Saturday, January 26, 2008

Art Bargains in Pittsburgh.

As I expected, my father and I had a fun time last night at the downtown gallery crawl. He was in town for a couple of days to get his first look at his new grandchild. For some odd reason my Dad enjoys just holding the baby quietly, and it doesn't seem like he needs much else to keep him content. That worked out well for M. and I, as it gave us our first opportunity to go out by ourselves for a couple of meals. The first chance we got to do that- we headed out to a local pub. It was refreshing and a bit surreal to be in that kind of environment (especially for M.). Yesterday we had lunch together. Unfortunately we ended up with a fairly terrible meal when I suggested that we try something new. With the new logistics regarding baby care, the stakes are higher every time we get some time away. It's probably good policy to stick to what we know and enjoy.

Regarding the crawl, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few things I merely glossed over in my preview. Ladyboy's solo show down at 707 Penn Avenue is a bit of a must-see. I had no idea that "Totally Maybe" was a black-light (black-lit?) show. The artist used glow-in-the-dark and fluorescent paints to screen-print his designs on identically-sized panels of wood. In the center of the gallery space, he erected a shrine with a green plaster cat statue at its center. Surrounding this centerpiece was a pyramid of multi-colored luminescent strings, stretching from floor to ceiling. Apparently this was the part of the installation that required the most effort, as Ladyboy hadn't anticipated his initial hours-long effort failing to hold. I had no idea that this was his first solo show in the city, and I was honestly impressed by his articulation.

I was especially pleased by Ladyboy's references to the cat-portrait-painter Louis Wain. Several months ago, I included a YouTube clip about this artist in one of my blog posts. I was fascinated by several aspects of Wain's life. The idea of obsessively focusing on portraits of cats for an entire career is an adequately interesting idea in and of itself. But add in the progressive mental deterioration of schizophrenia, and you get a particularly compelling story. I'm frankly drawn to appreciating feline imagery, and so I couldn't forget many of Wain's later depictions. There was no missing the inspiration behind one specific Ladyboy painting last night- it was a psychedelic homage to the master himself. I got to share a short discussion with Ladyboy about the place Wain has had in his own formation in the arts. On a peripheral note, I also learned that Ladyboy had the unique distinction of getting two vehicles (a moped and his friend's car) impounded within a 24-hour period while setting up the show. Hopefully this won't cause a "Wain-esque" disruption in this promising creator's life.

Moving on, I'd like to point out that I enjoyed the Mattress Factory Staff show at 937 Liberty... and I'd like to draw the reader's attention to a bargain basement deal available at the gallery. Katherine Young, whose works I have been following in town for a couple of years, has two large ink drawings depicting a pair of adolescent girls walking through an idyllic natural setting. They are framed very nicely and priced at a mere $250 apiece. I consider them excellent pieces, and highly representative of what Young is capable of as an artist. If I hadn't already spent over a grand on art this past month, I would have purchased one myself. Have you been considering starting an art collection, or expanding an existing one? This is a great place to start.

Finally, I want to express my excitement in discovering the work of another talented young artist who is new to exhibiting in the city. As soon as I walked into La Vie last night I was drawn to a group of smaller-scale paintings prominently featured on the wall. They were of an exceedingly-skilled illustrative quality, with subconsciously realized elements of fantasy and bright fields of color. Suffice it to say that they were quite extraordinarily consistent with my aesthetics and taste. When I consulted the gallery guide and saw the prices attached to them, I was amazed. Gabe Felice is a Greensburg artist and amiable conversationalist, who has done a great service by offering his work at an almost obscenely low cost. Not only did I walk out of the opening with two new pieces for my walls, but Felice also sent me on my way with a VHS copy of Eye of the Tiger, with Gary Busey. Anyone who appreciates that prince-among-men is one to watch, very closely. Luckily for you, I left some great pieces unpurchased. Get your ass down there and get in on that action while you can.

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Anonymous jefg99 said...

You say: "For some odd reason my Dad enjoys just holding the baby quietly, and it doesn't seem like he needs much else to keep him content."

And you found that odd? :-) I don't think it's odd at all, and I'm sure he loved it.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous jefg99 said...

I understand your Dad didn't purchase anything on the art crawl, unless you count a cup of soup from the Culinary Institute, a couple of beers at the galleries and a CD of a local group playing at one of them. Lucky for him that he had managed to pick up a framed photo by a local Pittsburgh artist in a private deal before he left to return home.

11:16 PM  

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