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Monday, July 11, 2016

Exhibits at Wood Street Galleries and SPACE Gallery are a highlight for attendees of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 12:55 PM

Attendees of Friday’s Gallery Crawl Downtown had to be prepared to be engulfed when they entered Wood Street Galleries’ second floor.

On display was Pêle-Mêle, a work by visual artist Olivier Ratsi, which aims to “simulate immaterial three-dimension space.” To do this, red light is projected in patterns onto structures strewn around the room. A low buzzing sound also filled the air. The end result is a trance like sensation as the room envelops the viewer.

Matthew Spangler, a Wilkinsburg resident, stood contemplative in the back of the room, taking in the whole experience.

“You just have to come with an open mind and see where it takes you,” Spangler said.

Such an open mind was key for the many participants in Friday’s crawl, organized by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Gallery goers could find painting, printing, video games, live music and improv comedy — along with food and beer — scattered along Penn and Liberty avenues at 27 different stops, and all for free.

The most popular exhibit, John Riegert, was located at SPACE Gallery. Curated by Brett Yasko, the exhibit gave 250 Pittsburgh artists an assignment — make a portrait, in whatever medium they chose, of the eponymous man.

The artists’ originality was on full display, as audio visual displays, an impressionistic bust, even a wooden chair all worked together in harmony presenting their image of Riegert — sometimes with one of his two dogs, Jack and Zoe.

Riegert, himself an artist, wandered the exhibit as a living docent, to create, in his words, a “mind boggling” experience.

The long-white-haired subject managed to escape many people’s attention — perhaps the lack of the equally long white beard that appeared in most of the portraits can be blamed. But Riegert wasn’t there for attention.

“I’m not a very big egomaniac,” he said. “All I need is a clipboard and a sharpie marker, and I’m happy.”

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Friday, June 24, 2016

“Interactive video bath” premieres tonight at Pittsburgh’s Neu Kirche

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 12:35 PM

Internationally exhibited, California-based artist Tra Bouscaren will open Projection Theory Slant Rhyme Institute, a cutting-edge video-based installation.

Image of a video installation by Tra Bouscaren
  • Image of a video installation by Tra Bouscaren
The work promises to immerse viewers “within images of themselves, literalized by interactive video software via live surveillance feeds from within the gallery,” according to press materials. “The projection mapping functions as an ‘interactive video bath’ constructed from multiple live surveillance feeds mashed together with drone footage, GIS imaging, and poached live webcams from all over the world.”

The purpose is to explore “the crossroads of addiction and demolition.”

Bouscaren is a lecturer in the Department of Art at the University of California Santa Cruz. His work has been exhibited at venues in Barcelona and Madrid, in Spain, and the Museum für Naturkunde, in Berlin.

Tonight’s reception starts are 6:30 p.m. The suggested donation is $10.

Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center is located at 1000 Madison Ave., on the North Side.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Three Rivers Arts Fest brings musical acts Leftover Salmon and Charles Bradley to Downtown Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 4:09 PM

Musical acts continue to draw crowds to Point State Park this week, as the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival brings 10 days of free performing and visual arts to Downtown Pittsburgh. On Tuesday night, Leftover Salmon, a jam band from Boulder, Colo., brought its rootsy, string-based music to the main stage. Old-school soul singer Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, dubbed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” was the headliner on Wednesday night.

Check out photos from both performances in our photo slideshows below; plus, don’t miss our photos from last Sunday night’s headliners Ibeyi here.

The Arts Festival continues through Sun., June 12. That night, headliner Lake Street Dive, a soulful pop band frequently heard on local independent radio station WYEP's playlist, takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.

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SPACE hosts Pittsburgh's third annual Performance Art Festival tomorrow and Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 3:14 PM

After drawing more than 500 visitors last year, the Performance Art Festival (PAF) is back, featuring performances by 22 artists from all over the globe, and now as part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

PAF performer Hannah Thompson, of Pittsburgh - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Photo courtesy of the artist
  • PAF performer Hannah Thompson, of Pittsburgh
Founded by Bunker Projects, a gallery and artist residency based in Friendship, the festival plans to showcase 16 combined hours of performance. Cutting-edge pieces will include public interventions as well as site-specific performances centering on themes that connect across cultural and political boundaries.

The performers in the third annual festival, curated by Abagail Beddall, hail from as far away as Norway, Italy, South Korea, Spain and Mexico, and from Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City and, of course, Pittsburgh. 

Bunker Projects chose to expand the festival from its home base, which has a gallery area of about 500 square feet along with apartments and studios for resident artists.

