Bill Daniel in Scale

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The road-tested but locally rooted artist and filmmaker has one of the more intriguing pieces in Scale, a show at Downtown's Space Gallery.

Scale, curated by Ally Reeves (an occasional CP contributor), is broadly about people figuring out how to live in the new normal of limited resources and the patent social and environmental failure of more-is-always-better lifestyles.

There's plenty of good stuff in the show, which Savannah Schroll Guz reviewed for us a couple weeks ago (www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A90153). And the gallery was a fun scene during last Friday's gallery crawl -- not least because the tamale cart contributed by the artist team of Heidi Tucker and Caleb Gamble was in operation. (Damn, those were some good sweet-potato-and-black-bean tamales, at two for $5.)

But I was perhaps most intrigued by Daniel's installation. The lion's share of it was set up under a huge awning attached to one of the high-ceilinged gallery's walls, the awning material itself printed with stark black-and-white photos of what looked like the American West, iconically suggestive of life on the road.

The awning mimicked one you'd find sprung from the side of an RV. And the wall beneath it was plastered with reproductions of various ephemera from the road, a crazy wallpapered melange of photocopied photographs, hand-written messages and pages from oddball magazines with names like 18-Wheel Singles

One page memorably consists of a series of headshots of female prison inmates, each of whom had written her own profile beneath. The capper was the message that ran across the top of the page, warning readers not to send any money to convicts.

Daniel's installation matter-of-factly (and with a sneaky artfulness) evoked the crazy and unclassifiable American soul, one where politics are never cut-and-dried and one's deepest personal longings are often wrapped with scams, hucksterism and conspiracy theories (not all of them necessarily untrue).

The unoccupied folding chair and propane cannister set off to one side of the display were another smart touch. Daniel's work suggests that a life of limited resources (social, emotional, financial) has long been the norm for many of us. Its name is "getting by."

Scale runs through Sun., Feb. 6. 

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