Friday, September 01, 2006

September First Friday.

Well... here we are again- another First Friday in Pittsburgh. Penn Avenue is an obvious focus tonight, with the events of Unblurred taking center stage. I'll be visting all the usual suspects- Laura Jean McGlaughlin's Clay Penn, Laurie Mancuso's ON, Modern Formations, Image Box and Garfield Artworks. This month there are a few newer destinations to check out. 5151 Penn Avenue is listed as having an opening, and tonight is the grand opening of the latest gallery in town... Carolyn Wenning's Space, located at 4823 Penn Avenue. Her show at the Digging Pitt gallery just wrapped up, and let me tell you folks... if you didn't see it, then ya missed a good 'un. It struck a chord of dark sexuality that seemed just about right for the hottest time of year. Maybe you'll remedy your oversight by coming tonight (or soon).

I'll be paying special attention to the show at ON (5005 Penn Ave- sorry, no working link). A friend of mine has been trying to get some shots I took of a guerilla art project he was involved in... alas we've been playing phone tag for the last couple of days, and I have no idea how he's going to get them printed (considering the show is in three hours, and I still have the disc). Ah... the logistics of artist interactions.

I'd feel rather remiss if I failed to mention that there is an opening from 6-8PM at the Quiet Storm coffeeshop. I have had some rather angst-filled conversations with an artist friend about a certain local newspaper art critic who refuses to review shows unless they are housed in a "proper" gallery setting. We'd both like to see regular coverage of this unheralded body of work. Unfortunately our schedules (and critical expertise, or lack thereof) make this an improbable task. Someone... anyone... pick up the ball, please?? For many toiling in the creative world of Pittsburgh, this is the only way to get seen. I hate to mention the added advantage to the collector... um... bargain shopping... ahem.... but there it is. Do you want to be on the cutting edge, or just talk the talk?

Speaking of bargain shopping... curator/gallery owner John Morris has had a lot to say recently about the investment possibilities of the Penn Avenue corridor. It's clear that a critical mass of artists and the arts-minded have been drawn to this area over the last couple of years. Are we finally seeing the transformation of this neighborhood from unsafe-to-walk-at-night to artists' haven? This change has been predicted for the last decade. I guess John would know... he saw the transformation of Willliamsburg, Brooklyn first-hand. Come out tonight and form your own impressions.


Anonymous lee said...

Commented on this yesterday...but having a lot of trouble with that function lately. I just wanted to say that diva art critics like that guy just make me want to poke them in the eye. The fact that this guy can only experience art in such a limited setting really says a lot about him.

And I was about starting your own community art review blog? Gather some friends, who would be willing to contribute maybe, say, one review per month of a local show. If you had about 10 writers, you'd very quickly have an interesting mix of thoughts. Seems like one show and review per month wouldn't be too taxing and maybe even fun! I know I personally would much rather read reviews from artists and art lovers than some nitwit who gets paid to critique.

Oh and BTW, I am a mid-western girl. ;) Grew up REAL small town Illinois.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

The critic is actually a woman (not that it matters). I believe she is sincere when she says she believes that cafes and other businesses "exploit" artists by using their work as decor and atmosphere, while not paying them. But I think her perspective is a very limited one.

These businesses give artists (who have not had a chance to build a resume) a forum for their work to get noticed. The shops have hours that greatly eclipse the hours of operation of most galleries. They also take little or no percentage on sales. I got my start in my favorite coffee shop.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous lee said...

I know of a restaurant round here like that. The cool thing about them is that they take no commission should a piece sell. Seems like a fair trade to me.

8:25 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Newspaper reviews have limited value in Pittsburgh. The "market for / interest in art is global and should not be impeaded by local gatekeepers.

Online reviews and blogs would likely be more valuable than local press. It's just another case of an old business model that is ill equipped to deal with a new era. Hey PG, I'll spit on your grave.

10:34 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

If all goes well several new top secret projects may emerge soon to help people keep track of things here.

The Warhol may be adding a mapping and links project to it's site and there may be a new blogging project. The blogging project is an extension of one in many other cities and would rely on volunteer contributors.

It is sad to say that at this time, there is not likely enough support to keep a lot of cultural print media alive here. One of the consequences of sprawl is that it thins out the population to the point at which only mass/lowest common denominator culture can sustain itself. population density and diversity are very linked.

But luckily these economic rules, do not apply to the internet.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

John wrote..

"One of the consequences of sprawl is that it thins out the population to the point at which only mass/lowest common denominator culture can sustain itself. population density and diversity are very linked."

That's what I was getting at in my other post. There's no problem finding support for the Steelers, but that money is not coming into the city for art.

6:14 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I think that there isn't much evidence that anyone or at least any of the major players are trying to attract anyone into town. Just look at a mid Atlantic Gallery guide and you will see how few galleries have bothered to list. Non of the Downtown non-profit's like Space or Wood Street or Future Tenant are in it and "major" commercial galleries like the James Gallery are not in it. There are just a few museums and a tiny scattering of places. Now to put that in perspective, Wood Street sends out and distributes expensive little catalogs for every show. So this is not just a money issue.

Art scenes as a whole follow a basic logic and have to make themselves remotely convenient to people. NY's scene is many times bigger than L.A.'s mainly because it is so much more convenient.

As far as why I believe some galleries can support themselves, while i doubt that a lot of cultural print media can-- that has to do with numbers. The average cost of art is higher so a smaller but dedicated audience could support galleries while print media needs a larger number of readers, either to buy or to attract advertisers.

In fact, to me the great market in Pittsburgh is the out of town market. Many people come through town and quite a few of them are art nuts. The problem is that very little has been done to create a scene that is remotely convenient or to let people from out of town know what is going on.

Do the Warhol, Carnegie or Mattress Factory have links to other galleries on thier websites-- No. There also were no links off the Three Rivers Arts Festival site to other things going on in town.

I don't want to get you down David, but Pittsburgh is a very below average scene in terms of it's comercial scene and i think that the reason goes deeper than just money.

8:36 PM  

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