Behind Our Scenes, at the Cultural District's SPACE Gallery, is a curious exhibition. It collects the works of five photographers, two working in tandem, with a generous representation of images by each. But while each installation is intriguing in its own regard, how they come together is a little puzzling.
Dennis Marsico's troika on the maturation of the 1960s rally cry of "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" is the exhibit's entry point. Through photographs and video, Marsico examines the passion of youth weighed down by the practicality and reason of age, images of generically pristine hotel rooms and life-ravaged faces. These are juxtaposed with a series of his granddaughter and a zoo of toy animals. All these images are bright and glossy, colorful, vibrant — those revealing the wear and tear of time no less than those depicting the promise of youth.
Nancy Andrews and Annie O'Neill invite us to lurk in the detritus of the North Side's Garden Theater, whose decayed grandeur once housed moral decay — at least according to the anti-pornography factions. Walls rot beneath torn paper, while bricks cave beside peeling paint, evidence of prolonged abandonment. Details like a cardigan forgotten on a hanger, or the tickets for admission waiting to be torn, are eerily akin to Pompeii. Splendor may have given way to spoilage, but there's beauty in the patterns of disintegration.
"Free to the People," by Leo Hsu, combines the construction of a "library-type space," with shelves bearing a variety of books and a few chairs, with portraits of people taken within a few branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The photographs are identical in size, and similar in composition: candidly snapped close-ups of patrons of varying age, race and gender — each with eyes downcast as they read. Hsu (an occasional City Paper contributor) has made an interesting start, but more detail on the purpose of these library visits would help build a more concrete narrative. In a project created with the intention of replicating the library experience, it would feed our desire for voyeurism — so, whatcha reading? — and allow the intimacy of shared experience.
The final series is Barbara Weissberger's "Collage Formations," and it's a stunner. Abstract assemblages layer image after image, playing with time, space, dimension and perspective. What we're viewing is a mystery, one that entices us to look deeper.