The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has devoted two storefront venues, 707 and 709 Penn Galleries, to artist Steve Prince, and the space is well justified. Communal Resurrection: The Soul of a Community is a riveting exhibit by this New Orleans-native artist, now teaching at Allegheny College.
707 features 10 prints, mostly linocuts depicting couples. In “Soul Music,” a man and woman gaze into each other’s eyes, a miniature drummer in his chest cavity, a trumpeter in hers. While other works share similarly surreal elements, “Exodus: Bread From Heaven” finds its rhythm in how the couple’s legs are arrayed beneath their chairs. In these beautiful images, Prince’s men and women don’t smile; they look contemplative, some impassioned with love, others troubled, but never defeated.
It’s powerful stuff, capped by “Communal Resurrection: Song for Aya,” an epic five-panel, 40-foot-long woodblock carving in the same style, which depicts music in African-American life from the cotton fields (and The Cotton Club) to a DJ and emcee at a Bronx playground. Near the piece’s center, a couple exchange loving looks; to their right, an enraptured singer, lily in her hair, fronts a jazz band with an African drummer. Shavings on the gallery floor, chiseled from the work’s matte-black surface, testify to the labor behind Prince’s gorgeous lines, as sinuously alive as rippling water, or marsh grass in a breeze.
The 709 exhibit is dominated by three large drawings, including “Urban Nativity” (a crime scene with a young black victim) and “Who Is My Neighbor?” a portrait of interracial solidarity. Communal Resurrection continues through June 18 at 707 and 709 Penn Ave., Downtown. From noon-6 p.m. Fri., May 26, 707 Penn hosts a free Print Party and Gallery Talk with Steve Prince. www.trustarts.org
Fans of graphic novels, or old-school hip hop, likely know Ed Piskor, the Munhall native (and resident) internationally famed for Hip Hop Family Tree, his four-volumes-so-far graphic history of the music and its culture. Through May 21, the ToonSeum hosts Hermetically Sealed, Piskor’s first solo gallery show. It ranges from junior-high juvenilia (an obscene Dick Tracy parody; “Jack Kirby’s Creations”) to pages from Piskor’s self-published breakthrough, Wizzywig. But most of these 120-plus pieces are from the Fantagraphics-published HHFT, action-packed with hilariously rendered characters and episodes from early hip hop. You can even take home a piece, with Piskor’s $10 prints of characters from the series.
945 Liberty Ave., Downtown. www.toonseum.org