Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Annual Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Show @ the Carnegie.

Isn't it interesting that there are so many amenities around town that we fail to take advantage of until a friend comes in from out of town? Then we try to figure out what's worth displaying. It's the kind of stuff that just never occurs to us during our routine life- zoos, museums, unusual restaurants, strange tourist attractions, etc. But despite the fact that we leave it all set most of the year, somehow it strikes us as particularly worthy in some objective sense.

I make it a point to catch many of the art openings offered by the various galleries throughout the year. I make it a weekly habit to track down all the listings. Yet when a major institution offers some temporary exhibit for a period of months, I usually let it slip by without a visit. I always figure that I'll make time in a couple of weeks to stop by. Next thing I know, it's gone forever. Well... that's not the case this week. I've got a friend visiting from Boston (actually a former resident) and some time off work. Today we went to the Carnegie Museum (along with a local luminary of blogdom) to check out the annual Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) show.

Honestly, I've always been a little confused about what it means to be a member of an "Association of Artists" or a guild. I wonder what the benefits are. The yearly dues are about $85 or so. I imagine there are some networking opportunities, and maybe a party or two. Maybe it's akin to being in a union, and if you choose not to... you consign yourself to being a perpetual outsider. Certainly for at least a few of those involved, it comes down to getting an opportunity to get their artwork on the walls of a prestigious institution. This year 's show seems to carry an extra bit of cultural cache by being curated by the director of the next Carnegie International- Doug Fogle. That probably explains why they got over 800 submissions for consideration.

So we went to the show. Before seeing the local stuff, we had to wend our way through the accessible part of the Heinz gallery. There was a very involved exhibit of Louis Comfort Tiffany's life's work. The hall was jammed packed with people, ostensibly taking advantage of their holiday trips to the Burgh. At the risk of exposing myself as the complete Phillistine that I probably am, I have to say that the stuff left me cold. So by the time I got through it, I was fairly excited to get through the unobtrusive little passageway that led to AAP's offering. I felt a bit illicit sneaking through, as if I had entered the back room of a video shop... not wanting anyone to spot me.

Unfortunately it didn't quite meet my expectations. Certainly it had its stronger pieces... but overall nothing jumped out at me. I have several friends with work this time around, and (of course) I'm making an exception for their stuff... most of which I have seen displayed elsewhere this year. I can't assess the worth of those pieces with true objectivity. But I did feel like something was missing. There were 80 items exhibited, representing a fair portion of the local scene. I'm not going to get into the specific artists who were represented... but there are plenty of people around town whom I feel could have made a significant contribution to the show.

I can't put the responsibility for my disappointment on the curator or the artists who were included. I wouldn't say that this is a "bad show". I also have no idea what was submitted and rejected. And I could simply be getting desensitized by the immense amount of work I see regularly. But I has hoping to discover something new and exciting. That didn't happen.


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