Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Carnegie International

I have two main reasons for being in Pittsburgh this week. One is to visit my parents. The other is to check out the 2008 Carnegie International Exhibit. It's usually a fascinating show, and this year was no exception. Some of the highlights:

-Miniature Heretical Egg Copters: Pretty much does what it says on the tin. A dropped ceiling has been installed in one of the Scaife galleries, reducing the vertical clearance to about three and a half feet. As viewers stoop to enter the room, they are suddenly confronted with a swarm of tiny egg-shaped helicopters. The bodies of the copters are real egg shells, hollowed out and cunningly filled with the workings of remote controlled helicopters. Painted in loving detail on the underside of each copter is a scene of heresy, as described in a thirteenth century Papal encyclical. The scenes can only be glimpsed in passing, and at a certain amount of risk to the viewer. A facsimile of the encyclical is on display in the middle of the room, but the copters seem to be programed to guard it at all costs, so I didn't get a very good look.

-WoodStoneRiverWindPaint nos. 1-5:
A series of wall-sized canvases, done in a photorealistic style, depicting details from various pieces by artist/naturalist Andy Goldsworthy. After the exhibit finishes in January, Goldsworthy has agreed to take the canvases, arrange them artfully in the Mojave desert, and take photographs of them. Then the artist will produce new canvases based on these photos, and so on, until one of them dies or gets bored. Entrancingly pointless.

-I Get So Darn Mad!: Hole punched in the wall using the artist's own fists. This is the twelfth installation of this piece, which may explain why it had "NEVER AGAIN" scrawled in something that looked like dried blood underneath it. There has been a problem with pigeons entering the museum through the hole.

-Nobody Likes A Smartass, Series A: Twenty small still lifes, executed in oils and using an excruciatingly academic style, arranged in a 4X5 grid. I think the concept here was that there was absolutely nothing conceptual about the piece. This seems like kind of a smartass thing to do, so maybe it wasn't entirely successful. Still: nice brushwork.

-Adolph Chaplin/Charlie Hitler: Large photographic print. The artist used a computer program to merge two portraits of Chaplin and Hitler into one composite image. It all converges on the mustache, unsurprisingly, but it's the bowler with an unruly forelock sticking out of it that really makes the piece. The soulful yet crazed eyes will also haunt you for days afterward. Geraldine Chaplin sent an enraged letter to The Pittsburgh Press decrying the work, which was banned from exhibition at the Tate Modern through her intervention last year. There's been no word from Hitler's surviving relatives.

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