Throughout the month of April, we were busy getting ready for lots of exciting Initiative-related events. Take a look below and see what strikes your fancy. We hope that you can join us!
#NOWSEETHIS party, May 9
Last call for party tickets! It’s now or never, folks. #NOWSEETHIS, co-presented by CMOA and VIA, is going to be an amazing night of new music and never-before-seen new media art. And when I say new media, I mean it. Ever heard of augmented reality tattoos? Or a Crash Kiss photobooth? How about custom-created video projections by Pussykrew, the international duo most recently installed as artists-in-residence at CMU’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry? See them all at the museum, one night only, on May 9. While you’re there, you’ll probably also be interested in the amazing slate of featured music performers, beginning with Juliana Huxtable—one of the stars of The New Museum’s Triennial—to be followed by the amazing one-man-show known as Dinner, and headlined by the fabulous Kelela. Don’t forget your party shoes!
Charles “Teenie” Harris, Members of the Black Panthers, including Leonard Hayes holding flag inscribed “Blood,” marching on Centre Avenue near Elmore Street, Hill District, c. 1970–1975. Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund.
Our son was born last summer via emergency Caesarean after 32 hours of labor. When his cries hit the cool, electric air, I sobbed uncontrollably, joining billions of parents across millennia who have loved their offspring instantly with a ferocity that makes the mouth speechless with awe and wonder. At 22 1/2 inches, his legs were uncommonly spindly for a newborn, and he had two dimples, like my mother and my husband’s father. His skin was the color of toffee kissed by the sun. His hands were wide, and his fingers were so long, thin, and perfectly sculpted that friends and acquaintances on social media declared he would be a piano player. He is nearly one year old now, and the boy stuns us each day with his determination, sense of humor, laughter, and keen thoughtfulness and smarts. He is beautiful.
Forrest “Bud” Harris; Teenie Harris at the 1968 Pittsburgh riots, 1968; Bud Harris Photograph Collection, ca. 1950s-2007, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.
I’m standing alongside a life-sized photograph of police in riot gear. The image has obviously been enlarged, stretching body-length along the wall of an incline intimately holding 25 of Teenie Harris’s civil rights images. I’m jolted standing near the police like this—maybe what the curator intended? How not think of Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida? The inevitable moments of unrest that bind us? Whenever I view Harris’s photographs feelings of familiarity, uncertainty, and great curiosity surface. I recognize beloved icons like Louis Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many more who were hosted and supported by Pittsburgh’s black residents—laboring, posing, and protesting across time. Traversing the city, I look for their footprints at every moment. I am assembling the missing pieces of my adopted home.
Pierre Alechinsky, 1977. Courtesy CMOA archives.
With its high-key, high-contrast palette and jagged lines, Pierre Alechinsky’s Savage State (1968) carries on the look, feeling, and approach of CoBrA, a vibrant Paris-based artist collective that came together in the years following World War II. Taking their name from the first letters of the three northern European cities the artists hailed from—COpenhagen, BRussels, Amsterdam—CoBrA was an intense, if brief, coalition of radical artists and poets who were interested in recharging art with the sensual experience of the world. Their paintings and drawings share some aesthetic qualities like brilliantly saturated colors and playfully distorted human forms, but what really linked these artists was their intention—create a new art for a new postwar society. Against the intellectualism and cool aesthetic of Surrealism, CoBrA attempted to initiate a new “art of the people” out of artistic experimentation, emotional expression, and spontaneity.
From the series ‘Wilmerding’ by Stephen Speranza.
Wilmerding is an ongoing photo project documenting the postindustrial town of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, which is located 12 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in the Turtle Creek Valley. Established in 1890 by industrialist George Westinghouse (known for the invention of alternating electrical current and a revolutionary air brake system for trains), this suburban enclave is a planned company town originally intended to house the workforce and families of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.
My grandfather was born and raised in Wilmerding. It’s where he spent his entire life—not only as a resident, but like so many men in the area, as an employee at Westinghouse Air Brake. My introduction to the town was through his stories, which included growing up through the Great Depression, leaving home to fight in World War II, working at the Air Brake for 35 years, and his displeasure when the plant was downsized in the mid-1990s.