One of the added benefits to having the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh is a creative atmosphere that inspires activity beyond the host venue. When the Carnegie Museum of Art announced it would open its next International in October, other arts institutions and private individuals began making plans to participate in the larger discussions the International hopes to inspire.
Such is the case with an exhibition that will hold its opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Lawrenceville venue Brillobox. The show is curated by Carnegie International 2013 curator Daniel Baumann and Pittsburgh critic and independent curator Graham Shearing. It features 75 drawings by Gertrude Quastler who was born in 1909 in Vienna and died in 1963 in New York.
The story of how her art ended up in Pittsburgh is both complicated and fascinating.
She suffered a severe attack of tuberculosis in 1932, which contributed to her relatively early death but also resulted in marriage to her physician, Henry Quastler. When Quastler was invited by King Zog to train radiologists in his country, the couple moved to Albania, but in 1939 with the king deposed and Europe moving toward war they immigrated to America.
Gertrude Quastler, trained as a milliner in Vienna, enrolled in art classes at Columbia University and the University of Illinois as her husband relocated professionally. When her health began to deteriorate, the doctor took a position at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island where she pursued woodblock prints and sculpture. After a lengthy hospitalization in 1963, she returned home to die.
Her husband wrote notes to family and friends, according to the catalog, quoted in Mr. Shearing's exhibition remarks, that accompanied a 1983 show of Gertrude Quastler's work at the Westmoreland County Museum of Art. He then "... tacked a note to the door; then swallowed an overdose, slipped into bed beside his beloved Gertrude and took her hand into his."
While individual works are in collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, the bulk of Gertrude Quastler's estate was passed to her sister-in-law, Johanna Zimmerman, who resided in Pittsburgh. Her papers are at the Library of Congress.
More than 150 works are in the collection of the University Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh, which in 2002 placed digitalized images of all of them on the Internet. The gallery writes "Quastler created in a wide variety of media, from paintings to sculptures to prints. Best known for her printmaking, she excelled at woodblock printmaking, lithography, silkscreen and seriography."
When Ms. Zimmerman died the remainder of the estate was auctioned.
The works at the Brillobox are a contrast to her more traditional expression, emotive, the lines assured, simple, almost child-like. They include dancing and drunken figures, a woman drawing, nightmarish scenes, a snail with threatening teeth. "Some of the works on display are light and witty as ever but others have a darker purpose, tracing out a more menacing and troubled itinerary," Mr. Shearing writes.
The exhibition continues through January 2014 at 4104 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville, by appointment after the opening event or on occasional future dates to be posted at www.facebook.com/pages/Gertrude-Quastler/589489151094931.
International at AIR
Carnegie International 2013 curators Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski will be at Artists Image Resource, 518 Foreland St., North Side, from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday for a festive evening featuring AIR staff and facilities and Cyberpunk Apocalypse, a Pittsburgh writers and comic artists cooperative.
The event includes printmaking activities, art installations and performances. Food will be provided by Brassero Grill, Dozen Bake Shop and Franktuary. Voting for the Carnegie Playground Project Photo Contest (snap your children and friends at local playgrounds and share on Twitter) will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1925.