A new exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art holds a mirror up to creativity in Pittsburgh.
“A Pittsburgh Anthology” features some two dozen artworks made by artists living here or else inspired by the city, drawn from the museum’s collection.
Chronologically, the works run from Robert S. Duncanson’s bucolic 1852 oil painting “American Landscape” to "Golden Bird #2," a 2018 earthenware sculpture by Pittsburgh-born Sharif Bey. Working Pittsburgh artists in the show include Lenka Clayton, Vanessa German and sculptor Thad Mosely.
There’s also plenty of photography – from such masters as Margaret Bourke-White and Pittsburgh’s own Duane Michals and Charles “Teenie” Harris – as well as sculpture, video, an architectural model, and even locally sourced industrial products.
The exhibit intentionally departs from the museum’s focus on art by national and international artists.
“We don’t often have a dedicated place to come and see and experience artists’ takes on Pittsburgh,” said design curator Rachel Delphia, who was part of the museum's team of curators for the show.
The exhibit is divided into 14 sections, some of which encompass multiple individual works. Each section includes what Delphia calls a “narrative card” written by a different writer, exploring the significance of that section. About half the text is by museum staffers, with the rest by other contributors, including the artists themselves.
For instance, teenagers from the museum’s Youth Art Initiative chose the Teenie Harris photos in the show, with the theme of “home”; the eight images of Pittsburgh’s African-American community in mid-20th century depict capture including a couple cutting the cake for their 25th wedding anniversary and a young woman posing with two dogs in front of her house. The text was written by Sean Beauford, who works with the Initiative.
Bey, who grew up in Beltzhoover, writes about artistically formative experiences including his time studying at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.
“A Pittsburgh Anthology” is meant to run into early 2022, when it will make way for the next Carnegie International. However, the exhibit will not remain the same; Delphia said the museum will periodically swap in other Pittsburgh-affiliated works from its collection.
Some works connect to Pittsburgh on multiple levels. A selection of minimalist “typewriter drawings” was made by Clayton during her 2016 residency at the museum. German’s 2011 sculpture “Toaster” was made with found objects from her neighborhood of Homewood, including glass bottles, metal keys, spark plugs, and the eponymous appliance.
Industrial products in the exhibit include translucent, delicately green “Ruba Rombic Fish Bowl” from 1928, designed by Thomas W. McCreary for the Phoenix Glass Company, and a modernist red-porcelain bathroom sink from 1930, designed by George Sakier for the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corp.
“It’s really important to kind of ground the museum and our collection within the community of Pittsburgh,” said curatorial assistant Hannah Turpin. She said the exhibit includes a “response station asking for people to share their Pittsburgh story.”
“We hope that people will be able to see their own experiences and memories reflected in this space,” she said.
The exhibit formally opens Friday. A sneak preview is scheduled as part of the museum’s Third Thursday event, which also includes a Monmade showcase of locally based specialty-goods makers, and a screening of the film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which was set and shot in Pittsburgh.
WESA receives funding from the Carnegie Museum of Art.
[Editor's note: This article was revised to reflect a change in the artwork by Sharif Bey that was chosen for inclusion in the exhibit.]