Art Notes: 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial opens Saturday at Carnegie


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The Pittsburgh Biennial is back with a broader, more inclusive scope that showcases not only the region‘‍s talented artists but also many of the institutions that make it unique. The multipart exhibition begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with a talk by Corey Escoto at Carnegie Museum of Art, where his solo exhibition, “Corey Escoto: Sleight of Hand,” opens Saturday and runs through Sept. 29.

Mr. Escoto was born in 1983 in Amarillo, Texas, home to the legendary public artwork “Cadillac Ranch,” and has lived in Pittsburgh since 2010. His interest, according to the museum, is a consideration of the production and consumption of illusion, both in terms of what we accept as photographic truth and, more broadly, how we distinguish fact from fiction in an ever more manipulated, media-saturated world. The exhibition was organized by Amanda Donnan, Carnegie assistant curator of contemporary art.

The Biennial debuted in 1994 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and through various iterations has remained a major platform for contemporary regional art. Recently, the center began reaching out to institutions beyond its campus and the 2014 edition expands into the most real estate to date. During the run of Mr. Escoto’‍s exhibition, other biennial portions will open at the center and Pittsburgh Filmmakers as well as at partners Pittsburgh Glass Center, Mattress Factory, SPACE, The Andy Warhol Museum and The Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Friday and the talk will be followed by an exhibition preview, reception and cash bar until 9 p.m. Admission is free. Information: www.cmoa.org or 412-622-3131. 

RACE poetry workshop

Registration is open for a poetry workshop, “Reflecting on Race,” that will be led by Terrance Hayes and Sheila Carter-Jones at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in conjunction with the exhibition “RACE: Are We So Different?” The workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 26 and Sept. 6 and 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 14, when a public reading will be held. Participants will have opportunity to exchange with the workshop leaders between sessions. Mr. Hayes and Ms. Carter-Jones are Pittsburgh-based, nationally known published poets. The workshop is limited to 25 participants and registration closes July 21. The fee is $40, $30 for museum members, which includes admission passes for participants and two guests on Sept. 14. Information and registration: 412-622-3288.

2-Minute Film Festival

The fourth 2-Minute Film Festival played to a Sculpture Court packed with 300 attendees Thursday at Carnegie Museum of Art with outer space-themed selections that ranged from humorous to apocalyptic. The appreciative audience gave the People’s Choice award to “Mirage Maker” by Ben Reicher. The Judge’s Award went to “Be Still Moon Boys” by Juliet Phillips, and “Great Scott in Space” by Mark Janavel won the Online Vote. If you missed the event, you can still see the films at http://2mff.cmoa.org/category/2014.

Hillman Photography Initiative

Following the space theme, the premiere of “Extraterrestrial:The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project” preceded the Film Festival at The Carnegie. The film is the third of five that comprise The Invisible Photograph, one of four projects of the museum‘‍s new Hillman Photography Initiative. The short documentaries focus on generally obscure applications of photography, in this instance the recovery of images of the moon taken in preparation for the Apollo moon landing. “Extraterrestrial” is quirky, engaging, thought-provoking, informative and entertaining, characteristics that typify this series. A bonus was the post-film discussion with Keith Cowing, orbiter project co-lead, and Divya Rao Heffley, Hillman Initiative program manager.

Mr. Cowing, whose technical expertise compounded by creative inquiry argues well for maintaining the humanities in tandem with STEM education, said “the whole project was a series of improbable events.” From ex-NASA employee Nancy Evans, who recognized the importance of the lunar images and purchased them at a government surplus sale, to the abandoned McDonald’‍s work site (“If you‘‍re going to do an absurd project, you need an absurd setting to do it in.”) to the chutzpah of the crew cobbled to reverse-engineer 1960s technology, the unlikely edged to triumph. The images retrieved from 1,500 magnetic tapes were paid for by the taxpayer and are in the public domain.

After premiering at The Carnegie, Invisible Photograph films are posted at www.nowseethis.org/invisiblephoto. Those include Part 1, “Underground: The Corbis Image Vault” and Part 2, “Trapped: Andy Warhol's Amiga Experiments.” The final two films and debut dates are “Subatomic: The European Center for Nuclear Research” Sept. 19 and “Discarded: Joachim Schmid and the Anti-Museum” Dec. 11.

More space

Retired NASA lunar cartographer Alexander Valentine will speak at 6:30 Friday at Shaw Galleries, 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown, about the early days of the space program at the NASA Lunar and Mapping Sciences Laboratory. A selection of topographic maps will be exhibited. The event is free. Information: 412-281-4884 or www.shawgalleries.com.

 Gallerist Kurt Shaw was recognized by City Council by proclamation declaring July 11, 2014, “Kurt Shaw Day” in Pittsburgh. Mr. Shaw attributes this honor to his habit of photographing Pittsburgh sunrises while waiting with his daughter Aubrey for her school bus each morning on Grandview Avenue, Mount Washington. His images, posted on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, have been seen by thousands of viewers, including Councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith, who presented the proclamation to council.

Silver Eye director

The board of directors of Silver Eye Center for Photography has announced the appointment of David Oresick as executive director effective at the end of the month. Mr.Oresick, a Pittsburgh native, comes from Light Work in Syracuse, N.Y., where he was lab manager. He has a bachelor’‍s degree in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology and a master‘‍s of fine art from Columbia College Chicago. Mr. Oresick replaces Ellen Fleurov, who served as executive director from July 2009 until last year.


Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.

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