The latest exhibit to open at Concept Art Gallery in Regent Square is not so much a commercial venture, but “a celebration,” says gallery owner Sam Berkovitz.
Featuring the work of more than 20 local and nationally recognized artists chosen and arranged for display by nearly as many regional curators, this exhibit, “Curator’s Choice,” celebrates the 40 years the gallery has been in business.
Originally located on the 5800 block of Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, the gallery was founded by Berkovitz’s parents, Melvin and Carolyn Berkovitz, in 1972. It moved to its present location at 1031 S. Braddock Ave. in 1983.
For Sam Berkovitz, this exhibit is a “chance to bring in new blood.” “All but one of these artists are not represented by us,” he says.
That makes for quite a few surprising twists and new finds.
“That was part of the thinking, that we’d bring in some fresh, new people,” Berkovitz says. “We look for people who are making interesting work, but also seem to have started something new.”
Berkovitz points to the work of Ryder Henry, whose cardboard spaceships were hung in the center of the first-floor gallery by Mattress Factory founder Barbara Luderowski, as a perfect example.
“I grew up on ‘Star Trek,’ so his strange urban mix of science fiction and modernism in his work really caught my attention,” Berkovitz says.
Another artist whose work excites Berkovitz is printmaker Joseph Lupo. “I first saw his work on the side of the Artist Image Resource building on the North Side,” he says.
In the gallery, 10 silk-screen prints by Lupo organized by Robert Bridges, assistant professor of art at West Virginia University and curator of the West Virginia University Art Collection, are taken directly from “The Invincible Iron Man” comic book — volume 1, issue 178, published in 1982 — except that Lupo has removed all of the characters and some of the text to showcase the design of each panel.
Bridges has arranged them in such a way that the installation compliments the very subject of the prints, which is composition.
With each curator being given his own allotted area among the two floors of gallery space, several other smartly arranged works stand out.
Heather McElwee, executive director at Pittsburgh Glass Center, has created a cool arrangement of colorful abstract glass sculptures by John Kiley. A rising star in the studio-glass movement, Kiley’s work is some of the most-talked-about on the market today. A Seattle native and veteran of the creative team of famed glassmaker Dale Chihuly, he will be the honorary artist at the glass center’s Sept. 28 “Art on Fire Celebration & Auction.”
Also attention grabbing is the work of installation artist Carin Mincemoyer, whose piece “Hey, Narcissus!,” was placed by Bank of New York Mellon corporate curator Brian Lang. It is a tree branch filled with 40 little round mirrors, which not only relate to the gallery’s 40th anniversary, but the artist, who just turned 40.
And private art dealer Jack Tomayko shows two works by two very different artists — Michelle Dresbold and Joyce Werwie Perry — side by side, to showcase two approaches to painting. Dresbold’s untitled abstraction ingeniously blends sand, hay, glass beads, pumice stone, crushed gems and iridescent pigments into something really magnificent hung next to the thick oil-paint impasto landscape “Allegheny II,” which, Tomayko writes in an accompanying text, is achieved “through rapid application and detraction of oil with knives.”
Several of the curators created environments of their own, with interior designer Garth Massingill using an antique rug from his home as a backdrop for a selection of old figural sculptures from Africa, Mexico and Papua New Guinea from his personal collection in one corner. Art critic and interior decorator Graham Shearing created a “wunderkammer,” or cabinet of curiosities, in another corner; and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust curator Murray Horne made a shrine to street culture and pop art through a sassy display of neo-pop paintings created by Pittsburgh’s own wunderkind, Jonathan Chamberlain, fine artist and founding member of the band Delicious Pastries.
With all of the works on display, arranged in such diverse ways, there’s plenty to see and purchase, says Berkovitz, who had only one condition when asking the curators and artists to contribute their efforts: “We asked only that each artist had at least one thing for sale.”
“There are at least four or five things in this show that I would personally want to own,” Berkovitz says.
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].