- Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
- A convocation of forms: Kyle Milne's "Harmonic Socialization."
Fusion is an invitational exhibition presented by Group A, a Pittsburgh artists' guild whose "A" stands for "Abstract." Members and invitees created works specifically for this event, and were encouraged to use multimedia materials. The show was juried by Jacob Ciocci, a founding member of the Paper Rad collective.
Thematically, the show feels loose: Little ties the stronger work, located in the main gallery, with that in the gallery's lobby. Often, too, the "abstraction" theme seems to have been forgotten. Yet all is not lost: Of the 14 artists whose work is on view, five both look freshly at abstraction and piquantly question our relationships to technology.
Ryan Keene's installation "Abstraction (Oscillator #1)" consists of numerous audio speakers rigged onto a framework of copper pipes and clamps and facing the wall. A web of colored wires connects the speakers to receivers sitting on the floor. The sounds simultaneously emanating from the speakers are hard to identify: They might be the hum of traffic, the strumming of a guitar, static, a radio picking up a few weak signals. This sound abstraction cleverly echoes the exhibition's theme: The speakers "turn their backs" to us and create unidentifiable noise. It is not a stretch to imagine that the artwork addresses our plethora of media, and the meaninglessness that results from such oversaturation.
Connie Cantor thoughtfully used the happy accidents created by people testing pens in an office store to develop a series of 8 ½-by-11-inch colored digital prints. Citing the "potential of the random, effortless mark," Cantor scanned and digitally manipulated these 4-by-6-inch, abstract doodles into "works of fine art." An accompanying display of the "originals" shows that she has kept true to their spirit. The anonymous scribbles that utilize randomness and chance are, coincidentally, consonant with the goals of abstract expressionism.
Wade Kramm's "Bird Shadow," meanwhile, is a craftily constructed machine that creates a real-time animation. Wooden cylinders, a motor and pushpins turn switches attached to a series of lights. The resulting strobe effect sequentially illuminates four cutout shadow puppets. This mimics the effect of two hands creating the well-known bird in flight. Suggesting Duchamp's famous mechanomorphs, Kramm's machine acts, literally and ingeniously, as a human stand-in.
Jill Larson's "Peep Show of the Life of a Soccer Mom," sits at the end of a small hallway, where five peepholes puncture the wall at different levels. Inside each, the viewer sees a small, blurry yet suggestive video of fleshy masses and seemingly erotic moments. The tease ends when you learn that the sexy imagery captures Larson doing domestic chores like baking bread, cleaning fruit and doing laundry. The viewer is left to contemplate the secret desires of said "soccer mom."
Finally, in "Harmonic Socialization," Kyle Milne has created four circular shapes from cement, each with a slightly different notch in its outer edge. The foot-high objects were rolled across the gallery floor and remain where they stopped, some upright, others fallen and shattered. Meanwhile, a monitor in the corner screens video of the forms being rolled. It takes the viewer a minute to realize that the shapes on the TV screen are not the ones in the gallery (the floor is different) -- a subtle commentary on the veracity of video technology.
Likewise, each of these five artists has taken a fairly predictable theme and added a surprising twist.
Fusion continues through Sat., Feb. 21. Pittsburgh Filmmakers Gallery, 477 Melwood Ave., North Oakland. 412-681-5449 or www.pghfilmmakers.org