Two Downtown University Galleries | Program Notes

Two Downtown University Galleries

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Here's a note on two visual-arts venues, one brand-new and one that might as well be.

The technically new one is Point Park's, located in Lawrence Hall. The entrance is on Wood Street, just before the Boulevard of the Allies; walk through the lobby, skirting a lounge area (with its own art display I'll get to in a minute) and down a short hall.

The airy, day-lit space just wrapped its inaugural exhibit, 16 oil paintings by the late Frank Herbert Mason. The longtime teacher at New York's Art Students League worked in a classical vein, with Bible scenes, landscapes and still lifes predominating. It's a nice start for the space, and it'll be interesting to see what Point Park does with it next. (The gallery is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.)

Especially with the Mason show over, you're free to spend additional well-deserved lunch-hour time back in the Lawrence Hall lobby with Resurrected: After Exoneration

Export, Pa., painter Dan Bolick's show of vivid expressionistic paintings and drawings, from large canvases to framed prints, capture the intelligence, pain, anger and even humor of former death-row inmates who were later exonerated.

The men served from five to 27 years in places like Louisiana's infamous Angola State Prison. The prints include text apparently transcribed verbatim from Bolling's subjects themselves.

"I never though about freedom because I was faced with a natural life sentence," said Clyde Charles, who served 18 years. "And mostly, people who face a natural life sentence in this state here, they see the graveyard."

Dan Bright, who served 10 years at Angola, said, "No one has taken responsibility for the nightmare I lived … The cimrinal-justice system doesn't work for society as a whole. If it failed me, it is failing everybody."

The exhibit, sponsored by Point Park's Innocence Institute, is a smaller version of show last year at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. It's up at Point Park through April 2. 

Across Downtown, meanwhile, is the Robert Morris Media Arts Gallery. It's in one of RMU's nondescript buildings, the one at 600 Fifth Avenue. The gallery's been operating for a couple years, but I first started hearing about it late last year, after RMU faculty member Carolina Loyola-Garcia became coordinator.

The latest exhibit, curated by Brigitte Martin of Lawrenceville's Luke & Eloy Gallery, stretches the definition of "media" to include ceramics. Ceramic Expressions is a cool little show featuring work by Pittsburgh's Laura Jean McLaughlin and out-of-towners Diem Chau and Joseph Gower.

McLaughlin's surreal style is familiar, but she continues to intrigue and unnerve with her permutations of human and animals bodies. Chau's contemplative evocations of domesticity are gossamer hybrids of fiber art and found china. Gower's more pop-art styled work includes large-scale takes on things like automobile hoods and tool chests.

The versatile little gallery remains pretty low-profile. Though you can sort of see it from the sidewalk on an admittedly gray streetcorner, there's no permanent signage outside. Still, now that you know, it'll be easier to make it over. It's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and admission is free.

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