PAF performer Lara Salmon, of Los Angeles - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Photo courtesy of the artist
  • PAF performer Lara Salmon, of Los Angeles
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offered Downtown's SPACE Gallery as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

PAF 2016 will take place 4-10 p.m. both tomorrow and Saturday. Admission is free. To learn more, visit

SPACE Gallery is at 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Photos from refugee camp a highlight at Pittsburgh’s Arts Festival

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 10:52 AM

One of the more powerful statements at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp 04.01.16-04.21.16: Displacement / Resilience/ Hope. This installation by locally based photographer Maranie Staab turns the old Liberty Avenue visitors’-information kiosk into a moving testament to the humanity of people who have nowhere to go.

A photo from "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp" - PHOTO BY MARANIE STAAB
  • Photo by Maranie Staab
  • A photo from "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp"
Staab made the 18 photos during her recent three-week stay at the camp, which is located in Jordan and is now what she calls “a semi-permanent home” for about 100,000 people who have fled war and other terrors. Most of the refugees are from Syria.

The camp, which opened four years ago, occupies three square miles of desert. Run by the Jordanian government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, it was designed to shelter 60,000, but has instead been home to as many as 250,000 at a time (making it, says Staab, the fourth largest “city” in Jordan).

And Zaatari is of course only one of many destinations for such refugees, of whom Syria alone has produced more than 2.5 million.

Exterior view of "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp" - PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
  • Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
  • Exterior view of "Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp"
Staab says her goal was to show the refugees as individuals, not as the faceless masses so often depicted in the media, and to communicate their resourcefulness in the face of dire circumstances.

Inside the Zaatari Refugee Camp is located right next to Carrie Mincemoyer's highly visible Dandelions installation on the Liberty Avenue sidewalk. Staab herself is frequently staffing the installation and says she’ll be there especially during high-traffic times, like the weekend. This past Friday, the first day of the festival, she told CP that her photos had already sparked dialogue about the refugee crisis with visitors to the exhibit.

The installation, like the festival as a whole, continues through this Sunday, and attendance is free.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pittsburgh artist Vince Dorse hopes Kickstarter will bring his award-winning comic to print

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 2:33 PM

A panel from Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot
  • A panel from Vince Dorse’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot

Pittsburgh artist Vince Dorse is hoping a Kickstarter campaign will turn his award-winning online comic Untold Tales of Bigfoot into a graphic novel by this December — just in time for holiday gifts for your favorite kid or your favorite kid-at-heart.

The all-ages story, which follows the adventures of a lost dog named Scout and a lonesome Bigfoot, won Dorse an esteemed Reuben comics-arts award for Best Online Comic, Long-Form. In just two weeks, Dorse has raised over 80 percent of his Kickstarter goal. “I’ve never had more fun or felt more connected to any other project I’ve ever worked on,” he tells CP. “And getting it into print, getting a chance to bring the story to more people, means maybe I get to keep doing this thing that I’ve really come to love.”

The story is super cute and sweet, and the Kickstarter awards are pretty awesome: At the $55 pledge level, Dorse will provide a digital file of you — or someone you love — drawn cartoon style, hanging out with Scout and Bigfoot. Print it out and stick it in a signed book and you have the perfect gift. As of today, more than 30 people have chosen pledges at that amount or higher. I asked Dorse if he was nervous to draw that many caricatures.

“I’m actually excited about drawing the people who back the book. In my head, I’m wandering around in the woods with Bigfoot and Scout all the time, so I’m hoping anyone who’s a fan of the story would enjoy a little piece of that experience. Bigfoot wouldn’t mind a few more friends.”

We first brought you the news about Untold Tales of Bigfoot’s upcoming Kickstarter in our interview with Dorse earlier this year. Revisit it here for more background on Dorse’s work and his collaborations with City Paper.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

The Three Rivers Arts Festival opening weekend brings art and music to Downtown Pittsburgh

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 2:42 PM

The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival opened this weekend, bringing 10 days of free performing and visual arts to Downtown Pittsburgh. We captured the scene on Sunday night, with local reggae group The Freedom Band, who we profiled earlier this year, taking the main stage at Point State Park at 6 p.m.

Headliners Ibeyi, an experimental and soulful French-Cuban duo, closed out the night with an electrifying stage presence, with music sung in both English and the Nigerian language, Yoruba.

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Ai Weiwei speaks in Pittsburgh on eve of Warhol exhibit

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 6:35 PM

Ai Weiwei spoke to a sold-out audience at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland the night before Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibit opened at the Andy Warhol Museum - PHOTO BY WILLIAM LUDT
  • Photo by William Ludt
  • Ai Weiwei spoke to a sold-out audience at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland the night before Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibit opened at the Andy Warhol Museum
The historic, nearly 2,000-seat Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland was sold out for the appearance of Chinese dissident artist and international icon Ai Weiwei.

