Pittsburgh is unique among major cities in that it's museums offer local artists the opportunity to exhibit along with the Old Masters and Modern Icons. This year the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh have the honor of holding its 97th Annual at the Holy Grail of venues, the Carnegie Museum of Art. The exhibition was jurored by Polly Apfelbaum, a delightful (albeit slightly eccentric) New York artist. She has chosen a show which is wide in its diversity but still has a depth of insight representative of the Pittsburgh Art Scene. Pieces run the range from from digital video to installation to found art. Mixed in along the way is a rich variety of painting and sculpture, fiber arts and photography. So many styles and techniques—surely something for every taste.
Many pieces celebrate the rich heritage of Pittsburgh Art. Or at very least, they seem to draw inspiration from the region's past, present and future. Gary Zak's "PhotoSHOPPING the Pop Legend's Epitaph" is a whimsical installation that captures the spirit of Pop Art without imitating the '60s style. Ripe with puns and "Warholisms" this piece is well-deserving of its award-winning status.
The stark, almost brutal paintings of Daniel Bolick are most commanding. The vibrant color and strong brushstokes give the appearance of Photorealism gone mad. Socially and artistically "Portrait #24" and "Angry Youth" are powerful pieces with an important message.
Mark Panza's color photo panels are impressive in their scale and technical proficiency. The subdued color range and subtle multi-layered imagery create a fantasy-like world from familiar Pittsburgh locations.
"Archive XX" by Adrienne Heinrich is cast silicone with inclusions and conveys a time capsule-like view of then and now. A Daguerreotype frame set in the silicone has a Victorian feel, while the hand and manuscript gives a futuristic impression to the piece.
Matthew Forrest's "Icon Line Sheep I &II" reflect the juror's desire to "(let) the viewer see more of the work and thinking of each artist." Executed in silverpoint (a drawing medium that predates graphite pencils) the "Icons" are ghost-like in their subtlety and restraint. And yet, even with their traditional technique the pieces have a look as modern as any digital work.
The crowd attending the opening was as varied and interesting as the exhibition. They virtually exploded with exuberance and their excitement contributed to an evening of celebration of the Art and History of AAP. The 97th Annual runs through January 21, 2008 and includes the "Popular Salon of the People"—a show-within-a-show that celebrates the rich tradition of AAP in Southwest Pennsylvania. But the review of that show will have to wait for another day.