Category Archives: Stacey Lu

Stacey Lu: Mattress Factory: Factory Installed (Word Count: 540)

Factory Installed at the Mattress Factory features site-specific works by six international artists, who were chosen from more than 600 submissions. These works were created during a two-month residency at the museum, each inspired by the space the work inhabits. These six installations are scattered among the different floors of the museum, mixed in with Mattress Factory’s permanent collection. Since all the works are consistent with the museum’s partiality towards site-specific installation, the works in Factory Installed are difficult to differentiate from the permanent works, unless you have visited the museum previously. Nonetheless, every work in the exhibit has its interesting qualities, and recreated its encompassing space.

The entire 4th floor of the museum featured Factory Installed works, including art by Than Htay Maung, Veronica Ryan, Mariana Manhaes and Pablo Valbuena. Immediately out of the elevator, the walls were covered with repeated cast plaster hands that seemed to reach out from the wall, each with a loaf of bread in their palms. Maung’s installation, My Offering, dealt with the problem of hunger in Burma and the rest of the world affected by war. It was successful in representing the overwhelming number of hungry people in the world; however, the loaves of bread in the hands did not evoke a sense of hope, as much as a sense of desperation and pleading. Perhaps the most complicated in construction of all the pieces was Manhaes’ Thesethose, a large multimedia breathing machine. Various plastic bags of different sizes were hooked up to pvc pipes and electric blowers, that were triggered and synchronized with the movement in a video of the artists’ studio windows. The installation seemed to be a living organism inhabiting the room, with the inflating and deflating, lung-like plastic bags and the sounds they emitted.

In the blacked-out room adjacent to Manhaes’ piece was the crowd pleasing Pablo Valbana light projection, Para-Site. Using light, Valbana was able to bring the space to life, creating a virtual reality. The projection began by tracing the architectural structure of the wall, reminiscent of etch-a-sketch, then morphed into an almost tangible space, receding into a virtual room. It was all very surreal and magical; this was definitely one of the most intriguing and hypnotic installations I have ever seen.

On the other hand, Natalia Gonzalez’s installation in the lower level of the museum left much to be desired. An eclectic combination of steel, lights, wires, mirrors and concrete, Light Recordings had no focal point, and with materials propped up against walls, the room looked very unfinished. The work played with light and shadow, which was somewhat cliché and highly underwhelming. However, taking into account the difficulty of the space Gonzalez was given, she was able to use the dimness and eeriness of the room to her advantage, giving the piece an almost ominous feel.

Overall, the exhibit had its extremely high points, extremely low points and everything in between. No hurry to rush to the Mattress Factory to see the exhibit since it will be up for an awfully long time, until May of next year. Almost half of the pieces are permanent, and the ones from the Factory Installed aren’t too exciting, except for the Valbuena projection piece, which probably saved the entire show.

 

 

 

 

Stacey Lu: Carnegie Museum: Cathy Wilkes (Word Count: 274)

The Forum Gallery in the Carnegie Museum of Art is housing a solo exhibition of the works of Irish artist, Cathy Wilkes. The one-room show explores Wilkes’ full range of works containing both sculptural pieces and paintings, the first of its kind to grace the halls of an American museum. Her work comes off as highly intimate, extremely visceral at times, and eerily haunting. Many of her pieces use a variety of media, including papier-mâché, china, dried flowers, buttons, and other objects found in a domestic setting.

The different elements of her work are displayed in close proximity, all gathered in the center of the space. She uses universally recognizable objects, such as dolls, children’s drawings, cookies, and spoons, to trigger and access vulnerable memories of motherhood and domestic life. A collection of her smaller found-object pieces are displayed neatly on three separate low tables. A couple nearly life-size sculpted figures wearing over-sized suits stand between the tables, and on the back wall, a few small-scale paintings are hung. This particular placement method forces the viewer to contemplate the connection between each of the elements.

I found the exhibit to be almost an emotional experience, and saw the entire show as one comprehensive installation. However, I was disappointed to find out that there was only this one room showing her work. So because of the limited number of pieces versus the weight of her themes and concepts, the exhibit seemed to be truncated, and left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. What was shown, however, was intriguing enough to make me want more of it. Overall, this exhibit seemed like a good introduction to Cathy Wilkes.

Stacey Lu: Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story (Word Count: 639)

Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris was one of Pittsburgh most accomplished and important photographers of the 20th century, and a retrospective of his life’s work is currently being exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The museum has an expansive archive of Teenie’s work, including 80,000 photographic negatives, of which 1,000 prints were chosen to be featured in Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story.

