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'Extraction' takes something away from art

| Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011

Week by week, even day by day, the exhibit "Extraction" at SPACE is expected to change as visitors take away pieces of the art on display. And that's the idea, says curator Jill Larson, who organized this exhibit of 17 works by 20 artists from around the country.

"I like the interaction with the visitor and the idea of how things change when things get extracted," says Larson, who got the idea for this exhibit a year ago, after creating an interactive piece for another exhibit she curated for Future Tenant titled "Eat Me." In it, Larson displayed a piece titled "Take Me" that included hundreds of Hershey's Kisses arranged on a bed, expecting visitors to take one or more of the tiny chocolate treats.

For this exhibit, Larson says, "All of the artists were asked to create 1,000 pieces of something that could be removed from their art, either the sub-structure of the piece or the piece itself."

For example, there are 1,000 tiny cast-resin "toys" in "The Universe Hangs in the Balance," a colorful and fun installation by Matthew Paul Isaacson, of St. Louis, Mo. In it, Isaacson has arranged "good" toys, like small, resin casts of Gumby and the Power Puff Girls, opposite "evil" toys, such as Darth Vader heads and Space Invader figurines. "The idea is to represent good versus evil, but with colorful toys you can take away," Larson says.

Isaacson spent more than a month casting the 1,000 toys in resin, as well as the "steps" they sit on.

Even with such a big challenge to create so many pieces, some of the works are surprisingly small, such as "Death by a Thousand Cuts" by Karen Rich Beall of Lebanon, Pa. A foot-wide half dome, it is covered with tiny green, conical-shaped trees. Viewers are invited to remove a tree. As the trees are removed the surface will become barren and depleted, and an urban grid will be revealed. Not to mention the environmental message.

Other works, like "Flying" by Brooklyn-based artist Yuko Oda and Theodore Johnson of New York City, are so big you can climb inside it.

A multimedia interactive game installation, "Flying" is a playful exploration in which the visitor learns how to fly through otherworldly landscapes in the form of a butterfly. Each participant starts a new flying experience by extracting wings that are rooted in the ground and putting them together. After two minutes the butterfly's life ends, the wings returning back to earth. Metaphorically, the piece touches upon the delicate nature of balance and the ephemeral quality of life cycles.

As with this piece, not all of the works contain 1,000 pieces, but still quite a lot.

"On Absence," an installation by another Brooklyn-based artist Traci Molloy, is comprised of more than 300 site-specific photographs that were taken each morning in Brooklyn of the empty sky -- the void once inhabited by the World Trade Center buildings.

Molloy took photos of the void for five years, while she was working with children who lost a parent on Sept. 11, 2001. Visitors are invited to take one of the pictures, which each link to the son or daughter of a victim. Molloy has handwritten the victims' names on the wall behind each of the photos. The piece integrates notions of place, absence and bereavement while providing a different perspective on the magnitude of loss caused by the acts of terror.

Gail Heidel, also of Brooklyn, decided to directly affect the gallery space with her piece "Access Restricted," which takes the form of a labor-intensive terra cotta and cable-tie fence. By placing the fence across a passageway she constructed, it confronts issues of access and movement by blocking a normal point of flow in the space. Throughout the exhibit, viewers are invited to "extract" one link from the fence by cutting the cable ties with the shears. Through this community effort, a normal flow of traffic will be restored.

Many Pittsburgh-area artists also are represented, most notably University of Pittsburgh art professor Delanie Jenkins. The interactive piece involves Jenkins herself, who will be available every Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. through Nov. 3.

Her piece, titled "Something for Nothing," involves the artist interviewing visitors and handing each a $1 dollar bill at the end of the interview that is stamped with the words "When will enough really be enough?"

Each bill is numbered and traceable, at least initially. "The idea is to circulate it," Jenkins says, "and then they have to let me know how they spent it."

When will enough really be enough• There might be an answer, when Jenkins passes out all 1,000 bills she has set aside for this project and finds out what they were spent on.

Jenkins also will be on hand from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, during the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Fall Gallery Crawl. (Details: www.pgharts.org )

Additional Information:

'Extraction'

When: Through Nov. 20. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays

Admission: Free

Where: SPACE, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown

Details: 412-325-7723 or website

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