the BRGR stand.”
The crossing of the bats behind the diamond was, “a bit of a play on the crossing of the bats seen on the Pirates Jolly Roger flag,” Germer says. “All in all, this was a great project to work on, and it is always cool to go to a Pirates game and see my work on the big screen.”
Three pieces by veteran illustrator George Schill, a 1976 Art Institute graduate from Monroeville, are as much beautiful artworks as they are strong in concept.
All three are greeting-card designs created for American Greetings, where Schill is a contract artist and writer with the humor divisions.
“Along with my regular card assignments, I am routinely asked to do open conceptualizing for different holiday seasons,” Schill says. “This includes writing gags, experimenting with art techniques, developing characters and submitting finished designs.”
For example, to create his Halloween party invitation, Schill began by creating monsters and zombies for Halloween and experimenting with textures and layers in Photoshop. “I decided to take two zombies that I liked and put them in a cemetery environment,” he says. “I wrote the copy after the art was completed to turn it into a Halloween party invitation.”
Though excellent examples of graphic design and illustration abound, there are a few surprises that display real out-of-the-box thinking. One is a tablet case holder that improves the user experience of holding an iPad.
Bryan Kroh of Brighton Heights, a 2008 graduate in industrial design, has been working as a mechanical designer at the Shadyside-based product design and engineering firm Daedalus for the past three-and-a-half years. Prior to that, he was self-employed as a product-design consultant for two years.
“While working for myself, a mobile device software company out of California contracted me to design a product that would hold an iPad tablet in a unique way,” he says. “While debugging their tablet-based software, they found the devices awkward to hold on to and transition between portrait and landscape orientations.”
The iPivot, the iPad accessory Kroh would later design, engineer and see through mass manufacturing, solved these problems. Kroh's alumni show piece on display is a 2-D digitally composed collage of still images of the iPivot's development cycle, as well as the physical 3-D commercially available product mounted on top.
Another surprise is Andy Scott's “Andromeda” comics anthology, arranged neatly in a case in the gallery.
“Andromeda” was published by Little Tired Press on a monthly basis for two years from 2010 to 2012. Now the anthology is released quarterly.
“It was begun initially as a way for me and my friends (also fellow Art Institute graduates) to publish our work and share it with the community of Pittsburgh,” says Scott, who is based in Lawrenceville and graduated in 2008. “That's still the idea; however, the anthology has grown to a larger proportion and now includes work from people all over the U.S. and parts around the world, as well.”
Scott says independent publishing can be difficult and sometimes disheartening because of limited funding and resources that are associated with large publishers, but “we have more freedom in terms of content, and I think ultimately that is why we decide to do things independently,” he says. “It allows us to see our work in print exactly how we want, and I suppose that gives us the sense of autonomy.”
Other Art Institute of Pittsburgh grads involved in the production of the comic include co-editor Steph Neary, also from Lawrenceville, and co-editor Nate McDonough from the North Side.
“Steph and myself both support ourselves through freelance work and creating hand-painted signage for Giant Eagle Market District,” Scott says. “She works full time, and I just started working temporarily until further employment opens up.”
McDonough lives on the North Side at the Cyberpunk Apocalypse, a writer's collective, and makes his living doing freelance work in addition to working seasonally at Pittsburgh Public Theater and on various movie and TV production sets.
The remaining works, and their creators, have equally interesting stories behind them, making for a compelling exhibit, especially if you have ever wondered what comes of all those students who have passed through Art Institute of Pittsburgh over the years.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.