Art preview: 16 artists have fun working with white

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This brand-new year is a fresh piece of white paper on which to draw or write. After the holidays' twinkling lights and colorful gift wrap, white offers a kind of visual relief as well as a tabula rasa.

White often inspires artists. Russian Kazimir Malevich created his "White on White" in 1918, one year after the Russian Revolution in October 1917. Robert Rauschenberg created a series of white paintings in the 1950s. At the 1988 Carnegie International, Robert Ryman presented white squares on white walls in an enclosed room.

Now, in an exhibition called "The White Show: Subtlety in the Age of Spectacle," visitors to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside may find fresh inspiration by seeing how 16 artists respond to and riff on the color so often associated with cleanliness and purity.

'The White Show: Subtlety in the Age of Spectacle'

Where: Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside (15232),

When: Through Jan. 20; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Information: 412-361-0873;

Curated by Vicky Clark and on view through Jan. 20, this is an imaginative and thought-provoking show. Ms. Clark, an independent curator and cultural historian, writes in the show's catalog of people's need to retreat from the "often chaotic cacophony of contemporary art." This exhibition is designed to be "a whisper instead of a scream, an enticement instead of a demand."

One of the most arresting works is a short high-definition video by Toronto-based artist Simone Jones, who was a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University between 2000 and 2003. Now, she teaches at the Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto.

Shot on the snow-covered Bonneville Speedway in Utah, the video shows a supine Simone Jones strapped into a contraption she designed and made. This "Perfect Vehicle," as the artist calls it, looks like a combination of Darth Vader's helmet, a hospital gurney and one bicycle wheel.

Ms. Jones is strapped into the machine, which is powered by her breathing. The video is alternately amusing and awe-inspiring as the contraption moves across snow-covered ground, casting a dark shadow and evoking feelings of speed and space. The vehicle's pace is determined by the speed of the artist's breathing instead of the machine's mechanics.

Nigel Rolfe's "The Milk of Human Kindness" shows the liquid splashing onto a man with his eyes tightly closed, a meditation on the transformative power of kindness.

More traditional is Julia Morrisroe's work, displayed at the second floor gallery entrance. It features a white, carved drywall version of Winnie the Pooh's honey jar, labeled "hunny."

Michael Kukla's textured, carved marble works such as "Zipper" are intricate and sophisticated. Mr. Kukla thinks of white as "a waiting backdrop that evokes our desires and dreams."

Mark Franchino used white soap to carve and display, from left to right, a simple bar of soap, a modern soap dispenser and a boxy soap dispenser hanging on a wall. The work is called "Good, Better Best." The artist likes to use subtle layers of white because it makes viewers examine his work.

Jaq Belcher's "Illusion" uses hand-cut paper to reveal a leafy pattern. Numbers form visual patterns in John Noestheden's work called "Square Root of 2," done on embossed Arches paper.


Marylynne Pitz: or 412-263-1648.


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