The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh 102nd Annual Exhibition is a leaner show than usual with a contemporary edge that reflects the organization's evolving direction.
Juror David Noor, chief curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, tuned into that element of change within the AAP and within Pittsburgh itself. Mr. Noor selected 56 works by 46 artists from 488 works submitted by 262 artists. He focused upon the AAP's diversity and upon artists and artworks less regularly represented in the annual shows.
"Ultimately, I hope my selection of artworks suggests the region to be a place where new forms and ideas are not only welcome but sought out and celebrated," he wrote in the exhibition catalog.
The annual's pluralistic quality reflects the range of membership age and of media employed in current artmaking. "Five of the exhibitors are lifetime members, and five are brand-new members" said Juliana Morris, AAP executive director.
Drawing transcends expectation in Seth Clark's sumptuous deconstructed architecture of "Collapse XII" and award-winning "Pile VI." Erika Osborne also won deserved recognition for her large-scale (84-by-180-inch) environmental piece, "Homage to Converse Basin," charcoal on grapestakes, wood upon the wood she champions. Drawing at its most basic and meticulous empowers the concepts behind Mark Franchino's "Pallet Fence" and "Dumpster V."
Kara Skylling's admirably subtle "Street View V" (awarded) and "VI" hover between drawing and printmaking in appearance -- they are actually watercolor and collage -- and, as place, between a receding past and re-imagined nonconformist present.
David Michael Bowers' impeccably painted realist "Strike Three" (awarded) combines two traits common to his subjects, a cover girl sexuality and ominous innuendo, inviting the viewer to write a script. In contrast, works by Mary Bianchi, who also paints with oil, are most characterized by love of paint, flowing freely in the fanciful mixed imagery of "Anarchy" and "Shangri-La."
As sculptor, Atticus Adams is consistently inventive, producing alluring organic forms like "Waccamow Neck" and the awarded "Kiawah," perhaps the one piece in the exhibition that would have benefited from more open space around it. Marjorie Shipe shows two eye-catching sculptures, "Global Village" and "Triune (3 Pieces)," of finely cut and polished polyester resin.
Among photographic works, memorable is William D. Wade's quirky, elegiac "It Was a Home (for Two Brothers and a Sister)" (awarded), with its afghans, wall of taxidermy and shrouded empty chair bathed in window light. The Post-Gazette photojournalist also exhibits the abstract "Darkness Creeps In."
Christopher Ruane effectively contemporizes a biblical story and takes a swipe at art world pretentiousness in the digitally altered photograph "The Denial of Peter," in which the artist of an exhibited religious painting denies to the sophisticates present that he created the work. By extrapolation viewers, also standing within a gallery, are implicated. Mr. Ruane also exhibits "Doubting Thomas."
Madelyn Roehrig's "Figments: Andy's Tombstone, Edition II," an 80-second DVD with sound, is part of a larger gift she has been making to Pittsburgh and to Andy Warhol's legacy, and it's particularly fitting that it received the Carnegie Museum of Art Purchase Award. Since 2009, Ms. Roehrig has regularly gone to Warhol's grave in a modest Bethel Park cemetery, photographing and filming individuals who visit and objects they've left behind. This montage comprises imagery from April 2011 to December 2012.
Other conceptual standouts are Wade Kramm's "Collapsible Chair," a play on Joseph Kosuth's seminal "One and Three Chairs," and his double-entendre critiques, "Plastic People." Also David Montano's re-ordering of established perceptions of books, fables and artworks, "Superfluous Companion Program to the Princess and the Pea" and "Portrait of the Artist's Bedroom With Walls Stripped Bare."
Overall, I am most surprised by the small percentage of sociopolitical-inspired work. Penny Mateer is among a consistent few who probe that realm, here in a grid of 50 deaf, unable to speak and blind busts representing red, blue and mixed states, "Everybody Look What's Goin Down ... #11 Protest Series."
Where is the shocking, controversial, sensual, ironic, sardonic? While there are many very good works exhibiting some of those qualities, the show is generally reserved. (That is not an invitation to schlock shock.) I've written in the past that one possible way to free our best artists to follow their most impractical passions is to guarantee at least a public forum by curating part of the annual. Would that make it worthwhile for an artist to spend more money on a photographic enlargement, more time on a large painting or drawing? (Granted, big is not always better.) The other part could remain traditionally juried. Because of the work required, the annual might move to a biennial, or triennial as Fiberart International, another volunteer effort, has done.
An exhibition where every piece is a statement might grow a reputation that draws patrons as well as the appreciative. Several works have sold from this show. Who knows what the possibilities are?
The deaths of six members were acknowledged in the 102nd Annual Exhibition catalog. They are Ellie Turk Barmen, Donna Hollen Bolmgren, Susan Gurrentz, Nellie E. Kaley, Carole Lynn (Lubove) Klein and Gary Postrech.
It has become customary to recognize members who die between annuals, and standardizing that recognition would be a matter worthy of AAP discussion. An artwork by each deceased member was once exhibited in a memorial section at the exhibition entry. Later, those artworks were mingled with jurored works. More recently, late members were recognized only in the catalog. Currently, six members who died between 2011 and this year are acknowledged in the catalog, while only one of them is represented in the exhibition, with three paintings. The reason given is that several friends attended to the represented artist's legacy.
A solution to such discrepancy may be the formation of a standing committee to maintain a list of members who die throughout the year, and of locations of possible exhibition loan art. The AAP is one of the oldest and largest visual arts organizations in the nation and claims more than 600 members. It has always been proud of its history, and surely the continued reverence toward members past is a goal that succeeding generations would like to uphold.
Exhibiting award-winning artists Nancy McNary Smith, Erika Osborne and Chuck Johnson will discuss their and others' works from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. June 2 (free with museum admission). Exhibiting artists Madelyn Roehrig and David Bowers will discuss their work in the galleries at 10:30 a.m. June 13 followed by lunch ($30, members $24; register at 412-622-3288).
An exhibition of paintings by the late Joann K. Falbo will open Friday in the Lawrence Hall Gallery of Point Park University, Downtown. A Pittsburgh native, Ms. Falbo was a resident of Little Deer Isle, Maine, when she died March 5, 2012. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, she earned a master's degree in fine arts from Yale University. The exhibition continues through the summer. Information: 412-392-8008.
PCA yART Sale
The annual yART Sale on the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts lawn will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23, and participant applications are being accepted through June 7. For information, conditions, fees, visit http://pittsburgharts.org.
City of Asylum award
City of Asylum/Pittsburgh's dream of a Pittsburgh Central Northside Artway Connector came closer to realization with the award Monday of a $300,000 grant by ArtPlace America, a national organization that supports art as a way of revitalizing communities. The artway will feature literature and arts along a walking path connecting two new City of Asylum/Pittsburgh projects on the North Side, the Alphabet City literary center in the former Garden Theater complex and the Alphabet Reading Garden on Monterey Street.
"Activity will begin this summer, and we expect the artway connector will have been completed by December 2014," said Elizabeth Baisley, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh marketing and communications manager, in an email.
In this third cycle of grants, ArtPlace America awarded $42.1 million in 134 grants to 124 projects in 79 communities across the U.S. City of Asylum/Pittsburgh was the only local organization to receive a grant. Grant amounts range from $33,000 to $750,00 with the average of a little more than $280,000.
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: email@example.com or 412-263-1925. First Published May 22, 2013 4:00 AM