Friday, May 02, 2008

Reflections On Local Art Chaos.

Perhaps it's a mistake to get too excited when a Pittsburgh weekend promises a full schedule of art events. As last Friday approached, my level of anticipation reached a fever pitch. It would have been an understatement to say that I was merely looking forward to seeing what was on offer in our fair city. In retrospect I would have had to see some pretty amazing things to justify my expectations. Sometimes quantity can overshadow, and even obscure quality. It's not that I didn't see anything good... but rather that it all felt rather anticlimactic by Sunday. I had fun and saw lots of people I wanted to see, yet I came away slightly disappointed.

A big part of the letdown started with the choices I made on Friday night. I had received an invitation from the Mattress Factory to attend their opening. I have to say that I was quite impressed to see that venerable institution reach out to the blogosphere for coverage. All I would have had to do to avoid paying the $10 admission fee was R.S.V.P. And yet for some inexplicable reason, I decided to go to the Art Crawl instead. I made that decision despite the fact that I haven't been impressed by the downtown galleries in a couple of years. Part of the problem there is the reliance on the work of artists affiliated with CMU. And another factor is the dehumanizing scale of the spectacle itself. I prefer the intimacy of Unblurred.

Things started somewhat promisingly with a visit to SPACE. Although I didn't know any of the participating artists, the presentation was nice and I enjoyed the look of the freshly painted walls. I was particularly impressed by the sculpture/installation pieces of Steve O Hearn. His background in industrial and set design is clearly apparent in the wild fantasy and whimsical articulation of his work. I was less taken with a series of photos (by Renee Rosensteel) of ultimate fighters in action and repose. Photojournalism is often only as compelling as its subject matter. Still my interest in that show greatly eclipsed my enjoyment of the other venues offering 'art' that night. In the spirit of diplomacy, I'll skip the tiresome details.

Even after my post-Friday disenchantment, things still looked promising through the glare of Saturday morning. However, I had to spend hours getting a large format print of an image to place in Art All Night. I had a ridiculous amount of difficulty getting that done, as Ritz Camera wasted my time on Friday evening with tales of 'corrupted files' and printer breakdown. Finally I found myself working with the girl at Staples to iron out the kinks of a 20 x 30" enlargement of a newer abstract. Even with a cheap frame, I thought it looked pretty good. Its delivery to the former Roomful Express Warehouse went smoother than I thought it might. And the night began on a promising note with Kim Beck's show at AIR. Although sparsely attended, the exhibition served to round out my appreciation of her work.

Finally I was ready to explore the vast expanses of the soon-to-be-demolished warehouse where this year's Art All Night was held. First I tried to locate my piece. I found it along a highly-trafficked corridor, but the abysmal lighting obscured the details of the image. I tried to remind myself that the volunteers that hang this immensely broad show are harried, and have no time to be discriminating. Still I couldn't help letting this particular placement gnaw away at me. I knew right away that it wouldn't sell from that location. So I ended up passing on the few pieces at the show that I was tempted to purchase for myself*. At least this year there was plenty of room to breathe.

* Incidentally, does anyone know a painter named Jim Phillips?

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Anonymous Jeffrey said...

If you still want to come see the show at the MF, email jeffrey [at] mattress [dot] org and I'll send you a press pass. No $10 cover and a show that won't disappoint.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

That's a very generous offer that I would gladly accept. Look for an e-mail from me.

8:54 PM  

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