And Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Program
Sorry to drop of the face of the earth there. My brother was in town last week, performing at the Pittsburgh Funny Bone, and a lot of this week was spent either whipping my apartment into shape for his visit or hanging out with him when he had a free moment.
The Mattress Factory
On Saturday, we'd originally planned to go visit Fort Necessity, but the (mildly) inclement weather forced us to change our plans. Instead we decided to go visit the Mattress Factory, since my brother had never been there. And, as much as I hate to say it, I haven't been to the Mattress Factory in over a decade — not since they first installed Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Dots Mirrored Room and Repetitive Vision — so another visit was long overdue.
On our way to the museum, we were wowed by Huang Xiang's "House Poem", which is made all the more memorable for being located in the middle of an ordinary residential zone. Alas, I only had my point-and-shoot on me so I couldn't get a great shot...
Most of the main building was off limits so they could install the upcoming "Inner and Outer Space" exhibition, but the permanent collection was still on display and it's well-worth checking out. My brother and I were particularly impressed by the work of James Turrell, whose work was instantly accessible and entertaining, but raised fascinating questions about perception and presentation that kept us discussing his work for hours. It's hard to imagine now that we spent 25 minutes sitting in a pitch black room, trying to see if we could eventually perceive the difference between reality and bio-optical phenomena caused by the near-total darkness.
There was also a temporary exhibit on display at 1414 Monterey.
Gestures: Illustrations of Catastrophe and Remote Times
at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh through May 11
Despite the grandiose title (and the nonsensical assertions of an essay by the guest curator), there's nothing particularly apocalyptic, visionary, or metaphorical about the work on display in this exhibition. Truth be told, it's just an excuse to spotlight work by Pittsburgh-based installation and performance artists — and there's nothing wrong with that.
Much of the work on display seems facile but fleeting. Fabrizio Gerbino's lead-coated wooden objects bring to mind the aesthetic of Scandinavian, design divorced from form-follows-function considerations; Jenny Lee manages to playfully combine Aztec and Scottish motifs; Ladyboy's "wall drawing" of fluorescent tape reminds one of Jim Lambie having a '80s flashback; John Carson's photos of car accidents reveal his highly-developed design sense. And yet, none of these works really seems to grab a hold of the psyche or beg for further interpretation, making them momentary pleasures at best.
A few of the works on display feel like overblown art school projects. Christiane Leach and the members of Black Moth Super Rainbow present installations that reveal a highly developed aesthetic but also one that completely fails to communicate with the viewer. Michael Ferrucci's elaborate tableau is about as subtle as a bag of hammers.
The exhibition does feature two works which stand out as exceptional. Jennifer Howson's "lost" features tiny Fisher Price people wandering in a world constructed from meticulously painted bowling pins, and features an appealing design-y aesthetic as well as several repeating motifs that beg for further consideration. Laurie Mancuso's "Aging a Decaying Mill Town" turns one of the rooms at 1414 Monterey into a rotting husk composed entirely of paint, a technical masterpiece that brings to minds questions of perception vs. reality.
The success of those two works sparked a vigorous discussion on our drive home. Increasingly, artists are trying to present ideas that are just too complex to be communicated dthrough purely visual means. Many works are dependent on highly personal symbolism and motifs that require a detailed knowledge of the artist's history and thought processes to unscramble. It strikes me, then, that one of the most valuable criteria you can use to judge a work of contemporary art is its ability to inspire a disinterested viewer who knows nothing about the artist and his work to learn more.
Or maybe I'm just talking out of my ass.
Then again, when I got home yesterday I googled "Jennifer Howson" and "Laurie Mancuso," not "Fabrizio Gerbino" or "Black Moth Super Rainbow." Make of that what you will.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Pitsburgh Pirates
This wound up being a quick game in spite of a brief rain delay at the beginning. The rain kept coming down throughout the game, but it never really amounted to more than a drizzle — just enough to dampen your spirits without dampening your shirt. Reds rookie phenom Johnny Cueto gave up his first walk of the year, but still looked pretty sharp. The Pirates had some tense moments but for once they weren't overwhelmed by them and made the most out of the hits they got. Good times were had by all.
I'd also like to give some respect to the Reds fans who were seated in the row behind us. They had fun heckling the players on the field, but they clearly knew their baseball, they weren't obnoxious about it, and they kept it clean in front of the kids. They were the sort of bleacher bums every stadium needs more of.
One Final Photo
This is the current state of the new offices/condos going up at Fifth and Liberty. I like the way that the elevator shafts tower over the rest of the construction like some sort of grim watchtower or gun emplacement. Strangely, I don't think that's what the architects were going for.