It’s summertime, and the seeing is easy: A film exhibit and a film festival, a history-museum reopening and more hot sights around the region.
Back in the day, movies were a major part of summer in Pittsburgh. Before most everyone had air conditioning, big-screen theaters lured us in with promises of air-conditioned comfort (at the old Warner Theatre downtown, you got Cinerama to boot). For those who preferred watching the latest attractions en plein air (to use a painterly expression), there were the even bigger screens at the drive-ins (my favorite was the silvery, art-moderne Skyway near Butler).
But this month’s column really isn’t about nostalgia, although I did spend some time viewing a few campy old drive-in concession-stand promos on YouTube for inspiration. (Hey, it’s pop culture.) What I’m leading into here is news about some summer movies, or rather in more lofty terms, film. And there’s a film festival as well.
Premiering this month in air-conditioned comfort at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Forum Gallery is “Forum 65: Jones, Koester, Nashashibit/Skaer: Reanimation.” This new show, viewed in a darkened gallery space, comprises two films and a digital projection.
The show marks the CMA curatorial debut of Dan Byers, the museum’s associate curator of contemporary art, who came to town in May 2009. For “Forum 65,” Byers has brought together four artists also making their CMA debuts: William E. Jones, an American whose work has been on show at the Andy Warhol Museum; Joachim Koester, born in Denmark and living in America; and collaborating British artists Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer.
Activated by the basic yet infinitely mutable ability of film and video to allow action to unfold over time, each work creates a complex interplay between stillness and movement, agitation and contemplation, and darkness and light.”
Jones’ Punctuated (2010) is of special interest because there’s a local connection. For this piece, Jones sequences 100 photographs shot during the Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration, which commissioned some 100,000 images of American life during that time. The project director was Roy Stryker, who later became director of the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, now housed at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which documented the city in the 1950s. Punctuated derives it edge by showing “killed images,” black-and-white rejects marked with black punch holes.
The pace picks up with Koester’s Tarantism (2007). This black-and-white film takes its inspiration from the legendary Italian dance associated with the convulsive condition resulting from the bite of the poisonous spider known as the tarantula.
How about a film about a museum within a museum? In Flash in the Metropolitan (2006), Nashashibi and Skaer use color to explore darkened galleries and artifacts at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art “with rhythmic flashes of illumination.” One goal of the film is to spark questions about “the permanence of memory and culture.”
“Forum 65” kicks off with an opening reception on Thurs., July 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m.; it continues through Oct. 3. At the opening, Jones and Skaer will discuss their work before a screening of additional films by the four artists in “Forum 65.”
In conjunction with “Forum 65,” there will be a related event this month: the Two-Minute-Film Festival, on Thurs., July 15. (When I first heard about this event, I wondered if attention spans had grown shorter than ever. However, what the festival features is a selection of two-minute films, so plan on staying a while.)
The festival is the culmination of CMA-generated competition asking entrants to respond to the question “A Brief History of…”. A wide variety of media could be tapped—from cameras to cell phones. Entries were still being received as of press time. (4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Tues.-Wed., Thurs.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. Adults, $15; seniors, $12; students, children 3-18, $11; under 3 and members, free. Info: 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)
ARTRAGEOUS: JULY 23-SEPT. 19
The main event of the year-long celebration of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh’s 100th anniversary premieres this month at Carnegie Museum of Art with “ARTrageous,” the AAP’s annual exhibition. The 2010 show, which presents work by artists within 150 miles of Pittsburgh, is juried by Donald Miller, an art critic and formerly the art critic of the Post-Gazette, and Al Miner, an artist and curatorial assistant at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
A public reception kicks off “ARTrageous” on Fri., July 23, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the museum. (Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. July 23-Sept. 19: Tues.-Wed., Thurs.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. Adults, $15; seniors, $12; students, children 3-18, $11; under 3 and members, free. Info: 412/622-3131, cmoa.org)
FORT PITT MUSEUM REOPENING
Summer also is a time for taking vacations and visiting historic sites and museums, and with Independence Day, July is an especially appropriate month. Here’s one suggestion: Check out the newly reopened Fort Pitt Museum—located in Point State Park, the geographical cradle of history in western Pennsylvania.
“The addition of the Fort Pitt Museum adds to the History Center’s museum system and helps to further reinforce our mission of present American history with a western Pennsylvania connection,” says Andy Masich, the History Center’s president and CEO.
Opened in 1969 in a reconstructed bastion of Fort Pitt, the Fort Pitt Museum sprouted a second story in recent years, creating a 12,000-square-foot space that tells the story of not only Fort Pitt and early Pittsburgh, but also documents the region’s role in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Visitors to the reopened museum will find a combination of old, new and revamped displays and artifacts.
A personal favorite of mine remains the wonderfully detailed scale model of Fort Pitt and its environs, still front and center in the entrance hall. At the back of the hall is a recent addition: a striking life-size and life-like sculpture of King Beaver, known as Tamaqua, which was created by Alan Gutchess, the museum’s new site director. Tamaqua was a Delaware Indian diplomat who proposed the forks of the Ohio as an excellent location where the British could build a fort.
And the rest, they say, is history. (Point State Park, downtown. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults, $10; seniors, $9; students and children 4-17, $5; children 3 and under, members, free. Info: 412/281-9285, heinzhistorycenter.org)