At the PCA, three artists take things apart to put it all together | Art Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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At the PCA, three artists take things apart to put it all together 

Each artist deconstructs, rebuilds or reconfigures in order to challenge comprehension

The nine solo exhibitions by area artists now at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, curated by Adam Welch, are all quite different in appearance and intention, but three have interesting affinities.

Terry Boyd, Vlad Basarab and Joseph Lupo use different mediums to explore abstraction, pattern, visual language and memory through additive and subtractive methods. Each deconstructs, rebuilds or reconfigures in order to challenge comprehension.

Boyd's exhibition is titled Bowers & Embroideries. A 2007 video "Untitled (sewing sequence)" functions as a sort of introduction. In a split screen, the top focuses on a man's hands — presumably the artist's — as he embroiders camouflaged material held taut by an embroidery hoop. The bottom shows him loading an arrow attached to black yarn and shooting it through a white canvas.

The Archaeology of Memory
  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
  • Vlad Basarab's The Archaeology of Memory (detail)

On display in neighboring galleries are Boyd's actual bow-and-arrow pieces. The tension of simultaneously rending and stitching the canvas is interesting and follows a long line of artists who have pushed the boundaries of abstraction by cutting, piercing, shooting or throwing someone or something at or onto a canvas or the ground. Boyd's effort to masculinize the process is a bit too essentialist, but the intensity is more palpable than in his other work at PCA, in which he uses technology to compress, pixelate and digitize images so that his sewing machine creates impromptu abstractions. Here the process is more compelling than the result.

The anarchic messiness of Basarab's exhibition, The Archaeology of Memory, resembles Boyd's bow-and-arrow paintings in that he simultaneously destroys and preserves his materials. Using books as symbols, he covers them with clay or salt or partially disintegrates them with water. There are no visible words, just the suggestion of their presence. Basarab's statement explains that the work concerns "the loss of collective culture and memory."

Lupo, too, plays with presence and absence. Like Basarab and Boyd, he deconstructs in order to glean new meaning. His exhibition, Comic Configurations, is based on "The Invincible Iron Man" volume 1, issue 178. By removing either text or image, Lupo explores the way we perceive visual and textual narrative. And by preserving a key word in an individual cell, or rearranging words or images to create new patterns, he echoes how the other two artists play with the subconscious and the coherence of our visual vocabulary.

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