Located in the Heinz Gallery of the museum, the exhibit is divided into three separate rooms, and the photos are presented in multiple formats. The entrance of the show invites the viewer in with a massive, yet beautiful self-portrait of Harris. A divider wall, with the name “TEENIE” written out in colossal lettering, creates a humorous play on words, while heightens the anticipation for the exhibit. Beyond the wall, the viewer enters an immersive space of projections, showing photo reels categorized into 7 different subject matters. Benches placed in the center of the darkened room enable the viewer to focus on one particular categorized projection, which demands the time and attention of the audience. Perhaps the most important part of the installation is the soundtrack of upbeat jazz music playing loudly in the background, specifically commissioned for the exhibit. The music ties together all the separate projections and creates a certain nostalgic mood, setting the stage for the rest of the show.

The next room is quite a contrast from the darkness of the first space; it is brightly lit, with walls covered with a chronology of Teenie’s photos. A row of computers sits in the middle of the room, mirroring the benches from the previous. Thick, text-heavy guides are provided as a supplement to the immense numbered photos on the wall; however, with the overwhelming amount of images, flipping through the guide to find a particular title or information is just too cumbersome. On the other hand, the computers provide an easy access to the Teenie Harris Archive through an interactive website. This format, while more convenient, lends itself to more of an academic setting than an art show. Although, the intention of making the digital archive available facilitates the exhibit’s other motive of using the public community to help identify the people, places and events in certain photographs. Since Teenie worked mostly within the confines of the Pittsburgh Hill District, and documented not only important historic people and events, but also everyday life in the black urban communities, long-residing Pittsburgh citizens are a wonderful resource in aiding in the archival research of the collection.

The last room seems less put together and less organized than the previous two, but certainly has additional interesting information on Teenie’s life and work. There is a documentary film of Teenie’s life in the back, as well as more of his photos and prints on the sidewall. Another wall has maps showing African American population concentration in Pittsburgh, as well as the areas where Teenie took pictures. However, the most interesting component of the room is a set of prints made from the original negatives; each photo was specifically chosen by the curator, professors, journalist, etc. Because these prints are individually framed and spaced apart, unlike the chronology wall, they demand closer attention and examination, which is aided by a description by the curator of each photo on the side. This gives the viewer a better chance to actually appreciate Teenie’s photographic skill, rather than simply his prolificacy.

Although the exhibit might be a tad overwhelming given the sheer mass of images, the exhibit is definitely a comprehensive look into the life and significance of Teenie Harris. While certain parts, such as the immersive projections and the specially curated set of photos, can be conceptually categorized as an art show, the other components, such as the photo timeline, computers and documentary, makes the exhibit better suited for a history museum.

Bibliography

http://www.cmoa.org/teenie

http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/film/transcripts/harris.html

 

Stacey Lu: Reblurred – Friday, November 4, 2011 (Word Count: 750)

On the first Friday of every month, galleries in the Penn Avenue Arts District participate in an event, similar to the Gallery Crawl downtown, called Unblurred. However, this particular night spans five different neighborhoods (Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Garfield, Friendship and East Liberty) in one event, thus being renamed, Reblurred. More than 38 different venues along the stretch of Penn Avenue open their doors, put on refreshments, and turn on the music for guests to experience a laidback night of art and socializing.

After scrutinizing the overwhelming list of venue, we dwindled it down by categorizing them as art exhibits and non-art exhibits, since more than half were simply cafes, stores, or dance/yoga studios. We started the night in the middle of it all, working our way down Penn on foot, seeing as all the locations were close together. Perhaps due to the location of the event, Reblurred was considerably easier to navigate, even with little reference to our maps. Unlike the Gallery Crawl, spaces open for Reblurred were much more easily spotted, and we simply gauged the open galleries by which ones were lit and had crowds of loitering people outside.

In merely an hour and a half, we were able to knock out 7 consecutive exhibits and shows. Although none of the artworks were as compelling as any from the Gallery Crawl, most venues had other contributing factors to their uniqueness. Assemble, a community art space, housed a solo exhibit of Lizzy DeVita, which included a couple nondescript, untitled sculpture installations, some video work, as well as a few pink-haired ladies asking visitors obscure questions such as, “Where are you?” and “What’s next?” Across the street at the International Children’s Art Gallery, another solo show contained large oil paintings on unstretched canvas by Richard Rappaport, who coincidentally was present at the time, and told us stories about his life and his art. According to Rappaport, the rough and minimal portraits were works from his senior year back in the sixties at Carnegie Mellon, known as Carnegie Tech at the time.

