“The New Collective 2016,” currently on display at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, brings together a diverse grouping of artworks by members of all seven art guilds that call the center home — Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh, Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, Group A, Pittsburgh Print Group, Pittsburgh Society of Artists, Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors and Women of Visions Inc.
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts was founded in 1945 by a group of artists in an entrepreneurial partnership with civic leaders. The opening of the center was intrinsically linked to the city’s first Renaissance and marked the coming of age of the artistic heart of industrial Pittsburgh. Since it’s founding, the guilds have always been part of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and continue to flourish as a strong part of the Pittsburgh art community.
Featuring the work of 43 artists from throughout the region, the pieces on display in “The New Collective 2016” range from painting and printmaking to sculpture and mixed media.
As to be expected, a large number of the pieces are by members of the largest of the guilds, Pittsburgh Society of Artists. And among those, the paintings are a real standout in particular.
Here, vibrant works like Lesla’s “Mother Feeding Child” command attention.
“I paint with purpose and calculation,” says Lesla, who goes by one name. “My work reflects our time as they are. My ambition is to give our nation a newborn set of iconic images that narrate the enigmatic contradiction of our existential order.
Lesla says “Mother Feeding Child” gives a new visual voice to American women and their strength.
“It joists mother’s milk and outcry to breast-feeding prejudices. Pain and pleasure,” says the Lawrenceville-based artist.
Adalberto Ortiz of Latrobe is also a member of Pittsburgh Society of Artists. His acrylic painting “Daydream,” is just as vibrant, though decidedly more abstract.
“ ‘Daydream’ is a surreal abstract painting but as the name implies, you can find some representational elements in it,” Ortiz says. “The large central area suggests a landscape with a pale blue sky. The small distant dot in the sky is the moon perhaps. Or is it an eye? If you look long enough you will discover a profile of a head.”
Ortiz adds that the details in the painting’s lower left corner suggest the dream inside this head.
“I enjoy making paintings like this that you can view in different ways,” the artist says. “My favorite tools are color, abstract and geometric shapes and hard-edge areas combined with looser brushstrokes.”
JoAnne Bates of Point Breeze has been a longtime member of Women of Visions, Inc., a group dedicated to exhibiting, mentoring and supporting art created by women of the African Diaspora.
Her mixed media monotype “Fragmented” is unusual for the fact that it is not only colorful, but purposefully torn.
“ ‘Fragmented’ reflects my interest in adding another layer to the surface and how torn and fragmented life and lifestyles are today,” Bates says.
Among three-dimensional works, Squirrel Hill artist Jonathan Shapiro’s piece, “just listen,” is arresting, not only for its unusual shape, but its evocative whimsy.
Shapiro is a self-taught sculptor who is a member of Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors creates work that incorporates natural materials along with found object. Here, metal spikes added to the top opening of the piece suggests eyelashes or the aperture of a machine on an otherwise organically shaped form.
“I’m drawn to taking things apart and putting them back together in ways that are more useful, more meaningful, or just more interesting to me,” Shapiro says.
Representing Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh, Allison Jones’ “Sapphire Eye” pendant and “sEARies #1” necklace are jaw dropping.
Made of sterling silver, enamel on copper, thread, sapphire and handmade chain, Jones says she created the “Sapphire Eye” necklace first, which was inspired by her son’s blue eyes.
“I thought it would be fun to capture an image in a piece of jewelry in an unconventional manner, so I used traditional cross technique on top of pierced, enameled copper,” says the artist, who lives in Regent Square. “Once I made an eye necklace, I decided to stick with the theme and make an ear necklace as well.”
Hence the piece “sEARies #1,” which is just as interesting.
Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic.