There is no better confirmation of a good event, albeit art or not, than to observe the size and enthusiasm of the gathered crowd. For the occasion of the Pittsburgh Cultural Districts January Gallery Crawl (which occurs the last Friday of every month) the evidence was strong. With the sight of scattered socializers crawling the streets in every direction I jumped right in. The allure of the event was clear enough by the pleasure-seekers present to enjoy some culture…or perhaps just the free Yuengling.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, producers of this and other events in the Downtown Cultural District, over do it a bit, with the branded napkins and all, but also make sure the event is user-friendly. Perched outside each participating location was a red ‘Cultural Stop’ sign, live performances occurred in public spaces such as fire dancers and live music and maps listing the options for a stop-and-view were provided for free at each location.
Attending for the art over the beer, Wood Street Galleries was my first stop. Their inherent coolness, vindicated by the very building they occupy, hits you before you even get a look at whats inside. The two floors of galleries are housed in a beautiful historic building reminiscent of the Faltiron and sit above the T-Station (Pittsburgh’s subway). When first entering it feels as if you’ve dropped down into an ant colony watching as the city-slickers appear one by one from the work-line below, but then, you join and climb to the floors above where the feeling of the city slowly slips away and a welcomed calm intensifies.
On view is HC Gilje: In Transit, where his light installations take stage and each floor is transitioned into a casual gathering place of an unusual type. A sense of intimidation hits you first as there is no light other than the illumination from the art and you hesitate until your eyes focus. Once around the corner or through the curtains and in the large room there is an initial awe that is then transitioned into a comfortable flow of chatter. Gilje’s work is individual to the space it inhabits, as no two locations are the same. In some pieces the light stood still and influenced that of an unbreakable-gaze as if starring at the ocean, while others morphed the lines and creases of the space with their fluid movement and slight color change. All of which makes you wonder how it would transition your personal space.
SPACE, the sister gallery of Wood Street, inhabits a much larger, commercialesque spot with large fish-bowl windows replacing walls on the street side. Here it was more of a production and extremely crowded inside (the beer line was long enough to deter me). Centered around “the wake of war”* with pieces of all media hanging was Out of Rubble. There were several large-scale photographs, many that gave the feeling of Gregory Crewdson’s work, some less-representational assemblage pieces that caught my eye (see photo: Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz) and prints of a wallflower nature. Overall the show was underwhelming and lacked a cohesive flow making the crowd more of a focal point.
Marveling viewers at 707 Penn Gallery was Paper Thin Theater by Kathryn Carr. If I said I wasn’t a tad reminded of Kara Walker I would be lying but only by the physical fundamentals: hand-cut paper pieces, identifiable black silhouettes, civil war period characters. However Ms. Carr’s work is dream themed, not political, with the intent of whimsy not provoking thought. Her work probes at the art of story telling with nostalgic childhood characters and fantasy like sets and felt a bit like attending a hobbit theater in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Rivendell…a childhood dream fulfilled.
*Exhibtion Description: http://www.spacepittsburgh.org/flash.html