The talk, hosted by Andy Warhol Museum executive director Eric Shiner, served as kick-off for today's opening of Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei, an exhibit juxtaposing the two artists' lives and works. The exhibit comes to Pittsburgh from the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Ai has spoken out against authoritarianism in China. His arrest in 2011 in China, for what the Communist government said were financial crimes, was criticized as politically motivated. Ai's passport was confiscated for four years.  In 2014, working from China, he directed an exhibit at Alcatraz, where portraits of "prisoners of conscience," including Edward Snowden, created from Legos, were on display, and music of the Russian band Pussy Riot played.

With such a iconic presence in the room, one might expect high-brow intellectualism and somber discussion. But Ai brought a down-to-earth, warm presence and sense of humor. He kept the audience laughing, delivering one-liners to Shiner's lighthearted questions. In response to Shiner's inquiry about the many cats at his Beijing studio (which Shiner compared to Warhol's affection for cats), Ai said, "We all have our weak points." Asked what Warhol would have thought of his work, Ai speculated, "He'd say, 'geez, that's great." 

The crowd enjoyed a particularly amusing moment when Shiner brought up Ai's Lego episode leading up to the Melbourne show — in which the company would not fill his order because his artwork with them would be political. "I was very surprised and frustrated because [my] show was coming up. ... I put on my Instagram account that I'm being refused [by Lego], and almost all newspapers started writing 'Why this guy can't get his Legos?' Suddenly, I had been victimized," he said, pointing out the irony in juxtaposing his work on human rights with how the world viewed his not being able to get Legos as a significant issue. The incident led Lego to change its policy on bulk orders and to stop asking customers what they are using them for. 

But Shiner and Ai's talk wasn't all humor. Ai minced no words when he began to speak about the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.

"This is a tragedy of our humankind today, and anybody pretending not to know it is a crime," Ai said. "As someone called an artist activist, I have some kind of obligation to this."

Ai set up a studio on the Greek Island of Lesbos, where many Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian and other refugees are disembarking from overloaded dinghies.

Ai's Instragram account is full of photos from his visits to refugee camps.

Another poignant, socially conscious moment happened at the beginning of the program when surprise-guest Jasiri X performed his new work "Our Generation," calling attention to institutionalized racism and sexism as well as labor issues. "Our generation ... we will dismantle institutions based on patriarchy ... and build new ones," he recited to the crowd.

A photo of Jasiri X and Ai can be seen on the artist's Instagram feed.

At the end of the program, Shiner thanked Ai for taking time from his work on the refugee crisis to visit Pittsburgh, and the artist walked off stage to a standing ovation.

The Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibit is at the Warhol until Aug. 28. Additionally, Ai's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads is on exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture until Aug. 29.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Frank Harris

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 2:49 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Frank Harris

Longtime City Paper readers might have noticed something a little familiar looking about this week’s cover. That’s because this week marks the second time we hired this week’s cover artist Frank Harris to do a parody of Grant Wood’s famous “American Gothic” painting. The first was for our Election Guide back in October 2012 when Frank illustrated our “American Nightmare,” featuring a caricature of Republican presidential candidate Mitt “Binders Full of Women” Romney next to a woman with her mouth duct-taped shut.

We’re not above making a good idea work twice. It was a great cover illustration in 2012, and with the Pens in the Stanley Cup playoffs right as the Three Rivers Arts Festival comes to town, what better matchup than to combine hockey with art? Editor Charlie Deitch and I played around with several other ideas before deciding on “American Gothic” — Iceburgh as the Mona Lisa, for one. But in the end, Iceburgh and Sidney Crosby posed as “American Gothic” just felt right. We couldn’t be happier that Frank was on board for being the same artist for both.

We caught up with Frank over email after he completed this week’s illustration. Frank lives in Mount Lebanon with his “lovely and incredible” girlfriend, Dr. Teresa Lacaria; his two “super” kids, Max and Sam; and a pretty cat named Daisy. Frank also does children’s illustrations and conceptual images, in addition to his editorial work. Here, he shares his love of Pittsburgh and fills us in on his biggest art critic.

This isn’t the first time you did a parody for us of “American Gothic.” We promise we won’t put you through this again, but say that we did — do you have any two people you think would be fun to throw in the scene?
I think I’d put Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton together. I think I’d put Donald in the dress and Hillary with the pitchfork.

