The group show Interplay, at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, presents 49 works by members of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, its affiliates and Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Juried by Eric C. Shiner of The Andy Warhol Museum, the range and quantity of work presented is vast and often compelling.
The sign introducing the exhibit on the second floor explains that Interplay challenged the artists selected to "consider all of the ways in which people, things or ideas repeatedly act on and react to each other."
In one room, a wispy digital print by Henry Simonds titled "Eustache" at first seems so slight as to be dismissed. But as I looked, the bearded image and character of the face (Eustache Deschamps, the French poet?) drew me in. In the same space, "In and Out of Money," by Alan Byrne, copped a Juror's Choice award. However, its acrylic re-working of black-and-white newspaper photos from the 1930s impressed me less than Lizzy De Vita's untitled triptych of blurred photographs printed on homemade paper of two male guitarists with barely discernible faces, with a semi-clothed female dancing in the background.
In an adjacent gallery space, Susan Sparks' "Art of Noise Composition" numbers 46 and 47 combine "ink, tape and magic," pinched and etched with lines and squiggles, like a topographic map or scar tissue. Pati Beachley's "Hold" is described as sand casting but looks like a hunk of carpet, spray-painted gold and silver. More intriguingly, Wesley Smith's photo-realistic "Deep Woods Silkie" depicts a fox stalking a colorfully plumed bird in front of a gnarled tree. (A Silkie is a variety of chicken.) The work was listed as being done on an iMac. The vivid images and figures led me to wonder how real real needs to be.
In the video gallery, the most significant of the four works is John Foster Cartwright's "With detachments steady throwing ..." (whose title I abbreviate). Speeded-up video footage shot from a train depicts dry scrubland of the American Southwest changing to lush trees and mountains, from light to dark. Passengers reflected against the windows inside mingle with the scenery outside, reinforcing the notions of interplay and juxtaposition.
For those wondering what to do with extra hairballs, Mary Towner's felted cat fur "Bolero Mousies" runs up the wall and across the doorway of the next space like tadpoles. Wendy Osher's "Continental Drift" offers a witty take on the global marketplace: It's a wall-sized, partial world map composed entirely of clothing labels for garments made overseas. Philomena O'Dea gets the viewer up close and personal with the combined beauty of art and microbiology with "Molecular Mandala." "Connector Mapping #1," by Tiberiu Chelcea, invites visitors to participate in finding the shortest distance between multiple points by moving pieces of string stretched between pins on a canvas.
I poked my head through a curtain in the corner of the last room I visited to find myself in a dreamscape titled "Perfect Night," by James Maszle, who has an interesting idea of perfection. In the installation, a naked, emasculated male mannequin flies a kite while a video plays of a figure walking through the night. Colored lights and music play across the interior. Stars are projected behind.
Art (especially contemporary art) invites and challenges viewers to construct meaning from seemingly disparate elements. To put that more cynically, such artworks just as often seem to throw a hodgepodge of elements at the gallery wall to see what sticks. For those interested in immersing themselves in new and innovative efforts by local artists, Interplay does a little of both.
Interplay continues through Aug. 22. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. 412-361-0873