Monday, August 15, 2011

Pittsburgh : A Quick Overview

I went to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for the first time and these are a few things I saw:

Mattress Factory: 500 Sampsonia Way Pittsburgh, PA 15212

A nicely appointed brick building located in a partially revitalized neighborhood of Pittsburgh has multiple floors for permanent installations and changing exhibitions. Sarah Oppenheimer’s 610-3356, 2008 is fun to see in real life but unfortunately it’s in a locked room. This makes sense, as you can fall into the piece through its floor aperture, but being separated in such a way seems uncomplimentary to the idea of the piece. James Turrell’s Catso, Red (1967), 1994 is very Turrell-y and fine to see, his other installations, a zero light room and a blue rectangle piece feel too familiar, maybe too Turrel-y. Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Dots Mirrored Room, 1996 and Repetitive Vision, 1996 utilize her foolproof method of mirrors, lights and psychedelic dots. They are a hit here too, the rooms are a bit stuffy, a bit small but nonetheless they are a feel good time. The current exhibition, Neighbo(u)rhood is a group show, apparently about the perception of neighborhoods, boring in concept, boring to see executed but things can’t always be hits eh? There seems to be money, potential and know how to Mattress Factory but it feels a bit stilted, maybe because it is summer, but it seems like it could somehow have a bit more energy or young Pittsburgh art scene thing or something like that. It is a great space; hopefully it is funkier during the rest of the year.

The Andy Warhol Museum: 117 Sandusky Street Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Andy Andy Andy. This town was just not big enough for you. Nor was the universe but still, this is where you sprang from and that in itself is charming. The Warhol is in a big building, near one of the city’s many bridges and it is a bit of a mausoleum/Masonic temple to Andy. The problem though is that it is all a bit underwhelming. The best of the museum is the video works. There is a room of hundreds of hanging TVs that feature Warhol’s cable television ventures that he started in 1982, Andy Warhol's TV and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes. On these shows he interviews famous people, movie stars, designers, singers, and various others. He also features culture and various snippets of the time such as Chinese theatre makeup preparation and the NYPD and their horses. Sometimes he is in them, sometimes he is not, either way all of them are just fantastic. Another wonderful thing to see is his video recordings of his other projects. One in particular that was heart breaking was when he was photographed in drag with silver blonde wig and red lips. He looks superb but also hysterically gross. You can see his pox marked face and the pores of his nose, yet he has perfected the gaze into the lens, controlling the pupils of his eyes and the tilt of the jaw. What is most amazing to see is that below the makeup line on his neck he is wearing a pedestrian button up, a silly pink and blue fabric belt and soggy looking denim jeans. His frame is revealingly slight and he looks almost child like in his moments of boredom, of waiting for things to go on. It shows so much of everything Warhol was. The rest of the museum had some not very interesting celebrity portraits done by The Factory and a smattering of other hits. These rooms seem poorly considered though. The other exhibition rooms for group shows and other artists were just b.a.d. Someone please do not just stop at the laurels of the Warhol name.

Wood Street Galleries: 601 Wood Street Pittsburgh, PA 15222

This space is dedicated to new media art and resides on two floors and a few off-site locations in downtown Pittsburgh. The show on view is an interesting group show of Icelandic artists entitled, Long are the Days, Short are the Night (recent icelandic art). One floor had a cacophony of sounds and mostly video works and projections on walls, objects and other such things. The noise and lights and crazy music video vibe works well. A standout was Egill Saebjornsson, Rotation Unit, 2010, a chicken fence oblong form that reminds one of 3D modeling software spinning slowly on a pedestal like platform with light striations beaming onto it. This is the first time I have experienced something like an irl computer imaging sculpture; odd but good. On another floor it was sparser and quieter, there was a room by Darri Lorenzen called Converge, 2008, where once you go into the room it automatically locks for five minutes. There is a single filament light bulb on the ceiling in the center of the room. This gradually dims, them there is an odd buzzing emanating from the vents on the ceiling. The room darkens and the sound begins to feel magnetic. When it gets completely dark “Iceland” becomes center in the brain. The light pops on and the door unlocks. This piece is simply but cuts to the point well.

Space: 812 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15222

It is what is calls itself, an impressive ground floor space in the heart of downtown. The space is very cool, the exhibition installed, not so much. It was wall drawings made by various artists made within a day. Simple idea, poor selection of artists and a big space makes for a not very stunning show but it is obvious if the formula changed in regards to the artist(s) that it would be very cool to see art here.

Carnegie Museum of Art: 4400 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, PA

Oh my, talk about just getting things done. To the point, the Carnegie has a solid collection of whose who in art history. It is a check box of the hits within modern, contemporary and also earlier American art. It is a bit boring really but I guess that’s as good as any formula (?). Walking through the galleries, which are very densely installed is like walking through an actual timeline. Also, for goodness sakes a fresh coat of paint or at least wall stain removal would be beneficial. All the selections are perfect minor examples. Textbook is boring but it is educational and I think that’s the point of it all. For those that want to know “what is art” is the most suburban of ways, go here. You can win in the Trivial Pursuit section marked “Fine Art” after your visit.

Andy Warhol’s Grave: Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery, Bethel Park, PA 15102

To go to anyone’s grave is solemn, even to Andy’s grave. Surprisingly it is mildly difficult to find. He is buried in a very small cemetery that is not marked well nor is it very google-able. You turn off a road from a small neighborhood and there is a hill, a small building and a paved road that leads you to a sprinkling of graves. Andy is near the beginning, in front of his mother and father’s graves. His grave is very simple, black stone with reverse etching. People have left some silver balloons, Campbell’s soup cans, buttons, flowers, notes and other things. I left a peach, the sweetest thing I had on hand, I read he had a sweet tooth. It was sad to see. You can sort of see where the coffin is, a slight depression in the ground. Although it is obvious that people have come to pay respects, this is no Jim Morrison grave. It is peaceful, sort of lonely and very unglamorous on this little hill. He has a nice view though, of a simple town. It is quiet there and his folks are behind him and it seems a good place to have your final rest. There is calm there, a matter of fact-ness that is not sad but honest.

That wraps up the bulk of the art seen in Pittsburgh. It is a great city that fortunately does not have any complexes to be like any other place. They have great sports; great colors and they are very nice drivers. All should go and also go to Kennywood! Go at night if you can. It is really superb.