When industrial Pittsburgh was booming, the wives of the steelworkers who lived on the slopes overlooking the mills kept an eye on the stacks. If any of them stopped belching smoke the women knew there was trouble, and that trouble might be the injury or death of one of their husbands.
That's one of the stories that illuminate Pittsburgh in the middle of the past century told by Clyde "Red" Hare. The photographer came in 1950, at the invitation of Roy Stryker, to work for the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, and stayed to create indelible images of the city following change over more than half a century. He died in 2009.
"Clyde Hare: A Memorial Exhibition," a retrospective of work by Mr. Hare, is at Concept Art Gallery. The story is one he tells in the "The Majesty of Man: Clyde Hare's Pittsburgh," a 37-minute 2005 Kenneth Love documentary that is being screened in the exhibition (if it's not running, ask gallery staff to turn it on for you).
Mr. Hare learned of the wives' vigilance during trips he made to the hilltops to photograph the mills. Once, he was arrested by the guards U.S. Steel employed to patrol areas that both the corporation and the postwar nation were touchy about keeping secured -- "they were a law unto themselves out there" -- and Mayor David Lawrence had to intercede to get him released.
But that didn't deter Mr. Hare, who aimed to "photograph steel at its peak," to make a record that showed how dangerous the work was and how "enormously skilled" the workers were.
"It's a craft I wanted to make sure we understood and appreciated," he said.
He did so from afar, showing the massive bulk of the mills, and from within, juxtaposing men with machinery that dwarfed them and breathed searing heat. Figures in two sun-orange color images are distorted by the fiery heat that surrounds them.
Some of the industrial scenes have become iconic images of Pittsburgh, but Mr. Hare's capacity to capture the essence of the city spread to every sector, such as his 1952 "Last Steam Train," reduced to the trail of smoke that led to its banishment, or "Children Going Home From School to New Raw Suburbs," of the same year, that would foresee the alienation the then-lauded developments would foster.
The Pittsburgh Photographic Library Project imagery includes photographs of a changing Downtown, including construction of Gateway Center, and now nostalgic views of the Diamond Market (1957) and a traffic jam -- even then -- on the Liberty Bridge (circa 1950s).
Less expected are poetic works such as "Japanese Pines and Mountains" of 1969, and "Amaryllis Petals" of 1993, which have a monoprint quality stylistically and texturally, or the moody, snow-dusted "Early Fog on the Mon. Parked Cars and Towboat." A wall of his Ice Project images, which resemble Abstract Expressionist paintings, reverberates with color. Those, surprisingly, were not inspired by winter but rather by the ice remaining at a Fourth of July picnic, brightened by the objects behind it.
The title of the documentary comes from Mr. Hare's own words:
"I have a firm belief in the majesty of man. I've always felt there's a greatness to mankind, and I've tried to look at things from that perspective."
The exhibition continues through Oct. 2 at 1031 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, and until 8 p.m. Thursdays. Admission is free. Gallery access by stair only. Information: 412-242-9200.
"Century Mountain: Expanding Borders, Exploring Humanity," an exhibition by former City of Asylum/Pittsburgh Chinese poet Huang Xiang and American artist William Rock, will open from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Robert Morris University Media Arts Gallery, 600 Fifth Ave., Downtown (free). The collaborators have exhibited internationally. Mr. Xiang will perform his poetry during the reception.
"DIY: A Revolution in Handicrafts" opens with a reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District. Some of the 15 exhibiting artists will attend the opening and also be at the gallery from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday for informal conversation. (Free; 412-261-7003.)
Among the six exhibitions opening with a reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside, is "Paintings and Works on Paper, Maxo Vanka," the late noted Millvale murals artist. Members of the Vanka family from Eastern Pennsylvania will be present. ($5 donation, members free; 412-361-0873 or www.pittsburgharts.org.)
"Further Thoughts on the Twisted Pair," an international symposium, will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at The Andy Warhol Museum in conjunction with the exhibition "Twisted Pair: Marcel Duchamp/Andy Warhol." At 7 p.m. Saturday Roger Zaham and friends will perform musical works by Duchamp and by John Cage. Admission is $50 per day or $80 for both. Seating is limited. Register at 412-237-8300.
"Samuel Rosenberg: Pittsburgh's Painter Laureate," a Kenneth Love documentary about the life and work of the influential artist and educator, will be shown at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Carnegie Museum of Art in conjunction with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Centennial Annual exhibition. Mr. Rosenberg's work appeared in every AAP annual from 1916-67 with the exception of 1958 and '59. He also was given two solo exhibitions by the Carnegie, was juried into the 1920 and 1925 Carnegie Internationals, and invited to exhibit in the 1933 to 1967 Internationals. (Free with museum admission. 412-622-3131 or www.cmoa.org.)
"West and East: Mary Mazziotti and Akiko Kotani" opens with a free public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Borelli Edwards Galleries, 3583 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Both artists are included in the current Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Centennial Annual Exhibition at Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland (412-687-2606).
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: email@example.com or 412-263-1925.