Art Review: CMU exhibition resounds, responds

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An idea-permeated, very contemporary exhibition at Carnegie Mellon University includes the novel contributions of an artist whose works were made in response to the other artworks exhibited.

Ian Finch -- a published Pittsburgh poet who has also studied experimental book arts -- began creating his studiously rendered graphite wall drawings as the art of Maya Schindler, Sarah E. Wood and Colin Zaug was being installed. His compositions are inspired by Venn diagrams --overlapping circles designed by logician John Venn to show relationships among groups of things -- and supplemented by cryptic text ("another bodymind," "sans seraphim," "melted abacus").

Finch will give a free public artist's talk at noon Thursday at the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery.

New Mexican artist Zaug's tactically inviting "Generalized Occupant (for Pittsburgh)" is a large light-filled white tube of synthetic material (Tyvek) kept inflated by a fan. Enter, turn a bend, and sit in contemplation on a bench made of particle board in the midst of a benign glow.

Californian Schindler deconstructs words, and ergo language and communication itself, by reconfiguring their letters into sculpture or otherwise subverting their messages. The installation "WISHFUL THINKING" on glowing pink walls is visually and conceptually forceful.

Brooklynite Wood presents a reflective, three-dimensional, black vinyl shadow world that is at times eerie, as with the row of "Shadow Plants" that bisect the gallery; at others disquieting, as when the drooping grid-like lines of a fence slump off their posts to form a black puddle that retains materiality but not vitality.

"Poetics" continues through Feb. 22. Guest curator Cara Erskine, an artist and Miller Gallery exhibitions coordinator, will conduct a tour of the show at noon on Feb. 21. Admission is free. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Wheelchair accessible. For information call 412-268-3618 or visit

Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas may be reached at or 412-263-1925.


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