June 30, 2010

Interplay, a collaborative exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and eight affiliated guilds, is open to the public at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts until August 22nd.  It contains 49 works by 45 artists working in a variety of media, from paint, to film, to metal, to found objects. The central theme of the exhibit, interplay, has been interpreted by the artists in a variety of ways. Some explore the interplay of societal elements, some the intersection of opposite ideas, some the visual interplay between colors, words, objects, and images, and some strive to uncover cognitive dissonance.


Artists have a certain ability to expose unexpected dualities. There are the bright hues of domestic banality, seen through the door and window of a house at nighttime in a video by Lizzy De Vita. In Alan Byrne’s “Crime and Punishment,” there is the glamour of crime set opposite the electric chair, that most brutal, grimy, and barbaric object of correction.  Interplay juror Eric Shiner refers to these as “binarisms and juxtapositions.” They are thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, combing nature and urbanity, wealth and poverty, sentimentality and scientific profundity, and even the crushing sadness of homelessness with the Barbie-dream life gaiety.

wormhole schematicSome artists focused on a visual interplay. Daniel Brickman’s ”Wormhole Schematic” is made of straight lines of thread which yield the illusion of curved space. The crossing of angles and lines creates a sense of roundness.

Christina Zaris, in her video Kaleyedoscope, looks backwards through a kaleidoscope at an eye,  turning it into an element of an ever-changing pattern. It is a creepily fascinating mosaic, in which eyelashes, veins, and the iris and pupil rise and subside, form stars, ovals, and cross hatches, and occasionally flash out of view for a moment due to a blink.

Nature vs. NurtureHisham Youssef’s “Nature vs. Nurture” consists of barbed wire around a tree, as well as some pesticide and fungicide. It creates a radically different interpretation of the word versus in that eternal psychological debate. It does not ask which one is more prominent, but rather which one is capable of destroying the other.

Continental DriftWendy Osher’s  “Continental Drift” is a map of the world made of clothing labels. Each nation is the size of the labels that make it up, causing Hong Kong to be the size of China, Mexico to be larger than the USA, and altogether causing a general bulge around the equator, that part of the Earth where hot climates and industrial slavery intersect.

James Maszle’s  “Perfect Night” is a mixed media piece with glow in the dark, disassembled mannequins, a small glowing Jesus standing prayerful next to a severed plastic hand, owls, flowers, a fence, and various other staples of suburban society. It reminds me of a summer night in the suburbs, when, in an attempt to stave off ennui, we would vacillate between staying in our black-light lit basements filled with our parents’ old broken objects and our glow-in-the-dark posters, and being outside on the vast lawns that passed for nature.

Each of the 49 pieces exposes a different contradiction, explores a different dichotomy, or rightly fractures what is often considered a unity.


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