Sunday, May 11, 2008

Must-See Gallery Shows Currently in Pittsburgh.

I was blind-sided this weekend. With the numerous art events around town the last couple of weekends, I had no expectation of seeing more eye-opening work. I thought I would be too desensitized to truly appreciate the offerings this past Saturday. I could not have been more wrong. The work currently hanging in a select few galleries around town is extraordinary. These venues might be a bit beneath the radar compared to the major local institutions (the Carnegie, PCA, Mattress Factory), but they demonstrate just how strong of an arts scene there is in Pittsburgh. I'll take this opportunity once again to lament the moribund state of art collection in this city. It's too bad there aren't more people in the position (or with the willingness) to financially support the artists.

Anyway- despite better sense, I am still doing my part. I was absolutely convinced of my commitment to be more temperate in my buying habits. I understand that it's getting rough all over, so I don't mean to whine about finances. Let's just say that with gas prices facing a seemingly unending increase, I really should be more careful about 'unnecessary' purchases. So that's the attitude I've tried to assume when leaving my house for the most recent art shows. But the reality is that Pittsburgh is a buyer's market. I'm cheap... I'll admit it. Still I am blown away by the prices young artists are willing to put on their work. I've developed a better idea about the resources that go into making an art object. When you do the math, a lot of these folks are getting sweat shop renumeration.

I started off with Randie Snow's exhibition at Moxie Dada. I was already familiar with her work from the last few years. I tried to cultivate her participation in Carnivalesque at the Digging Pitt gallery a couple of years ago. That didn't work out, but I continued to take a look whenever she had a show. Comparisons to the sadly-departed local legend James Church were inevitable- Snow studied with him during the last couple years of his life. I thought I knew the type of assemblages I would see at Passages at Moxie Dada. I had no idea that Snow has ascended to a new level in her output. She has produced an extremely moving body of pieces based on the seven sins and seven virtues of Catholic faith. She sought out and bought over-sized bibles from the 1800's, and carefully cut windows in their covers, hollowing out their innards. Inside she has encapsulated the very essence of morality. They are quite remarkable, and you can (and should) see them them through May.

Next I rushed over to the La Vie Gallery to see what I thought was a collection of collaborations between Thommy Conroy and James Maysles (turns out that I'm a week late on that one- it opened at the Red Room on April 30th). Instead it was an outstanding group show called A Dream of Fair Women, and included some of my favorite locals (Elina Malkin, Jairan Sadeghi, etc.). I think I'm getting spoiled by this gallery. On several occasions I've believed that the exhibitions couldn't be any better. But every time I drop my guard they exceed my expectations. They got my money again this month. Masha Vereshchenko had a grouping of extremely detailed ballpoint pen and ink drawings. I've been keeping my eye on her work for awhile (she also used to show occasionally at the Digging Pitt). I've been intrigued before, but this time I was compelled to buy a piece. You can see it (and buy a print!) at her Etsy website. Yay! I've finally found an ethical way to spend the Bush tax rebate that is supposedly forthcoming. This will be a centerpiece of my growing collection.

Finally I made a point to stop in at Paul Leroy Gehres' opening for Paid Sick Days at the Panza Gallery. For those not in the know- he is Leroy "King of Art"- man of the multitudes, former illustrator for the New Yorker, designer for Anna Sui, alumni of the aforementioned Carnivalesque show, and the reigning champion of post-pop in Pittsburgh. And as attested to by the wall-to-wall panorama of quilts, drawings and sundry currently up at Panza... he is ultimately irrepressible, indefatigable, and irresistible. The first thing my friend and I noticed in walking into the gallery was that every single damned piece was tagged as if priced at a vintage clothing shop. Listed were crossed-off prices, and the stuff was actually marked up! By his own reckoning, it took him almost 24 hours to hang this aesthetic panoply. But to look at him on the big night, you'd never have known it. He wasn't even winded! You can see this extravaganza until May 31st. If you go, look closely... because the dirty secret is that there are some incredible bargains to be had. If you can't make it, make sure to visit Leroyland today.

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