Fiberart International 2016 is so large it requires two venues. One half, which I’ve yet to see, is at the Society of Contemporary Craft through Aug. 21. But the 42 works at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts comprise an expansive and often exciting show in itself.
The artists in this Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh triennial, juried by Chunghi Lee, Arturo Alonzo Sandoval and Tali Weinberg, hail from the U.S., Europe, Asia and beyond. Many of the show’s real knockouts incorporate novel materials — pieces like Margery Amdur’s “Amass #6,” which fashions hundreds of cosmetic sponges colored orange and yellow into a piece of surrealist masonry bursting off the gallery wall. Brigitte Amarger’s coolly eerie “QR Code Tattoo 2” suspends X-rays cut into the silhouettes of three life-size 2-D human figures. And Sandra Jane Heard’s climate-change-themed “Indigenous Expulsion” features oil-can-headed monsters driving two tiny polar bears to a literal brink.
Other works surprise with traditional materials. Alexandra Kirsch’s “Expression” is seven cotton clouds, each with its own mouth, some of them unnervingly flashing fuzzy tongue and teeth. June Lee’s poignant “Bystander” places a crowd of colorful figurines table-top around a larger all-black figure, their poses of studied indifference contrasting its posture of grief. And one quilt makes a potent statement: Penny Mateer and Martha Wasik’s “THIS Revolution Will Not Be Televised” incorporates 70 photos of African Americans including Tamir Rice, their names and the dates of their deaths.
Upstairs at the PCA, the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project expands on previous exhibits by this group of several top locally based photographers. This installment emphasizes how hydrofracturing for natural gas has industrialized rural areas in eastern Ohio and throughout Pennsylvania, to the detriment of the land and the people and animals who inhabit it.
Lynn Johnson’s diptyches depict the ubiquity of wells, pipelines and compressor stations in Lawrence County — even amidst the Amish, who heat with wood. Scott Goldsmith documents protests against drilling near an Ohio reservoir. Two short documentaries by Nina Berman profile an activist — victim of a gas company’s draconian restraining order — and a resident whom drilling activity forced to abandon her home: two more instances of fracking remaking the landscape in its own image.