The exhibits at Irma Freeman Center for Imagination and Modern Formations were arguably the most interesting in different ways. Inside the mosaic spackled façade of the Irma Freeman Center was the closing reception for the group exhibit entitled “Pittsburgh by Pittsburgh Artists”, showcasing 2-D, 3-D, video, and installation works all relating to the city. Probably the most organized gallery of the lot, every artwork was neatly hung and labeled with numbers to correspond with the provided information packet. Modern Formations, just a block down, held its opening for “Butterfly Kingdom”, which featured art by Christian Breitkreutz and Steph Neary. The works in this show mostly consisted of smaller drawings and paintings of strange and psychedelic subject matter. This venue was packed with a younger, hipster crowd and a few familiar faces. Along with the free booze, this stop was more of a party than anything else, which was reflective of the art as well.

Additionally, the exhibit at the Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center was thoroughly disappointing. Not only was the actual place impossible to find (we unknowingly passed it three times), but the actual space was also a letdown. The artwork was casually taped onto the walls of what looked like the waiting room for the employment center, an odd location for an art exhibit. So put off by the venue, I was unable to properly enjoy the works.

Less noteworthy galleries we visited included Most Wanted Fine Art, which had a mismatched collection of works ranging from amateurish acrylics and generic photography to craft-like collages and brightly spray painted car doors. The Conservatory of Oil Painting was deceptively occupied by artists from a tattoo parlor, in all their inked and pierced glory, and had canvases screen printed with skulls, feathers, and butterflies. We also passed the World’s Smallest Art Gallery, which was literally a doorway, no bigger than a restroom stall, featuring superhero illustrations.

Overall, Reblurred exceeded my expectations. Although less organized than the Gallery Crawl (no online map, and many venues listed were closed), Reblurreddid not try to be something it was not. Most of the art was unapologetically bad, which emphasized the intention of being a non-serious, non-pretentious event. Do not expect to see any amazing artworks, or anything deep and conceptual. From what I can tell, Penn Avenue Arts District is an unbiased place dedicated to serve anyone and everyone who wishes to display their art, makingUnblurred/Reblurred a fun, casual and laidback social event.

Bibliography

http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A98106

http://lizzydevita.com/-work

http://www.irmafreeman.com/irma_freeman_center/exhibitions.html

http://pittsburgharts.org/pittsburgh-pittsburgh-artists-irma-freeman-center-imagination

 

 

Stacey Lu: Warhol Museum: Gertrude’s/LOT (Word Count: 583)

The last exhibit in the Pittsburgh Biennial 2011 is Gertrude’s/LOT at the Andy Warhol Museum downtown. It pays tribute to the ever-influential Pittsburgh females such as the legendary Gertrude Stein, painter Mary Cassatt, dancer Martha Graham and writer Willa Cather. This exhibit features 22 women artists, who have also been influenced by Pittsburgh, speckled with permanent Warhol pieces here and there. The works revolve around themes dealing with identity, race, politics, social injustice and women’s rights, fittingly curated by Eric Shiner, whose interest, according to the recent visit to his home, lies perfectly within the boundaries of Gertrude’s/LOT. The exhibit contains works of all media ranging from photography prints and paintings to video and sound pieces to performance and even a moving art piece on wheels.

Situated on the fourth floor of the museum, the first piece you unexpectedly walk into is Ayanah Moor’s All My Girlfriends, a sound performance, being played in the elevator. Since the elevator ride up and down from the fourth floor is at most a minute long, it is practically impossible to experience the entire performance, as it spans for 5.7 hours. The soft narration of the piece can easily be lost within the chattering of fellow elevator passengers; however, if listening intently, phrases describing details of certain women can be caught.

The rest of the exhibit is spread evenly around the open space in a very formulated sensible way, nothing too drastic or exciting. However, because there are Warhol pieces incorporated into the exhibit as well, it is hard to distinguish the specific works that were a part of Gertrude’s/LOT. This is especially so in the two smaller rooms adjacent to the larger space, which includes Madelyn Roehrig’s video installation, surrounded by colorful Warhol’s silkscreen prints, and Kim Beck’s The Skys the Limit skywriting photo in the cloud room. Additionally, the exhibit also includes various performance pieces that are not constantly being shown, or is separate from the space entirely, such as a yoga-inspired performance by Lilith Bailey-Kroll and Jill Miller’s Milk Truck, which is actually a converted ice cream truck decorated in with a large pink breast on top that roams around the city in support of nursing mothers.

