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In keeping with the sense of “play” emphasized by the 2013 Carnegie International curators – Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski – visitors were sent on a art treasure hunt, blurring the lines between what’s on view in the museum’s excellent and eclectic collection with what was specifically curated for the International (on view now through March 16, 2014).
This was an enriching experience, juxtaposing Phyllida Barlow’s anti-monument, brightly colored soft sculpture with Richard Serra’s permanent steel structure on the museum plaza; navigating through galleries likely to be ignored, like gem and minerals, to find Mark Leckey’s 16mm film projected on Jeff Koons’ stainless balloon bunny, addressing ideas of actual and virtual as well as coveted things of value; and seeing historical statues and architecture pop in a new way by Gabriel Sierra’s subtle intervention of purple painted walls and stairs in defiance of the pristine formal elegance of the marbled Hall of Architecture.
The most powerful of these interventions was Nicole Eisenman’s Carnegie International Prize-winning, 20-year survey of paintings accompanied by larger than life plaster sculptures placed in dialogue with the historical statues in the Hall of Sculpture.
Though politics did not dominate they were naturally present, from Amar Kanwar’s poetic films of trauma and history to Zoe Strauss bringing it back to her home state of Pennsylvania with her portraits of residence in the former infamous steel town of Homestead.
Missing were major discoveries, and the bar was set high from my first Carnegie visit way back in 1999, when I experienced my first Janet Cardiff Walk, was introduced to William Kentridge’s work, and Sarah Sze elegantly broke through the wall taking her interaction with architecture to a new level.
With all the access now through pervasive fairs and biennales, maybe that’s okay, and even to be expected. This was a show about art, not art being pigeonholed into themes, and not the didactic politics that have dominated the international circuit, cutting out artists whose work veers more toward the personal and visual. Perhaps to the International’s detriment, one might come away without a sense of having seeing a “curated show.” That’s a negligible sacrifice, and I give credit to the curators for checking their egos at the door.
Because it was a manageable size, with just 35 artists, one could emerge without biennial fatigue, and taking a cue from the wonderful exploration of the history and idea of playgrounds led by Tezuka Architects, feel refreshed to further play in Pittsburgh. Yasumasa Morimura’s survey exhibition at the Warhol offered an in depth look at what the artist calls his “beautiful commotion;” and The Mattress Factory featured an exhibition by Janine Antoni including a performance collaboration and video with choreographer Stephen Petronio. In a city where estate prices are still reasonable, full houses are being surrendered to artists for long term and permanent projects including Chiharu Shiota’s labyrinth of black thread installation Mattress Factory’s 19th-century row house, and Thorsten Brinkmann installation, La Hutte Royal, in a house on Troy Hill (full disclosure, I’m working with him and love his house!).
Maureen Sullivan is an independent curator and marketing and PR strategist for art projects.