With 10 solo and collaborative exhibits filling up the entirety of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside, there is plenty to see and time to be spent enjoying the creative efforts of more than a dozen artists from throughout the region.
The collaborative artists are David Bernabo and Emily Walley; Jeremy Boyle and Mark Franchino; and Eli Blasko, Eric Charlton and Ian F. Thomas.
The solo artists are Stephen Chalmers, Jonathan Chamberlain, Lizzy DeVita, William McAllister, David Montano, Lenore D. Thomas and Kara Ruth Snyder.
Most intriguing among the collaborative exhibits is “Inter-Subjectivity” by Blasko, Charlton and Thomas. Taking the entirety of one gallery, their ceiling-hung installation looks like a large minimalist sculpture, or a big white block of Swiss cheese clinging to the ceiling. But, put your head in one of the three holes, and you will see that each contains a miniature landscape made up of everything from tiny people to glitter-topped mountains.
Each viewpoint is different, but the thread that runs among them is one inspired by contemporary American pop culture, right down to the miniature billboards along tiny highways.
Oddly, Jeremy Boyle and Mark Franchino decided to raise the bulk of their installation, “Untitled 1,” to the ceiling as well. But instead of installing landscapes in their box-like construction (in this case made to look like a crate), Boyle has installed a soundscape that mimics birds chirping, but actually comes from circuits that he constructed — it is not recorded sound.
The solo exhibits are just as compelling. Chamberlain’s exhibit “Slo Poke” is the first you’ll see when you walk through the door. Several pop-art paintings draw iconography from such far-flung sources as a Beach Boys album and the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast, and they are tastefully arranged in such a way that the whole exhibit becomes an installation piece.
Likewise, abstract prints and a site-specific animation by Lenore Thomas comprises her solo show, “Somewhere in Between,” that also can be seen as an installation of sorts. The abstract geometric prints are all based on drawings Thomas made of landscapes she sketched while a passenger on drives through Western Pennsylvania. As for the animation, however, it is based on five-dimensional geometry, beginning with a penteract (5th dimension) and slowly morphing into a hexeract (6th dimension), a hepteract (7th dimension), and an octeract (8th dimension). This all happens very subtly, but if you watch for 10 or 15 seconds you will begin to see that things are shifting, adding another layer to the idea of how we, as humans, perceive the world around us.
If you prefer your abstract art a little looser (and a lot more brushy), the paintings of Kara Ruth Snyder in her exhibit “Above Dusk” are sure to please. These are paintings that appear straight out of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the mid-20th century, complete with bold colors and even bolder brushstrokes by a vision-impaired artist who really knows how to paint.
Another artist for which that can be said is William McAllister, but his works, being hyper-realistic watercolors, are the opposite of Snyder’s in subject and execution. All of McAllister’s works in his exhibit are based on his impression of Ireland on a recent trip there. Here, the impressions are not only of place, but of the total environment depicted, right down to the weather. In his painting “Black & Whites — Kilkenny,” the exterior of a butcher shop is fleshed out in a cool color palette that imbues the work with a certain atmosphere in which you can almost feel the cold, wet exterior of that day, in contrast to the very warm hues McAllister employs to convey the inviting interior of the shop.
Then, there is David Montano’s exhibit “Non-Work.” All of the pieces on display in this exhibit, with the exception of a video, were made using salvaged books from the Carnegie Library in Oakland.
For example, in a large assemblage piece titled “Apologia” and in the other two assemblages “Phantom Luncheon” and “Avalanche,” Montano used the covers of some of the books to create large wall-hung pieces that read like Abstract Expressionist art, thanks in part to the addition of dripping paint. But upon closer inspection, they reveal the book covers from which they are made.
Finally, Stephen Chalmers’ exhibit, titled “Transience,” features Chalmers’ latest project in which he photographed and interviewed individuals who live a transitory life — primarily those who live in recreational vehicles.
Being the only documentary photography exhibit, it is a real standout among all of the others on display for the mere fact that it depicts the lifestyles that each of his subjects occupy, from affluent snowbirds to those of limited means, including methamphetamine addicts, ex-convicts and others choosing to live life “off the grid.”
With such a wide variety of exhibits to see, it might be best to plan a long visit. But you’d better hurry. They all come down after April 7.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].