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Art review: 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' at Space

| Wednesday, June 3, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
'Illumination + Snack' by Kate McGraw at the 'Repitition, Rhythm and Pattern' exhibit at Space
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
'Illumination + Snack' by Kate McGraw at the 'Repitition, Rhythm and Pattern' exhibit at Space
'Measure for Happiness' by Helen O'Leary at 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' exhibit at Space
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
'Measure for Happiness' by Helen O'Leary at 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' exhibit at Space
'I''d Like to Solve the Puzzle' by Corey Escoto at the 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' exhibit at SPACE
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
'I''d Like to Solve the Puzzle' by Corey Escoto at the 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' exhibit at SPACE
'Construction Fence II' by Kim Beck at the 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' show at Space
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
'Construction Fence II' by Kim Beck at the 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' show at Space
'Paperweights' by Brian Giniewski at the 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' show at Space
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
'Paperweights' by Brian Giniewski at the 'Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern' show at Space

Artists often employ repetition, rhythm and pattern in the creation of their artwork, especially in the creation of abstract work. Think of it as something to hang your mental hat on, whether artist or viewer. After all, the recognition of pattern in all things is very much at the core of rational thought, the very thing that separates humans from other animals.

At Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Space gallery, Downtown, “Repetition, Rhythm and Pattern” presents artworks concerned with just that.

A traveling exhibit in its fourth iteration, the show's Pittsburgh stop is its largest to date, including new site-specific works by artists Kim Beck, Alex Paik and Lilly Zuckerman.

It includes larger installations by artists Corey Escoto, Brian Giniewski, Kate McGraw and Anna Mikolay and works by Megan Cotts, Crystal Gregory, Helen O'Leary, David Prince and the show's organizer, Lindsey Landfried.

“I wanted this exhibit to be an invitation for people who may think they don't like abstract art to take another, sometimes lighter, look,” Landfried says.

“Mediums like music and performance are appreciated by wide audiences, and they heavily use repetition, rhythm and pattern. Thus, in this show, each of the artists works with these characteristic elements of abstraction, such as geometry, monochromatic or limited color, and simple materials, in much the same way.

Many of the pieces incorporate geometric shapes in regular patterns. And some, as in the case of Kim Beck's charcoal drawings of fences, push the shapes into irregular patterns.

Beck's work, all titled “Construction Fence,” are based on the kind of orange vinyl fencing usually found around construction sites.

“It's a series that records the way these fences shift, move and tear based on use, wind, time and weather,” says Beck, who lives in Park Place, near Frick Park.

Not far away, arranged on a long table in the middle of the gallery, the installation “Paperweights” by Brian Giniewski of Syracuse, N.Y., is part of a series he has been making since 2011.

The format, Giniewski says, is a tongue-in-cheek jab about ceramic objects not being taken as seriously as other art forms, “and jokes about amateur ceramic pieces being paperweights or doorstops,” he says.

“On a formal level, I like that the ‘Paperweight' compositions allow for a lot of flexibility and are arranged slightly differently each time they are shown,” he says. “I like artwork that is open to interpretation and change and is not trying to hit people over the head with some didactic agenda.

“I love experimenting with color, surface and composition, and the ‘Paperweight' pieces give me a lot of freedom to play in the studio while making hundreds of little paintings and dozens of sculptural objects.”

When the individual compositions come together, the flat pieces of paper are “activated” into three-dimensional space rather than being flattened and framed.

“I like that they are accessible and become objects in the composition,” Giniewski says.

Instead of thinking about rhythm, repetition and pattern in the formal sense, Corey Escoto of Shadyside made “I'd Like to Solve the Puzzle” in 2008 while “thinking about a pattern of inequity of opportunity and a rapidly shrinking middle class,” he says.

The “Wheel of Fortune”-style layout lures viewers to fill in the blanks, but the completed phrase is less than reassuring.

Brooklyn-based Helen O'Leary displays several painted assemblage sculptures that she says are “a memoir of sorts, of making do and figuring out how to reapply meaning to things.

“The small pieces in the Space show are from a larger body of work,” she says. “Paintings that form their own shadows and whose construction are part of their subject matter.”

These smaller abstract assemblages “obliquely talk about a body that has taken a few hits but was carrying on with dignity and a simple beauty,” she says.

As to be expected, some works are the product of obsession.

“Illumination + Snack” by Brooklyn-based Kate McGraw was begun in 2013. A large scroll laid out on the gallery floor, it looks like a stained-glass window design full of colorful geometric shapes.

McGraw says she has been working on it in sections, mostly because of working in tight quarters on tables much smaller than the span of the scroll. And, thus, for the same reasons, visitors are privy to view only part of the scroll as displayed here.

“I like to think of the scroll as having a kind of formal kinship with Japanese landscape paintings and Torah scrolls,” McGraw says. “I do not see this piece as religious, however, but it is the product of my devotion to it, and when I'm making it, my mind does wander to colors and textures from the Catholic churches we used to go to when I was young.”

The remaining works are just as compelling. And even though each artist has been making work that has a visual familiarity piece to piece, each comes from widely differing interests.

That's what piqued Landfried's attention to organize an exhibit around formal elements in the first place.

“Repetition, rhythm and pattern are efficient tools; they're useful to the mind for digesting and organizing,” she says. “I think its part of why artists are drawn to use them.”

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

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