The artists in Digging Pitt Gallery’s current exhibition have one thing in common, according to the show’s statement: “clarifying artistic discourse through their blogs.” Hence, The Blogger Show, alternately known as “TBS” (perhaps because a word that on first pronouncement recalls a phlegmy death rattle can only worsen by repetition). TBS teams Digging Pitt with New York’s Agni Gallery and Millvale’s Panza Gallery, which are also exhibiting bloggers’ works. And in the physical world of Digging Pitt, the show brims with merit, a diverse amalgamation to sate every appetite.
Mary Klein’s painting “Kleenex Ghost,” a soft depiction of a tissue suspended by a string that breaks the very neck that it forms, is both silly and haunting. (While the latter term could be mistaken for a pun, it’s the right one so I’m not taking it back.) The light-panel installation by Jean McClung is gorgeous and worth risking frostbite to view. “06/02/07,” by Stephen LaRose, is a Rorshach-y, octopus-y, inky swirl so full of vitality it seems to crawl across the wood. Cable Griffith’s “Touch and Go” is a brilliant gouache of hue and form. “Sacrificial Tree,” Rose Clancy’s papier-mâché-and-twig sculpture, is a gleaming ziggurat, and Stephanie Lee Jackson’s “Cathedral” and Tracy Helgeson’s “Sun Bleach,” both oils, entrance with color and simplicity. Mark Snyder’s “Zero Sum #20” is an evocative, moody etching with beautiful imagery.
After gaping at the works in real space, many viewers will be prompted to visit the online gallery, to check out the exhibition’s other locations and the artists’ own Web sites. A show built from this idea — “clarifying artistic discourse through their blogs,” remember — begs further investigation. To follow link after link, and get to know the artists as people.
This is not necessarily a good thing.
Some of these sites actually do what the show’s statement claims. Many depict art, discuss technique, explore creative impulse, debate philosophy. Some hold back on personality; some explode with it. Mid Atlantic Daily Campello Art News, F. Lennox Campello’s site, is informative, chatty and newsy, with details on gallery openings plus guest posters and festival diaries; occasionally it edges toward criticism, but not with any malice. Cable Griffith’s blog, meanwhile, has very little text but abundant images, which tells me just about as much about Mr. Griffith as I need to know to love his work. Hungry Hyaena, Christopher Reiger’s blog, has photos and paintings, a million links, and writing both personal and critical that crosses into fine creative nonfiction.
A few of the blogs, however, stink up cyberspace with the same prattle as most blogs: bitchy whingings by those who fancy themselves writers but lack the chops to scare up actual publication, extolling the virtues and talents of their comrades and inventing new levels in the inferno for their enemies. Snarky Web sites can be great fun, I know, and the amount of time I spend chortling at soused Ben and pickled Jeff on the Pittsburgh Steelers section of drunkathlete.com precludes me from throwing the first cyberstone. But do we want our appreciation of art informed by knowledge of its creators, or do we want to consider the work on its own?
One person may be charmed to the eyeballs by those who speak of themselves in the third person, while another may find it spine-crushingly tedious; what you see as delightfully scathing criticism, your neighbor may interpret as a desperate cry for a bitch-slapping. But whether your assessment is that the artist possesses rapier-like wit, or that he’s a total fucking douchebag, it doesn’t matter — it’s going to change the way you look at the picture.
So if you believe your judgment of a work should be colored by your judgment of its maker, then dive in and read one entry after another. But if learning that the whole point of Donnie Darko is “letting go and letting God” made you swear off DVD extras forever, you might choose to maintain your appreciation of TBS by staying offline.
The Blogger Show continues through Jan. 12. Digging Pitt Gallery, 4417-19 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-605-0450 or www.diggingpitt.com