Arts

The Peak of Its Powers

The No. 1 seat in the grand stage box is the best place to be at Heinz Hall. And that’s exactly where I sit with my noiseless camera. All the other seats in the concert hall are empty. On stage, the musicians are tuning their instruments as conductor Manfred Honeck makes his entrance. I’ll be …

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Art or Fashion?

The Frick Pittsburgh continues its recent foray into fashion with exuberance, exhibiting a group of contemporary paper recreations of iconic outfits from the past. Ranging from the era of the Medici to the early 20th century with costumes from the Ballets Russes, “Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art From Paper” though (January 6, 2019) seems tailormade …

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Carnegie International Opening Weekend Through the Lens of an Outsider

Though my visits to Pittsburgh have been few and far between, I’ve always known that my family had deep roots in the Iron City. Along with that came a vague whisper of prominence verbally imparted by my grandparents. But until my visit to the opening weekend of the Carnegie International in October, I had no …

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The 57th Carnegie International: Looking Forward While Mindful of the Past

The Carnegie International is here again, the 57th in the series inaugurated by founder Andrew Carnegie in 1896. While international exhibitions have proliferated in the last 50 years, the Carnegie International remains one of the few based in a museum with its own identity—one rich with diverse offerings ranging from a museum of art to …

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An Exterminating Angel

Perhaps all drama should be analyzed as the Kabbalists interpret Torah—on many levels simultaneously, comprising the literal, the symbolic, the metaphoric, and the mystical. This might allow us to understand and enjoy what others may miss or dislike, without resulting in one conclusion that necessitates a myopic choice of perspective. I felt this way watching …

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Barebones’ “Lobby Hero” Combines Comedy with Tragedy to Stunning Effect

Dichotomies in art usually succeed brilliantly or fail dreadfully. Bringing together disparate forms is inherently risky: it challenges the artist, but even more so, it challenges the audience. In the case of “Lobby Hero,” Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 play about four people whose lives collide in a random apartment building lobby, barebones productions has dropped this …

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Internationals I Have Known…

When the Carnegie International opens this fall, it may appear as if the world’s latest art elegantly touches down like an ethereal being whose time to visit us has come ‘round again. But if you knew it as I do, you would know that this periodic being is full of, shall we say, blemishes and …

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Look What’s Happening in Cleveland

With the opening of the Carnegie International less than a month away, I drove to Cleveland to see their inaugural international exhibition. Under the umbrella of “Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art,” projects happened as far away as Akron and Oberlin, but the majority were located in three Cleveland neighborhoods. With a loose theme …

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And the Artists Are…

When Ingrid Schaffner was named the curator of the 2018 Carnegie International (October 13, 2018–March 25, 2019), I had a sense that she would bring a change to this venerable exhibition at Pittsburgh’s palace of culture. Steeped in tradition and history, the show, for the most part, has been on the conservative side of contemporary …

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An Ear for Music and Life

On a Tuesday morning in Squirrel Hill, Ceinwen (pronounced Kine-Win) King-Smith taps out notes on her piano. I stumble along, up and down the scale, straining my voice to match pitches. Ceinwen listens. She’s been blind since birth, and is so good at listening that according to her daughter she could hear from downstairs what …

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Play Unlimited: The Public’s Ambitious “Hamlet” Rewards on Many Levels

“The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” is a monster of a play: at about 4,000 lines, it’s Shakespeare’s longest—full productions can easily run past four hours. (Hamlet himself has 1,500 lines, which alone would constitute an entire drama). And it’s monstrous not only in word-count, but body-count. By the end, the prince has been …

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Then and Now

After a foray into fashion, The Frick Art and Historical Center has returned to its comfort zone with “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts” (March 17-July 8, 2018). Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon amassed an extremely large collection of art, and while he was …

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Moby Dick Spouts at Pittsburgh Opera

When Herman Melville’s classic 1850 novel hits Pittsburgh March 17 for a four-show run at the Pittsburgh Opera, audiences will set sail with Captain Ahab on his obsessive pursuit of the infamous white whale that robbed him of his leg and, perhaps, his sanity. The stage is Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, moving through various parts …

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A Peek Inside the Pittsburgh Playhouse

The Pittsburgh Playhouse building in Oakland, which serves as the performing arts center of Point Park University and the Conservatory of Performing Arts, is nearing its end, as a new state-of-the-art theatre complex is set to open on Forbes Avenue in downtown later this year. Photographer David Aschkenas documented the Playhouse in its final phase …

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Different Takes on Homelessness

Given the unprecedented recent spate of destructive hurricanes, Contemporary Craft’s exploration of homelessness couldn’t be more timely. Running through Feb. 17, “Shelter: Creating a Safe Home” is a cross-cultural exploration of the work of 14 artists on homelessness, refugees and relocation, gentrification, and individual sanctuary. “We want people to be more aware of these issues …

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A Creepy Mill Town

Calynn Lechner isn’t sure what’s looking back at her. The clay face she’s sculpting has a beak like a turtle and lobster-ish whiskers. When she’s done, the skin will look gelatinous, like a jellyfish’s. “It’s a smorgasbord of everything,” says Lechner, 23, her tattooed arm moving slowly as she uses a scalpel-like tool to carve …

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A Bold Look at Race Through Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art

When Vogue lauded “20 / 20: The Studio Museum of Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art” as the most important art show in America, they guaranteed a critical response. Setting aside the hyperbole, the magazine established race as the context for viewing and thinking about the exhibition, stating that “as monuments to Confederate generals come …

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What Lies Beneath: The Frick Gets Undressed

It’s the first article of clothing you put on and the last one you take off. It comes in all shapes and sizes, colors and textures, ranging from exceedingly comfortable to helplessly imprisoned. It can be sporty, sultry, dull or disturbing, and is quite literally the foundation of the outfit we build onto ourselves. And …

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Gimme That Old Time Music

Every first and third Sunday of the month, at around 5 p.m., the front door of Hambone’s, a bar and restaurant in Lawrenceville, becomes a portal to an alternate universe. Standing on Butler Street you will see men and women disappear through that door carrying banjos, fiddles, guitars, mandolins and the occasional contrabass. Should you …

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From Pittsburgh to Venice, Through the Looking Glass

Maybe my 6th or 7th Biennale. I can’t remember anymore. The art, the parties, the timeless beauty of this most impractical, magical city blurs my vision, my memories. The Bellini, the Prosecco, the Aperto spritzes, the Veneto wines, the dinners and endless exotic hors d’oeuvres, the European glitterati and the Who’s Who of the current …

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Rich Performances Buoy City Theatre’s “Ironbound”

Imagine “Waiting for Godot” set in a New Jersey bus stop. It’s hardly a rarefied trope, as I’m sure many of us have thought we might as well be waiting for Godot while marooned in some cold, lonely place, praying for a bus to appear. Playwright Martyna Majok has taken this conceit and turned it …

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Quantum Strikes Again with “Collaborators”

Just as Colette could say, “There are no ordinary cats,” one could say that there are no ordinary productions from Quantum Theatre. “Collaborators,” the 2011 play by John Hodge (who also wrote the adaptation of the film, “Trainspotting”) is violently alive in a way so few new plays are these days, merging comedy and pathos …

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