Steve Prince at 707 and 709 Penn; Ed Piskor at The ToonSeum | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Steve Prince at 707 and 709 Penn; Ed Piskor at The ToonSeum

“Communal Resurrection: Song for Aya” (detail), by Steve Prince
“Communal Resurrection: Song for Aya” (detail), by Steve Prince

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has devoted two storefront venues, 707 and 709 Penn Galleries, to artist Steve Prince, and the space is well justified. Communal Resurrection: The Soul of a Community is a riveting exhibit by this New Orleans-native artist, now teaching at Allegheny College. 

707 features 10 prints, mostly linocuts depicting couples. In “Soul Music,” a man and woman gaze into each other’s eyes, a miniature drummer in his chest cavity, a trumpeter in hers. While other works share similarly surreal elements, “Exodus: Bread From Heaven” finds its rhythm in how the couple’s legs are arrayed beneath their chairs. In these beautiful images, Prince’s men and women don’t smile; they look contemplative, some impassioned with love, others troubled, but never defeated.

It’s powerful stuff, capped by “Communal Resurrection: Song for Aya,” an epic five-panel, 40-foot-long woodblock carving in the same style, which depicts music in African-American life from the cotton fields (and The Cotton Club) to a DJ and emcee at a Bronx playground. Near the piece’s center, a couple exchange loving looks; to their right, an enraptured singer, lily in her hair, fronts a jazz band with an African drummer. Shavings on the gallery floor, chiseled from the work’s matte-black surface, testify to the labor behind Prince’s gorgeous lines, as sinuously alive as rippling water, or marsh grass in a breeze.

The 709 exhibit is dominated by three large drawings, including “Urban Nativity” (a crime scene with a young black victim) and “Who Is My Neighbor?” a portrait of interracial solidarity. Communal Resurrection continues through June 18 at 707 and 709 Penn Ave., Downtown. From noon-6 p.m. Fri., May 26, 707 Penn hosts a free Print Party and Gallery Talk with Steve Prince.


Fans of graphic novels, or old-school hip hop, likely know Ed Piskor, the Munhall native (and resident) internationally famed for Hip Hop Family Tree, his four-volumes-so-far graphic history of the music and its culture. Through May 21, the ToonSeum hosts Hermetically Sealed, Piskor’s first solo gallery show. It ranges from junior-high juvenilia (an obscene Dick Tracy parody; “Jack Kirby’s Creations”) to pages from Piskor’s self-published breakthrough, Wizzywig. But most of these 120-plus pieces are from the Fantagraphics-published HHFT, action-packed with hilariously rendered characters and episodes from early hip hop. You can even take home a piece, with Piskor’s $10 prints of characters from the series.

945 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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