Carnegie International takes a field trip to Braddock with films, exhibit
July 17, 2008 4:00 AM
Artist David Montano is collaging his work, "Down Into the Easy Chair" (a detail of which is shown), directly onto the walls of the Unsmoke Systems cultural building as a part of its inaugural exhibition. Curator Heather Pesanti, Carnegie Museum of Art assistant curator of contemporary art, also curated the recent Gestures exhibition, "illustrations of catastrophe and remote times," at the Mattress Factory museum, which Montano created an installation for.
The Unsmoke Systems building in Braddock is being renovated as an arts center. Several artists have studios there, and on Saturday a free public reception for the exhibition "Out of This Furnace" will inaugurate its new gallery space.
Anton Miriello, the creator of "Raygun," is one of 16 artists in the exhibition "Out of This Furnace" at the Unsmoke Systems gallery. Miriello's family has lived in Braddock for several generations.
By Mary Thomas Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's not exactly leaving the gravitational pull of the planet, but "Life on Mars," the 2008 Carnegie International, is launching off its Oakland base Saturday to the somewhat otherworldly terrain of Braddock for a free one-night extravaganza of film, art and fun.
The evening begins at 6:30 with a screening of short films by CI08 artist Wilhelm Sasnal in Braddock Carnegie Library's historic Music Hall.
Following, from 8 to 10 p.m., will be a reception for "Out of This Furnace," a 16-artist exhibition that inaugurates the nearby Unsmoke Systems building gallery, and then a DJ-sparked afterparty until 2 a.m.
Braddock, as the local art world astute know, has become the latest neighborhood to be colonized by artists, with the encouragement of an arts-friendly administration and lots of inexpensive, available space.
Heather Pesanti, Carnegie Museum of Art assistant curator of contemporary art and "Out of This Furnace" organizer, met Braddock Mayor John Fetterman at a Mattress Factory museum strategic planning meeting last year and began attending the town's art-related events that he and Deputy Mayor Jeb Feldman were championing.
Simultaneously, the Carnegie was interested in showing films by CI08 artists who worked in film but were represented in the International by other media. The Carnegie also was looking for ways to bring some exhibition-related programming to off-site spaces.
It was a natural fit.
Polish native Sasnal, who was born in 1972 and lives in Tarnow, is represented in the International by several cryptic, pensive paintings. His films, similarly, are "very fascinating and somber and a little melancholy," Pesanti says.
The program will include the 30-minute film "The Ranch" and the 8-minute "Mojave."
Visitors who walk the few blocks from the library to the gallery will be treated to a dance performance by The Braddock Youth Project, beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m. at the community garden. The program consists of 14- to 18-year-old residents who this summer designed a self-choreographed dance, "KIMBO," as a part of their Get Up and Move project.
For "Out of This Furnace" -- titled after Thomas Bell's book about Braddock's history told through the immigrant experience -- Pesanti asked artists to reflect upon that history.
"The theme of this first exhibition," Pesanti says, "couldn't be anything else but responding to the powerful, gritty and historically rich site. I fear the Braddock ghosts would return to haunt the space forever if we hadn't honored them."
Pesanti also showed artists a clip of Sasnal's films, which are themselves "very landscape-oriented and dark."
Half of the participants are Braddock artists, and seven of those have studio space in the gallery building. Works include a wide range of expression.
Anton Miriello, for example, whose family has lived in Braddock for generations, makes "really kooky cabinet-of-curiosities grotesque" objects, Pesanti says.
Thommy Conroy and James Maszle are building a room within a room to present an "interesting take on religion and spirituality."
Christopher Kardambikis draws "fantastical archetypes and superheroes from a different era."
Carley Jean Parrish and Ed Parrish Jr. are creating installations in an unfinished third floor with crumbly walls and a hole in the roof where water seeps in -- "a crazy, decrepit room with a 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' feel to it."
A couple of pieces will become part of the building, Pesanti says. David Montano, for instance, is creating a collage applied directly to a wall. "If they want, they can keep it forever."
Artworks will be installed in halls and stairways as well as in rooms. "We decided to colonize the building," Pesanti says.
To that end, Bianca Butti and Merissa Lombardo are creating "creepily amazing stage sets" inside and outside. The artists have built actual stage sets for films such as "My Bloody Valentine" and "Shelter."
Other exhibitors are Stephanie Armbruster, Dallah Cesen, Kerry Gaydos, Danny Paracat, Ally Reeves, Josh Tonies and Mary Tremonte.
DJs Ollie 6.0 FM! and Chevy will energize the late-night party, which will include an open bar.
Pesanti says a goal is to build an infrastructure in the heretofore raw space so that future users "won't have to re-invent the wheel. They want this to be set up as an arts and cultural venue."
The library is at 419 Library St., and the gallery is at 1137 Braddock Ave., across from the Edgar Thomson works. "Out of This Furnace" continues through Aug. 2. To schedule a visit, contact Jeb Feldman at firstname.lastname@example.org. The films will not be screened again. For information and directions, visit www.cmoa.org (click on Life on Mars and go to What's Happening) or www.15104.cc.