Standout pieces of the exhibit, personally, are the various video works. T. Foley’s ventriloquist video, Easy Pieces, deals with gender roles and personal ads from dating sites and Craigslist. “Hector”, the dummy, embodies these anonymous men and reads out their ads, while humorous and hugely entertaining, emphasizes certain stereotypes and masculine displays in an attempt to attract the opposite sex. Meanwhile, Dara Birnbaum’s quintessential Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman video, displayed on an old television set, sits in the other corner. A widely renowned piece, Wonder Woman, with its sexual innuendos and double-entendres, remains one of the most influential works in the history of video art. Moving forward, Alisha Wormsley’s the children of Nan: chapter one: endings creates a jarring shift from Foley and Birnbaum. This post-apocalyptic interpretation depicts a world more primitive, where women are almost extinct and unable to reproduce. The noises and the narration are paired with photos of women, creating a disturbing and almost science fiction-esque story.

Overall, the exhibit proved to be intriguing and engaging with its wide variety of works, which makes it accessible to any audience: plenty of large paintings for the traditionalists, photography and prints for the hipsters, and videos and performance pieces for the new media folk. Gertrude’s/LOT makes the community proud by spotlighting Pittsburgh’s finest and cutting-edge female artists.

 

 

Stacey Lu: Mattress Factory: Sites of Passage (Word Count: 789)

In reaction to recent political uprisings in Egypt, Tavia La Follette, the executive director of Artists Upstairs, created a 21st century version of the Underground Railroad. Her brainchild, the Firefly Tunnels Project, is a website that aims to bridge a connection between artists in Egypt and in the United States.  The Firefly Tunnels serves as a virtual performance art lab, in which communication and collaboration between Egypt and the U.S. is made possible. The exhibit Sites of Passage, showing at the Mattress Factory’s Annex Building, is a result of La Follette’s effort “to build a language of peace through the actions of art” (La Follette).

The exhibit features works by American artists, Egyptian artists, and some working in between the two countries. In the process of putting together Sites of Passage, La Follette commented that one of the most challenging aspects was obtaining Visas for the Egyptian artists. This was reflected in the opening piece of the exhibit, Passport Agency, an interactive installation that required visitors of the show to pass a series of “security checks”, administered by artists posing as officers, in order to obtain a passport and be permitted to enter the rest of the show. Unfortunately, I was unable to experience the piece in its entirety without the artists present, and only through further research and explanations was I able to appreciate this piece.

The rest of the exhibit was scattered among 3 floors, with mostly installation and/or interactive works. Many works were multimedia, including elements of sight, sound and touch. Over My Dead Body, a collaborative piece, included uninstalled Port Authority subway seats. Viewers could sit and don headphones that emitted hectic ambient noises, while viewing prints of the façade of a train, manipulated with imagery by graffiti artist, Matt J. Hunter. With the addition of Gallop Poll, a monstrous traffic light with a saddle, jutting out from the wall, looming over the space, the room creates an almost apocalyptic sensation. Another multi-sensory installation was Grenadine, a video projection of a pomegranate, being speared by American flag toothpicks. As I walked into the room, I was pleasantly caught off guard by the texture underneath my feet; the floor was lined with sandpaper, creating a distinct sound as viewers moved around in the space.

Perhaps the most successful of the works in stimulation of the senses was Carnegie Mellon’s very own, Andrew Johnson, and his immersive installation, Descension. The work encompassed a small, but cozy room, adorned with intricately painted patterns on the walls, and a comfortable number of cushions strewn around the floor. A video of camels eating grass in the bug-eye perspective is projected on to the ceiling, instructing viewers to lie on their backs to experience the piece. The combination of being nestled in a pile of pillows, with the soft light emitted from the projection, and the mantric sounds of the camels chewing, creates a certain calm, beauty and peace in the environment.

Similarly, Tahrir2 , by Emily Laychack, was also an immersive space, an attempt to recreate Tahrir Square, a major site in Egypt that was essential to the people, where they could gather to express themselves and get their voices heard. In Tahrir2 , the installation was fabricated by incorporating paintings, printed photos, sound, found objects, and free standing mini interactive pieces, such as a computer in a Egyptian-style tent and a public telephone, that had an audio piece, steadily streaming from the receiver. The ground was lined, once again, with sandpaper, removing the piece from a gallery to an actual site in Egypt. Many elements of the installation seemed to be mismatched, emphasizing the objective of Tahrir Square as a community, as a common place to express individual grievances and victories.

