Out of This World

The 55th Carnegie International goes interplanetary to engage Earthlings in thoughts about life and its meaning on the third rock from the sun.

mars

“Untitled (Earth Drawing I)” by American artist Paul Thek (1933-1988) presents a portrait of our planet as might be viewed from outer space. This piece, circa 1974, features acrylic on newspaper.
Image:  The Estate of George Paul Thek, courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.

 

Ploughing through a recent morning’s mail in my office, I unearthed a press kit with the words “Life on Mars” (in blue ink, not red as might have been expected) on the cover. I assumed a new show must be coming to Carnegie Science Center until closer scrutiny revealed, in much smaller blue-outlined white type, “55th Carnegie International.” OK, for the first time since being organized by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, the International, that venerable, continuing showcase of world art, had been given an episode title—and a real grabber at that! Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to wonder why no one had thought of this idea before (at least as far as we know).

“Life on Mars,” which premieres May 3, is the invention of the 55th’s curator, Douglas Fogle—a boyish 44-year-old who is “productively anxious,” a saying he attributes to a grandmother. This Libertyville, Ill., native brings his own Tom Swift sense of wonder to the 112-year-old landmark exhibition. His doctoral work at the University of California, Santa Cruz, focuses on the history of consciousness with an emphasis on contemporary visual arts.

Fogle reveals his muse for that title—David Bowie, and specifically his tune “Life on Mars.” It’s a metaphor, Fogle points out. But ideas take on a life of their own, and it’s easy to fire our imaginations with thoughts of the Red Planet, which has fascinated humans since ancient times—there have been theories about canals built by a dying race, and although those romantic notions were dispelled, Mars continues to renew our wonder by virtue of the space probes we continue to send along with a hope to still find life. (Just doing an Internet search of Mars-related movies I discovered an amazing number of titles: There’s everything from various versions of the classic War of the Worlds to the campy Mars Needs Women. Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles became a TV mini-series starring Rock Hudson in 1979.)

So what’s a title quarried from the fourth rock from the sun supposed to convey? It’s to get us thinking about what it means to be human today. It’s to get us thinking about our place in the universe. It’s to spark questions: “Are we alone in the universe? Do aliens exist? Or are we, ourselves, the strangers in our own worlds?” Fogle challenges.

“To me contemporary art is as much about coming to terms with our own world as it is about creating a set of worlds parallel to those that we walk in every day,” he says. And, as Fogle notes in a more topical global observation, “It’s a different world today since 9/11.” That’s a compelling thought, because it echoes some of the philosophy of his predecessor Laura Hoptman, who commented on curating the 2004-’05 International in a post-9/11 world. Her focus was “The Ultimates,” which served as an informal title and thematic tent in which to showcase work reflecting “the unanswerable questions, ranging from the nature of life and death to the existence of God to the anatomy of belief.”

Fogle’s International carries on and complements Hoptman’s sense of profundity, and, like Hoptman, he chose artists that dovetailed with what he terms the “sensibility” of his theme. Not intended to be a comprehensive “theory of everything” in the art world today, the Fogle International is described by its auteur as “a snapshot, but my snapshot.” Adds Fogle, “I’ve isolated a strain” in contemporary art.

Plucked from a curator position at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis by Carnegie Museum of Art director Richard Armstrong, curator of the 1995-’96 International, Fogle has spent the past three years globe-trotting in a search for art, with the assistance of an advisory committee.

Assembled for “Life on Mars” is a crew of 40 emerging and established artists represented in 200 works ranging from painting, sculpture and drawing to animation, film, installation and performance.

The oldest of the group is Maria Lassnig (born 1919) from Austria; the youngest is Cao Fei (born 1978) from China. Almost all hail from Europe and the Americas; others are from Asia. Some artists’ work included in this year’s show has been showcased in previous Internationals, including Paul Thek, Rosemarie Trochel, Peter Fischli, David Weiss and Mike Kelley. Two artists are deceased: Italian Mario Merz (1925-2003) and American Paul Thek (1933-1988). The latter’s “Untitled (Earth Drawing I),” an interpretation of our planet painted on pages from the International Herald Tribune, has been used for the International’s showcase image. Why dead artists? No particular reason, says Fogle. “I look at [the artists’ work] as very much alive and communicating to us no matter what the pulse rates of their creators.”

In The Martian Chronicles, an Earthling eulogized the original inhabitants of the planet Tyrr (as the natives called it): “They knew how to blend art into their living. It’s always been a thing apart for Americans. Art was something you kept in the crazy son’s room upstairs. Art was something you took in Sunday doses, mixed with religion, perhaps.” Certainly Andrew Carnegie’s vision in establishing the International was to prevent art from being “a thing apart.” Maybe he and Douglas Fogle would like us to become more like Martians.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

2016 Homes of the Year

2016 Homes of the Year

Our independent panel of judges recognizes three local, unique residences as our Homes of the Year in the categories of New Build, Renovation and Green.
Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Aside from a Giant Eagle, the mall has been empty for the past three years.
Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Looking for a delicious battered fish sandwich or golden-brown pierogies on Friday? Here’s a handy guide plus a few fun facts about our fascination with fish.
Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.
Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

The new space, called the East End Brewery Taproom, will offer lunch and dinner service, expanded hours and a place for customers to sit and enjoy a pint of beer from one of the brewery’s 12 taps.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

2016 Homes of the Year

2016 Homes of the Year

Our independent panel of judges recognizes three local, unique residences as our Homes of the Year in the categories of New Build, Renovation and Green.
Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Aside from a Giant Eagle, the mall has been empty for the past three years.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Tran takes over big Burrito's Ellsworth Ave. restaurant from Dustin Gardner, who moves back to Casbah on Highland Ave.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

Some of the best oysters available in Pittsburgh can be yours for a steal at the new East Liberty spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Behind the Lens: Wedding Ring Photography

Behind the Lens: Wedding Ring Photography

On Day Five of our Week of Wedded Bliss, we spoke to wedding photographers about their inspiration for these five enticing ring photographs from our Real Pittsburgh Wedding Couples.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Divertido and Jack + Jules close in Lawrenceville, while the neighborhood welcomes Brambler Boutique. Plus, Splurge expands to a new location in Fox Chapel.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments