Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Seven Shows at PCA
Occasionally the schedule at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts align, like the stars in some astrological chart, and all the galleries celebrate an opening on the same day. Last week the heavenly bodies were in alignment and seven exhibits appeared at the PCA. The evening had much of the feeling of an indoor gallery crawl and the scope and depth of the art on display demand more than one blog entry.
“Pittsburgh Through the Eyes of AAP” is, perhaps, the preeminent offering and the first of many events highlighting the Pittsburgh 250 celebration. Curated by Barbara Jones of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, the pieces have been selected with the discerning eye of an impartial, yet informed, outsider. There are the requisite steel mills and bridges for which the city is renowned, but one also finds the hidden treasures and inside jokes that are sure to delight the true Pittsburgher. Foremost in the latter category is Rita Lee Spalding’s “Pittsburgh Speaks” which may be indecipherable to the outsider, but will bring a smile to the face of a native. Some pieces work on several levels, as in the case of “Pierogi Lounge” by David Watts. This delightful ethnic cuisine is not only good enough to eat (or sleep on) but calls to mind the region’s strong connection to the Pop Art movement.
The Pittsburgh landscape is well represented in photo, collage and paint. None is more striking that Robert Qualters’ “Penn Station, January1, 1954.” The color and light in this tapestry-like acrylic collage lift the status of the railroad terminal to that of the Pantheon or Medieval cathedral. In a truly historical vein, Adrienne Heinrich’s “Follow the Drinking Gourd” celebrates Pittsburgh’s connection to the Underground Railroad. Still the cast silicone piece calls to mind the racism that survived Emancipation. Some pieces, steeped in history are also clouded by obscurity so the Pittsburgh connection is not as obvious. Joyce Werie-Perry’s encaustic painting “Uncommon Faces Familiar Souls” is based on an early photograph of the Carnegie Museum’s directors. Frank Flynn is represented by two works, both of which have a wicked sense of irony. “Art Heroes: Memorial to G. David Thompson” is a Brancusi-like sculpture to the memory of an important collector of art. And “Margaret Morrison’s Endowed Chair” encrusted with “jaggers” is a tribute to an educational institution that no longer exists.
Each piece in this show will have a special appeal for the local patron and is sure to conjure up a wealth of memories and dreams. “Through the Eyes…” continues to March 9.