Cluster: How Do You Make Meaning?

February 19, 2010

Cluster, a colorful multi-media, multi-artist exhibit based on the theme ‘compressed data,’ is currently open and will be at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until March 25th. Artists were given a great deal of freedom, causing the exhibit to be rich in its range of interpretations, ideas, and media.

Cluster icon

We live in a world of endless stimuli, imagery, and change. Our nature is to take data and categorize it, creating symbol systems that allow us to navigate through reality. Cluster explores personal versus communal symbol systems, and allows us to see how a variety of artists have interpreted the vast amounts of data that confront them on a daily basis. Some of the Cluster artists seek to create order, others to explode reality, and still others want to pick up scraps and use them to determine what it was all about.

Many pieces show a mixture of iconography, drawing connections between ideas and symbols that occur in our daily lives. In an untitled work by Brian Brown, Star-Bellied Sneetches flank a man riding a camel through the desert. The two images embody representations stored in vastly different mental compartments, and seeing them together is both surprising and humorous. Meanwhile, Jason Lee, in his work “Euthenic Set: Suburban Landscape,” satirizes how we over-organize space, creating false boundaries in a vain attempt to create a sanitized ideal. He plays with the ideas of compartmentalism, artificiality, and perfection.

Jacob Ciocci’s work “Trapped and Frozen Forever” is an exploration of icons, in both the cultural and computer senses of the word. His giant painting/video/collage rushes together in full color, like our collective cultural memory displayed before us. There are skulls, smiley faces, jack o’ lanterns, religious symbols, wicked witches, bones, and a bald eagle. It is all in the purple, black and neons that formed the mental wallpaper of my late 80’s youth. Within this wild jumble there are home videos, giving the work the feeling of a scrapbook in which all of the dream-like symbols of a media-heavy childhood were placed.

One work that particularly resonated with me was Connie Cantor’s “Mystery as the Seed of Liberation.” The painting is like a supernova, an active and intuitive piece with gold and bronze forms on a black background, illuminated by silver lines and blue ovals. Within the chaos, shapes are to be found: humans, animals, and bones. Cantor refers to it as expressing her “personal iconography.”

By going to Cluster, you will be able to compare your symbol system with those of others, and see which overlaps are universal, which are cultural, and which symbols are uniquely your own.

On Thursday, March 11th a discussion session will be held with Cluster curator Adam Welch as well as Cluster artists Dee Briggs, Connie Cantor, Jacob Ciocci, and David Pohl. A cash bar will open at 5:00, and the talk will take place at 6:00 pm at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.


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