The year in review: Visual Art | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The year in review: Visual Art 

Sexism and race were key themes

Sonya Clark’s “Pearl of Mother”
  • Sonya Clark’s “Pearl of Mother”

Art can respond eloquently to current events; sometimes it even anticipates them. Or so it seems, in retrospect, with DIGS — Sexism in the Arts, a group show at Artists Image Resource curated by Carolyn Pierotti. Sexism is a perennial issue, but DIGS opened in May, some five months before this year’s floodgates of allegations of sexual misconduct and assault were flung open with charges against globally known arts purveyor Harvey Weinstein. At least one work in DIGS, Sarika Goulatia’s interactive, wrenchingly intimate Prosecuterix, was re-exhibited elsewhere (at Carlow University). Another cogent look at related issues was Hacking/Modding/Remixing as Feminist Protest, curator Angela Washko’s big, multi-decade retrospective of women artists exploring both art and technology.

Discussions of race also continued to animate galleries here (including controversy over inclusion in the Three Rivers Arts Festival of a white artist’s painting depicting the death of Tamir Rice). Perhaps the biggest statement was 20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Carnegie Museum of Art, an ambitious blend of works from the two institutions that sometimes searchingly, sometimes scorchingly addressed what “America” means through the lens of race. In Oaths and Epithets — Work by Sonya Clark, at Contemporary Craft, the Virginia-based artist employed everyday materials ($5 bills, human hair) to explore slavery and its legacy. Firelei Baez brilliantly worked similar turf in Firelei Baez: Bloodlines, a show of 17 paintings at The Andy Warhol Museum. Braddock’s own LaToya Ruby Frazier — a MacArthur “genius grant” winner who still lives here part time — finally got her first hometown solo exhibits. Excerpts of Frazier’s iconic series The Notion of Family (at Silver Eye Center for Photography) forged a metaphor linking urban abandonment and wounded black bodies, while her collaborative On the Making of Steel Genesis: Sandra Gould Ford + LaToya Ruby Frazier (at the August Wilson Center) honored the legacies of both Pittsburgh steelworkers and a fellow African-American woman artist. And at the Mattress Factory, Vanessa German offered, a two-room installation that’s an overwhelming statement on black pain and resilience.

Other shows that impressed CP critics include: Natasha Neira’s canny installation This Isn’t About You (709 Penn Gallery); Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty, a huge touring show honoring the pioneering photographer (Frick Art Museum); local comics hero Ed Piskor’s first-ever solo show, Hermetically Sealed (ToonSeum); and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts’ spring suite of nine solo exhibits, especially work by Nikki Brugnoli, Misty Morrison, and Devan Shimoyama and Danny Ferrell.



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