You studied fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University. Did you always want to be an artist?
Yeah, Il always wanted to be an artist. I needed better guidance counselors growing up.

What’s your workspace like?
I mostly work digitally on a drawing pad, so it’s nice that I can work anywhere when I’m doing illustrations. But when I do commissions, or my own personal work, I end up painting in my dining room. It’s not very bohemian, but I have two kids to raise.

The arts fest returns to Pittsburgh this weekend. As a Pittsburgh artist, what do you hope out-of-towners learn about our local art scene while they’re in town?
Pittsburgh has changed so much. Its restaurants, galleries and music scene are so good now. It’s a great city and has so much to offer. I’m starting to paint Pittsburgh all the time into my paintings.

Your “American Gothic” parodies aren’t your only take on famous paintings. I saw you have a really fun Pittsburgh version of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in your portfolio. What inspired that piece?
An art consultant I work with asked me to do some Pittsburgh-oriented pieces, and I wanted to do something that was a little out of the ordinary. So I thought, “What would Vincent van Gogh paint if he painted Pittsburgh?” I put it on Facebook not really thinking much about it, and I got about 1,500 shares in a few days. I sold a lot of prints. 

Frank Harris’ first “American Gothic” parody cover illustration from 2012 and his Winter Classic cover illustration from 2010
  • Frank Harris’ first “American Gothic” parody cover illustration from 2012 and his Winter Classic cover illustration from 2010
This week also isn’t the first time we’ve asked you to illustrate Sidney Crosby. I’m a huge fan of your caricatures and in late 2010, your cover illustration for CP had Crosby facing the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin for a story on the Winter Classic coming to Pittsburgh. Are you a hockey fan?
I hate to admit it, but I’m only a hockey fan when they get into the playoffs. I’m a really big Steelers fan and Pirates fan. Love going to see the Pirates at the stadium. It’s a great night out.

Got a Stanley Cup prediction?
The Penguins all the way!

In addition to editorial work, you also do a lot of illustrations for children’s publications. You’re great at both! Which is more challenging?
I don’t really have a preference. I like that someone wants me to illustrate for them.

Have your kids ever requested any Frank Harris original paintings for their room?
No, but my son Sam is a good critic. He looks at what I’m working on, and in his best 13-year-old teenage style, says something like, “Dad, that sucks,” or “It’s OK” or “Not bad.” I usually listen to what he has to say about it.

What advice would you give a young artist hoping to make art a full-time career?

Become digitally savvy, learn a lot of software. I think computers are amazing.

Got any big projects coming up we can look forward to?
Hoping to put together a show of paintings soon. 

Where can our readers find you online?

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Kickstarter deadline approaching for Pittsburgh’s Squonk Opera

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Pittsburgh’s own nationally touring performance-art rock band is set to debut its latest spectacle, Cycle Sonic, next week at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. The six performances are sure to be a highlight of the 57th annual fest, but the group is still fundraising to complete this pedal-powered project, and bring it to its fullest realization in the community.

  • Photo illustration courtesy of Squonk Opera
  • Artist's rendering of "Cycle Sonic"
As of this morning, the Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 for this “pageant of bike stages” had 10 days to go and needed about another $1,900.

Cycle Sonic , another in Squonk’s line of free, musical, prop-filled spectacles in public settings, consists of four double-decker bikes, each with a pedaler/driver underneath and a musician on top. (A fifth musician will be on foot.)

From the Kickstarter Project Description: “Combining elements of circus parades, bike formations and marching bands, these bicycle floats will sprout bulb-horns and banners, whirligigs and whistles, the swirl and thump of wheel and pedal. A pageant of double-deckers and giant puppet bikers will circle the audience, with backdrops of undulating flags and 20-foot legs pumping with the rhythm of sustainable power. With no carbon footprint, this traveling event will combine the thrill of live performance with the uncelebrated world of the everyday.”

Squonk has been a staple on the local arts scene since its debut a quarter-century ago, combining adventuresome art-rock with surrealist stagecraft; the critically acclaimed group has played Broadway, performed internationally, and even survived a stint on TV's America’s Got Talent.

Squonk premieres, meanwhile, are a familiar sight at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, including 2012’s Pneumatica and 2012’s Go Roadshow  (mounted on a flatbed truck). Both shows were aided by Kickstarter campaigns, and both went on to tour nationally, just as Cycle Sonic is set to do.

Cycle Sonic is unique in that through the cycling component it promotes public health and green energy, and Squonk plans to create “hands-on physics demonstrations for free workshops for public schools and community groups.”

The Kickstarter campaign runs for Cycle Sonic runs until about 10 a.m. Sat., June 11, just hours before the show's first performance.

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