"Imagining Home: Selections From the Heinz Architectural Center"

Make a “home” run to Heinz Architectural Center, and take advantage of the spring weather to visit other arts venues this month.

Housebound sometime during the Great Snow of 2010, I channel-skipped past a station rerunning the movie Doctor Zhivago. One of my visual memories from that film is the dacha Varykino, a delightful country home, surmounted with a set of little onion domes. (Who can forget that scene toward the end of the movie when a Russian winter has remade the dacha’s interior into a confection of ice and snow?)

If ever I could build a dream house, it might look like Varykino (sans snow). When I thought about “Imagining Home” as a creative challenge for the current exhibit at Heinz Architectural Center, Varykino came to mind, as did many other images—homes I’ve lived in (true “homes”), homes I’ve visited or toured, plus a few dream and fantasy homes. Go ahead: Conjure up the word for yourself, and see what comes to mind.

“While the need for shelter is fundamental and universal, the ways in which that need is met are enormously varied,” says Tracy Myers, curator of the Heinz Architectural Center, who put the show together. “Our attitudes toward—and relationships with—the places in which we live are wonderfully complex. The exhibition ‘Imagining Home’ encourages us to contemplate the question of what ‘home’ means to each of us, and how our answers influence the ways in which we fashion our personal environments.”

To build the exhibit “Imagining Home: Selections From the Heinz Architectural Center,” Myers turned to her curatorial home, selecting 125 pieces to illustrate the idea of home and how it’s been interpreted during the last 200 years. Drawings, architectural models, catalogues, photos, video—even children’s building blocks—document her case. There’s also installation art, including a “habitable sculpture of layered draperies” by Sheila Klein.

“Imagining Home” has been grouped around several topics: styles in residential architecture, innovative construction technologies, interiors, company-built housing, and the evolution of the modern and contemporary house throughout time.

Speaking of contemporary homes, I keyed in on a segue of sorts from “Palm Springs Modern: Photographs by Julius Shulman,” the most recent offering at Heinz Architectural Center. That show featured a home by Richard Neutra, commissioned for the Edgar Kaufmann family, of Pittsburgh. In the current show, we’re treated to drawings of another local—and rare—Neutra connection: the Pariser home in Uniontown. Other local connections can be found at the show as well.

Personal highlights of the show?:

A collection of 15 small plaster models of houses representing a variety of cultures from around the world was an unexpected curiosity. These were created by the Museum Extension Project, a Depression-era work-relief program originating in Pennsylvania, and were donated to the Center by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the gift of an anonymous donor in 1960. They make a nice complement to recent shows examining art of that era at Frick Art & Historical Center and at Westmoreland Museum of American Art (“Concerning the 1930s in Art” continues there through May 16).

Also eye-catching is a beautiful watercolor and pencil on board delineated by Hughson Hawley to illustrate an 1890 plan for an apartment house designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh. If ever I were to return to apartment living, this would be a dream building. I also would have considered a summer residence in an imaginative adaptive, habitable reuse of the old Foxburg Bridge, which spanned the Allegheny River between Clarion and Armstrong counties. The plan on view at the show was created by McCormick Architects + Designers in 1993, but that vision is now moot because the span was demolished in 2008.

Large, recent color photographs of contemporary interiors by Sarah Malakoff provide a campy touch, and a small Charles Burchfield drawing, “House With an Astonished Face,” is delightful.

Perhaps I did cast a rather supercilious eye at the title of a PPG-sponsored competition from the 1940s: “The Design of a House for Cheerful Living.” OK, “cheerful living” seems a rather quaint goal in our postmodern world, but hey, now that spring is here, my door’s open for that possibility.

(Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Through May 30: 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)


Frick Art Museum, Frick Art & Historical Center: “Small but Sublime: Intimate 19th-Century American Landscapes.” May 15-Aug. 15. 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. 412/371-0600, thefrickpittsburgh.org.

Pittsburgh Glass Center: “From the Earth to the Fire and Back” features 28 artists in a group show to celebrate Pittsburgh’s designation as host city for the U.N.’s World Environment Day on June 5. Through June 13. 5472 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. 412/365-2145, pittsburghglasscenter.org.

Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery: Fourth Annual “teapots!” Invitational show. Through May 29. 5833 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. 412/441-5200, morganglassgallery.com.

SPACE: “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” combines three unique galleries from different Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Through May 23. 812 Liberty Ave., downtown. 412/325-7723, spacepittsburgh.org.

707 Penn Gallery: Robert Raczka explores the flip side of day via photography in “dark & shiny night.” Through June 12. 707 Penn Ave., downtown. 412/325-7017, pgharts.org.

GalleriE Chiz: “Character studies … marionettes” by AAP Centennial Artist Dennis Bergevin. May 7-June 12. 5831 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. 412/441-6005, galleriechiz.com.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Things To Do