Saturday, April 4, 2015

Art Interlude

Rebecca Lessner, "Hunter Gatherer"

Now that the weather is slowly but surely warming, I can spend more time checking out the sweet art exhibits in downtown Pittsburgh. I went with my cousin Meg this time, and we hit several shows on the block.

The 707 and 709 Penn Avenue galleries (which, unfortunately, don't seem to have a reliable web link) are one-room galleries that host a variety of shows. Hunter Gatherer was a particularly lovely collection of mixed media: sound, photography, and sculpture. Being Creepy Creepy Two By Fours, Meg and I were enamored with these modified animal skulls. But both galleries housed beautiful work, which should be there until the middle of the month.

Lauri Astala, "On Disappearance"

The Wood Street Galleries don't get a lot of press, but they contain some of my absolute favorite exhibitions. We managed to make it to the last few days of the Absence of Self collection of works. While my lovely readers will have missed this exhibit by the time I post, Wood Street always has some incredible work.

The above video piece--which was damn hard to photograph--actually makes you a part of the artwork. (You can see us standing in the mirrors.) It was incredible to listen to this person on screen monologue about the rooms of our life, and all the while, I felt that I was simultaneously part of the room he stood in and something separate. That's the purpose of art.

Ivana Franke, "Seeing With Eyes Closed"

Another one of my favorite pieces from the day was this interactive exhibit by Ivana Franke. You enter the room one at a time, sit on the pillow facing the lights, close your eyes, and press the button. The strobe lights flash and create patterns behind your eyes. The experience made Meg feel slightly sick, but I felt meditative, relaxed, and utterly impressed.

My one disappointment: the sign outside the exhibit clearly said that only one person should come in at a time. When it was my turn, I was quickly interrupted by a very young couple who refused to listen to the gallery attendant's instructions and acted like I wasn't waiting to try out the art. Dear readers, I hope none of you will ever be this rude at an art gallery.

Mel Chin, "Cross of the Unforgiven"

The Space Gallery currently has a curated collection of gun-related pieces called "Unloaded," which will be viewable until the end of April. Many of the pieces were beautiful, but I was particularly interested in the sculptures and installations. Meg referred to Chin's work as a "gun mandala"...very apt! The Space show is a great one to see if you like a wide variety of art forms.

We made sure we ate some lunch before we went gallery hopping. We gave Grit & Grace a try, and we were both reasonably impressed. We shared three servings of their take on "dim sum"--a quinoa with green curry, some carrot and cabbage kim chi, and pork belly bites--and I had a marinated carrot salad while Meg ate a pork belly BLT.

I would give the food a solid B grade: it was good, but not quite as remarkable as some of the dishes at other Pittsburgh restaurants. The cost of the alcohol was also pretty extreme, even by city standards. But the ambiance was beautiful and the service was fantastic. I might give them another lunch time visit in the future!

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