Artful Bounty: Revealing and relevant exhibitions deliver strong messages in 2011
Carnegie Museum of Art: Boys playing brass instruments is included in "Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story."
The Andy Warhol Museum: Sandow Birk's "American Qur'an" was one part of the five-segment "The Word of God" exhibit, a yearlong exploration of the texts of major religions by contemporary artists.
Carnegie Museum of Art: The late Paul Thek's affinity for Catholic activists like Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Worker movement, and the pacifist Trappist monk Thomas Merton is reflected in works such as "Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted," which was part of "Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective."
The Frick: Brooch from Faberge: The Hodges Family Collection
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art: Milton Avery's "March on the Beach" in "The Tides of Provincetown."
The Andy Warhol Museum: Panel from "The Word of God(ess): Chitra Ganesh's Tales of Amnesia" part of the Word of God exhibit. Carnegie Museum of Art
Silver Eye Center for Photography: "Untitled" by Kevin Bubriski, from the series in "HomeFrontLine: Reflection on Ten Years of War Since 9/11."
The Mattress Factory: Still of a camel feeding in Fayoum, Egypt from Sites of Passage, an HD video exhibit.
Carnegie Museum of Art: "Morpho: Remembrance of Things Past" in "Andrey Avinoff: In Pursuit of Beauty."
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Through these turbulent economic times, arts spaces, tenaciously and commendably, continued their missions to provide the region with thoughtful, revealing, engaging, relevant and sometimes beautiful exhibitions that sparked discovery, community and dialogue.
I didn't get to all the shows I would have liked to, but among those I saw here are 10 (plus) exhibitions that made the year notable:
1. "Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story," at Carnegie Museum of Art, is remarkable for its content, its contribution to Pittsburgh history, its window on the Pittsburgh African-American community and for the commitment the Carnegie made to the Harris archives. Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908-1998) photographed for the Pittsburgh Courier, a nationally distributed black newspaper, but also he documented everyday life in the Hill District. Of the approximately 80,000 images he made, almost 1,000 are included in this warm and inventive exhibition. (Continuing through April 7.)
2. The Word of God series at The Andy Warhol Museum, a five-part, yearlong exploration of the texts of major religions by contemporary artists, was a bold and timely plunge into a subject area that has generally been ignored by high art in recent decades. Exhibiting artists were Sandow Birk, Helene Aylon, Chitra Ganesh, Max Gimblett and Jeffrey Vallance. ("The Word of God: Jeffrey Vallance" continues through Feb. 5.)
3. The 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial stretched itself to five venues for the first time, including originating institution Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Carnegie Museum of Art, Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University and The Andy Warhol Museum. The Biennial showed that strong, current and diverse work is being done by local artists and by those with ties to the region, as well as the commitment of those venues and their curators to view and recognize Pittsburgh artists. ("Pittsburgh Biennial -- Gertrude's/LOT" continues at The Warhol through Jan. 8.)
4. "Paul Thek: Diver, A Retrospective," at Carnegie Museum of Art, brought the evocative, and often ephemeral, work of the late artist to new generations via an exhibition that was, reflective of his expression, simultaneously provocative and playful. It was co-curated by Lynn Zelevansky, the Henry J. Heinz II director of the Carnegie Museum of Art, who began the project years earlier while curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
5. "Factory Installed," dynamic, site-specific works created by six international artists-in-residence at the Mattress Factory, was on display in September and October. Museum co-directors Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk and independent curator Katherine Talcott selected the artists from 600 submissions for the first "Factory Installed" since 2006. (Continuing through May 1.)
6. "The Tides of Provincetown: Pivotal Years in America's Oldest Continuous Art Colony (1899-2011)," a scintillating exhibition of more than 100 works at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, encompasses realism to abstraction, Edward Hopper to Hans Hofmann, and the thrill of a vibrant art community that continues to influence. (Continuing through Jan. 22.)
7. "Faberge: The Hodges Family Collection," at the Frick Art Museum, places the visitor into a 19th-century realm of craftsmanship and elegance (gilt cigarette cases!) and extends an appreciation of the master jeweler beyond his famed eggs. Complementary objects are exhibited throughout the Frick Art & Historical Center campus, including Clayton and the Car and Carriage Museum. (Continuing through Jan. 15.)
8. "Picturing the City: Downtown Pittsburgh, 2007 - 2010," nine contemporary photographers carry on the century-old tradition of documenting the city with vision and intimacy, at Carnegie Museum of Art. Melissa Farlow, Jim Judkis, Richard Kelly, Kenneth Neely, Annie O'Neill, Mark Perrott, Martha Rial, Renee Rosensteel and Dylan Vitone were the photographers. (Continuing through March 25.)
9. "Andrey Avinoff: In Pursuit of Beauty," at Carnegie Museum of Art, offers fantastical paintings, watercolors and botanical illustrations by the Russian aristocrat turned director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History from 1926-45. Mr. Avinoff's extraordinary talents were brought to light by Carnegie curator Louise Lippincott, who researched his life and discovered that he was scientist and administrator by day and artist by night.
10. A three-way tie among exhibitions inspired by current U.S. and global politics and affiliated issues, not always a pretty picture, but all the more urgent because of it:
"HomeFrontLine: Reflections on Ten Years of War Since 9/11," at Silver Eye Center for Photography, drew attention to the subtle ways that conflict seeps into everyday lives.
"Sites of Passage," at Mattress Factory, includes work from the Firefly Tunnel Project, an artist exchange between Egypt and the U.S. that resulted from Pittsburgh-based performance artist Tavia La Follette's 2010 residency in Egypt. (Continuing through Feb. 12.)
"OUT OF RUBBLE," at SPACE gallery, comprises work by 16 international artists who consider the consequences of war, from decimation and disintegration to the possibilities of regeneration and recovery. (Continuing through Jan. 22.)
First Published December 28, 2011 12:00 am