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Arts

Barebones Brings Sam Shepard’s “True West” to Life in a Stunning Production

We tend to think of the American West as director John Ford portrayed it: a vast, mysterious space as cosmic as the Egyptian desert, with the Rockies as our pyramids. The West is an ideal we all hold, a collective mythic dream, something verging on the spiritual the way our conception of patriotism verges on …

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Breaking New Ground in the Pittsburgh Art World

Fiberart International 2019 is up through August 24, 2019 at Brew House Association and Contemporary Craft. “How did a small group of Pittsburgh housewives practicing the dainty craft of hand embroidery give birth to the rowdy, sophisticated, benchmark triennial we know as ‘Fiberart International?’” The answer to this rather cheeky question points to a group …

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“May We Live in Interesting Times”: The 58th Venice Biennale

I have just returned from my 10th (I think) Venice Biennale. They tend to run together. Probably more than 1000 artists, 300 Aperol Spritzes, 150 Bellinis and 3,271 hors d’oeuvres. Princess Stephanie has blown smoke in my face from the terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. The Russians have come and gone. San Marco has …

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Lear in the Furnace: A Review of Quantum Theatre’s “King Lear”

Attending a Quantum Theatre production can be like traveling to one of those crazy destination weddings where they make you climb up some precipitous volcano to reach the venue, while you ponder the wedding planner’s sanity. You know the view will be fantastic, but is the journey worth it? In the case of William Shakespeare’s …

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New Faces at the Westmoreland

With a renewed interest in what kinds of people are represented in art museums, a new exhibition at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art offers some rarely seen faces. “Mingled Visions: The Photographs of Edward S. Curtis and Will Wilson” (March 30–June 30) presents images of Native Americans taken a century apart and from different …

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Exuberance at the Warhol

Devon Shimoyama’s just-ended exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum proves the enduring power of Warhol’s work 30 years after his death and shows that the museum has no interest in becoming a shrine to a self-referential and reverential hagiography. “Cry, Baby” brings a young talent to our attention, while simultaneously offering new insights into the …

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Tragedy in a Box: A Review of “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)”

A refreshing pragmatism infuses Quantum Theatre’s production of “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)” (2013) – a kind of low-tech, iconoclastic exuberance that’s reminiscent of the early films of Godard. It’s a classic one-man, story-telling performance – with some audience interaction – that comes off somewhere between Spalding Gray’s “Monster in a Box” …

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Soft-Core Pathos: A Review of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “The Tempest”

Cleverness is not a Shakespearian trait. In fact, as we have found after more than 400 years, the more we try to shape him, using our own devices, the less he is able to tell us. This is because his chief mode of artistic engagement is the sublime – versus the allegoric, the symbolic, or …

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Enter Stage Left

Prior to her first directorial effort with the Pittsburgh Public Theater (“The Tempest”: Jan. 24­–Feb. 24), Pittsburgh Quarterly posed a few questions for artistic director Marya Sea Kaminski. Q. First, welcome to Pittsburgh. Why “The Tempest” for your first Pittsburgh show? A. I wanted to have something that was a little bit of a celebration …

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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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