Artists play trumpet to tulips at SPACE's new exhibit | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Artists play trumpet to tulips at SPACE's new exhibit

Trumpet to the Tulips uses a famous quote from George Darwin to champion experimentation

click to enlarge Artists play trumpet to tulips at SPACE's new exhibit (2)
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Trumpet to the Tulips at SPACE Gallery,
Trumpet to the Tulips, the latest exhibition at SPACE gallery, takes its name from a quote by George Darwin, a physicist who espoused the need for experimentation, saying it’s worth “blowing the trumpet to the tulips for a month” if only to see if something will happen. The three artists featured in the group show — Sarah Jacobs, Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann, and Kristen Letts Kovak, who also serves as curator — test that theory by exploring the commonalities in their respective work through individual and collaborative pieces.

The majority of the 52 pieces are produced by one artist, and it’s through them that the viewer can understand the distinct styles on display. The paintings of Letts Kovak, which veer from Expressionist to emulating highly decorative wallpaper, sit alongside the naturalistic, almost geological textures of Tzu-Lin Mann, who plays liberally with materials like paint and Sumi ink and layers, sometimes even draping one cut-out paper canvas over another.

Jacobs makes a bold statement with her hyper-vibrant oil paintings, which combine photorealistic and painterly images of plant life as if to depict nature reclaiming an artificial world. This trait comes through especially in Autumn, a busy, beautiful mess of leaves disrupted by crudely drawn images similar to a child's scribblings (a few are even labeled in juvenile scrawl with the misspelled “pincone.”)
click to enlarge Artists play trumpet to tulips at SPACE's new exhibit
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Autumn by Sarah Jacobs
The experimentation drives the collaborative works, all of which loom large in the gallery on huge canvases as if begging you to search out each artist’s contributions. Examining each piece becomes a bit of an interactive exercise, engaging the viewer with swaths of intermingled imagery.

The artists’ styles collide in compelling and even literal ways. Dinosaur in the Dollhouse is an explosion of abstract forms intermingled with shards of flaming disco balls and fragmented illustrations, its title suggesting a nod to the catastrophic event that wiped out Earth’s prehistoric creatures. Wool Gathering takes a cleaner approach, as it gently morphs into four distinct blocks, their warped nature-scapes filled with obscured surprises (if you look close enough, you’ll see the shapes of a cat and mouse). Uniting it all is an outline of a tree in bloom, a girl seated in its branches and staring dreamily up at a moon in the far upper-left corner.

Trumpet to the Tulips
stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, as the artists eliminate the competitive need to stand out and allow their work to flow together, producing a collection of dynamic and expressive works.