Saturday, July 08, 2006

First Friday revisited

Well, as I expected... I made it to about half the stuff I wanted to see last night. I had not been to the galleries in Shadyside in years (since the Laura Jean Mclaughlin/Bob Ziller show at Gallery Chiz), and I wanted to see some John Morris works in person, so I started at the Mendelson Gallery. The show consists of comtemporary abstracts... a type of work I have never truly connected with. The John Morris drawings were small, but give an indication of the meticulous efforts that go into his work. I appreciated them, and the other artists' pieces, with some element of detachment. It's work that the uninitiated would assess for its decorative possibilities... "gee, honey... do you think it will match the drapes?" But I know there's a lot more to it than that. Without going into the depth of the work, it's easy to appreciate the craftsmanship and emotion that the work entails. Having said that, it is awfully hard to write about without a skeleton key and a sheaf full of interviews. It's work that needs to be witnessed in person, and in silence.

I had more personal obligations than freedom to see exactly what I wanted, and so I didn't get downtown at all. Evidently someone is doing "hydroponics art" down at Wood Street. But it looks like I'm not going to get the chance to see it. I headed to Penn Avenue in Garfield to meet up with a friend who is visiting from England.

There's a new gallery next to Garfield Artworks. All the surfaces are immaculate and shiny. They have a wonderful deck that they had laid out with an elaborately presented spread. The work was well-executed, black-and- white, infrared(?) shots of plant life. There was also a series of artful male nudes looking ever-so punk rawk. The owners seemed a bit uneasy in their new skin... I heard them awkwardly tell a small gang of anarchist biker youth that they had to leave because they didn't look like they were going to buy anything. Meanwhile those kids could be the collectors of the future, or the next wave of talented Pittsburgh artists, and what are they going to remember about this gallery? The funny thing is that they could have well been friends with the male nude being exhibited on the walls.

The highlight of my night occurred at Modern Formations. Months ago I attended a show there that enlisted the viewers in choosing an artist who would have a future solo at the gallery. There was one work that clearly stood out to me above everything else. I voted about three times, and made my case to my friends... this work by Katherine Young should be the winner. Inexplicably (as I found out last night), she didn't win the viewer's choice award. But the owners were impressed by her, and she got her solo anyway. She certainly deserves it. The gallery is overflowing with her startling images. Shocking, confrontational and precise... her work references pagan mythology and employs bold sexual gesturing... she incorporates gold leaf and unusual textural objects to complete her vision. And I'm simply blown away by it. She's a Pittsburgh native, young and with a bright future. I couldn't choose between my two favorites, so I bought them both. The show is up until August 18th, so come see it for yourself.

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