Sculptor Ed Parrish Jr. dazzles at the Irma Freeman Center | Art Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Sculptor Ed Parrish Jr. dazzles at the Irma Freeman Center

Pieces appear alien yet feel sweetly comforting

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Sculptor Ed Parrish Jr. has been a dedicated advocate for metal arts in Pittsburgh since the mid-2000s. Initiating Hot Metal Happenings performance events, he ran city-wide iron pours for casting contemporary art. With Rivers of Steel, he built a foundry at Carrie Furnaces, creating metal-arts educational-workshop programs and cast plaques illustrating native wild plants along Carrie’s Iron Garden Walk.

Parrish has curated astonishing exhibitions at Space Gallery and on Carrie’s grounds for the 26th Annual International Sculpture Conference. In personal practice, building fantastical realms from ephemeral elements and granting them metallic permanence through iron casting is something the nationally exhibited artist has brilliantly for over two decades. His current show is Rust Belt Blondes, at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination.

Parrish’s patterns for sand molds juxtapose found materials — textile, plastic, paper and rubber forms. Compositions balance endearingly clumsy and startlingly graceful qualities inherent in everyday experience.

Evanescent bubble-wrap or finely threaded doilies are cast in monumental new roles of indestructible strength. Parrish hand-paints dark metal, reimagining and heightening the pattern materials’ original hues. Their textural variety generates shimmering color fields mirroring the world’s pallor and brightness: ethereal emanations within meditative, elegant designs. Pieces appear alien yet feel sweetly comforting, filled with familiar, sensual elements.

Wall pieces’ constructions allude to celestial spheres as much as to microscopic views, reflecting a universe of fluid interconnections. Shapes suggesting heavenly bodies in smoldering colors, swept into dramatic arcs, evoke the fall of shooting stars across one last, lost night. A plush-lined, fiercely spiked entity seems a vacated extraterrestrial seed pod, having released something small into a strange, limitless new land.

In “Sublime Mitosis,” a golden-hearted cell and its infant born of division, bundled in sentimental textiles, appear as close-knit double lives in infinite flux. “Cellular Side Show” presents an island of stillness, radiating hypnotic violet-tinged rings, amid the kaleidoscopic whirl of an envisioned inner life’s ceaseless flow.

Works seem apertures onto other worlds yet simultaneously impenetrable. They exude a longing for a place boundless as the imagination. A sense of contemplation and weight within them counters the insubstantiality of a contemporary culture dazzled by constant change.

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