Visually, the entire show was very pleasing; with well put together installations and interactive pieces. However, perhaps due to the physical layout of the gallery, I found myself at times, confused and dizzied by the roundabout placement of pieces throughout the space. For example, Susanne Slavick’s beautiful Alexandria series was unfortunately lost, being hidden in a back room of a permanent installation that was unrelated to Sites. Also, Mark Ballaire’s Vainglorious Stammering, a potentially interesting hologram installation, was completely overshadowed by the mind-boggling placement of it: in a bathroom.

Nonetheless, in accordance to La Follette’s goal for Sites of Passage, the overall exhibit was sufficiently successful. Overall, the show was dominated by works that were somewhat one-sided, solely dealing with subjects regarding Egypt in particular. While I understand that was the main point of the Firefly Tunnels Project, I still wished there could be more of a dialogue and exchange between the American and Egyptian artists, as in a strictly Pittsburgh response to the revolutionary efforts in Egypt.

Bibliography

Shaw, Kurt. “Pittsburgh Artist Works with Egyptians on Language of Peace Read More.” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 18 Sept. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/museums/s_757162.html&gt;.

“‘Sites of Passage’” to Open September 9th, 2011.” Firefly Tunnels. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.fireflytunnels.net/sitesofpassage&gt;.

“‘Sites of Passage’ Defends Challenging Perspectives.” Firefly Tunnels. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://fireflytunnels.net/defendingpalterspectives>

Thomas, Mary. “Two Art Exhibits Tussle with Political Issues: Post-9/11 and Arab Spring.” Post-Gazette. 7 Sept. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11250/1172578-437-0.stm&gt;.

<http://www.artup.org/TaviaBio.htm>

 

 

Stacey Lu: Eric Shiner’s Private Collection (523 words)

Eric Shiner: what a man, what a collection! The recently appointed director of the Warhol Museum shares a spacious loft with his eclectic collection of art. This man and his home are works of art in themselves, from his polished, yet quirky attire, to the odd mix of songs playing in the background, and to the immense collection of art crammed into the space, creating an entire installation of works. Walking into the wood-paneled space, one can not help but to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of art and “stuff” Eric has placed on the walls and in the room, simultaneously invigorated by all of it.

Having been a curator for a good part of his life, Eric has definitely succeeded in creating a space and organizing his pieces in the most interesting way. He mixes his collected art works with these cheap, found trinkets, and displays both in the same space, blurring the line between high art and craft, blending the important and non-important. His art collection mostly stays within the confines of contemporary art; however, it ranges from Japanese photography and paintings, to American and local paintings, “borrowed” installation pieces, sculptures, and personalized gifts from artists. On top of that, Eric says he loves to explore local flea markets for random and interesting objects, such as a pair of 19th century Russian plates adorned with cigar wrappers. For instance, one of the first things I noticed upon entering, was a busted up 5-foot statue of the Virgin Mary with a high pile of hats sitting on top of her head. Until Eric explained that the statue was simply an item he bought long ago at a flea market, which he now uses as a hat rack, it was unclear to me whether it was an art piece, or simply another one of his odd decorations.

While Eric admits that he is drawn to pieces that deal with gender, race, and identity, humor and satire is definitely a big factor in his collection. One of the more prominent pieces, hanging above his desk, was a painting by Ain Cocke: a portrait of Jackie Kennedy, holding the assassination rifle used to kill John, a darker subject matter, but displayed in such a light-hearted and giddy color palette, with bright blues and pinks. On the other side of the apartment, Eric placed a Brendan Fernandes masked deer amidst potted plants, which, according to Eric, enrages the artist whenever he visits. In his small and cozy bedroom, a theme of feet arouse throughout a lot of the photos and paintings present, and hung directly above his bed was a dangling string of driftwood dildoes, a personal gift from the artist herself, Ginger Brooks Takahashi.

The visit to Eric’s home was inspiring to say the least. Each artwork in his apartment, while perhaps originating from two sides of the world, still speaks to one another, creating a conversation among the different pieces. Eric’s collection, his home, and his charming and engaging personality is the recipe for perfection, and has become and will remain my personal example to look up to as an aspiring art collector.