There's nothing wrong with "business as usual" in art, and Pittsburgh saw more than its share of fine exhibits in established genres and forms, from skillfully rendered paintings and incisive documentary photography to labor-intensive sculptural installations. But the times they are a-changin', and some truly outside-the-box exhibits have been appearing around town ... not to mention podcasts, performances and web projects that fall outside the purview of this article. In no particular order:
Within (Janine Antoni at the Mattress Factory, Sept. 12, 2013-March 30, 2014). Antoni arrived as a revolutionary presence in the art world 20-plus years ago, and it's only fitting that she's the first artist to take over the townhouse at the Mattress Factory. Particularly notable was her room-by-room sequencing, which utilized the fact that there's only one route through the building, up the stairs to a dead end. By cutting a hole in the ceiling, she signaled that the sequencing was intentional and not something we brought to the table.
Alloy Pittsburgh (Carrie Furnaces, Rankin, Sept. 28-Oct. 26). Chris McGinnis and Sean Derry organized a monumental effort inside what's developing into a monument. Fourteen artists attended workshops, did research and created site-specific installations that variously enlivened and entertained, and in some cases changed the way I think about Carrie Furnaces and the history of the steel industry.
Glory Hair (Daniel Allende at 5139 Penn Ave., Oct. 11-12). The term "pop-up" has been tossed around a lot lately, covering just about every product and service imaginable, but I think of this as the first true art pop-up in Pittsburgh. Staged by Daniel Allende, who was transplanted to Pittsburgh for Carnegie Mellon's grad program (where I taught a class he was in), this unique event combined hair-themed murals, expressive, no-charge haircuts by professional barbers, and free beer and pizza served through a partition-wall glory-hole. A one-off by a one-off artist whose next project could be just about anything.
Terminal Moraine (Adam Welch at The Mine Factory, July 19-Aug. 10). What's an artist to do with an accumulation of work? Adam Welch brought a fresh, shall we say, "curatorial" perspective to the dilemma by repurposing a truckload of his paintings and sculptures into a labyrinth of sorts. It worked.
Oh Snap! (Carnegie Museum of Art, Feb. 21-May 12). Museums are plagued by the symphony/ballet/opera problem: Namely, how do you interest the younger generation? Seems that many don't care to be "interested" — but they might want to be involved. Starting with a handful of photographs from the museum's collection, the audience was asked to respond by submitting photos of their own, which were printed and hung near the inspiration. Billed as a collaborative photography project and "not an exhibition," this audience-sourced, um, exhibition got lots of submissions, many surprisingly good. Time will tell whether it's the beginning of the end — though I hope not — or a new beginning.