Friday, June 7, 2024


We just got back from a week or so in Pittsburgh, where Roula installed a small exhibition at Gallery Closed. The window gallery, in the Troy Hill neighbourhood, is operated by artists Phillip Andrew Lewis and Lenka Clayton, from their studio. The enormous former bank building (complete with functional vault) has two street-facing windows, allowing the gallery to be permanently closed and also continuously open. 

For a fourteen month-long series called Exhibition Copy, works by artists in the window space spill out into neighbouring businesses, residences and nearby school. The series includes projects by Martin Creed, Louise Bourgeois, Roman Ondak, Ryan Gander and others. Roula created a party room scenario reminiscent of fish-bowl party spaces and play areas where children celebrate in full view of passersby (like the one in the Rainbow Cinema in Toronto, which we keep threatening to host a party in for our friend Jon Sasaki). Balloons from the party appear to have drifted off and become lodged in the other windows. The painted cast resin balloons can be seen in the window for Ron’s Pizza Palace, a Public Notary Office, a former Beauty Salon and several other adjacent spaces. 

Troy Hill is also home to several “Art Houses”, the brainchild of collector Evan Mirapaul, who buys up dilapidated homes and invites artists to transform them into installation spaces. German artist Thorsten Brinkmann produced the first one, complete with Being John Malkovich style half-floors and passages to crawl through. Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski’s Kunzhaus followed in 2016. 

The most extraordinary of the three is Lenka and Phillip’s Darkhouse Lighthouse, which gutted the original home and built an elaborate lighthouse inside it. Mark Dion is currently working on the fourth home. A fifth possible space is currently covered in vines, with bricks from the crumbling chimney threatening to fall from the roof. All are located within a block or two of each other, with Gallery Closed close by. 

Affordable space in Pittsburgh means that artists can often rent out spaces and create DIY museums, billboards and restaurants. Jon Rubin (a co-curator of the Exhibition Copy series and one of our excellent hosts) has done all three. His work often explores the authority of text in the public realm, and his projects include Waffle Shop (Talk Show), The National Museum and the renowned Conflict Kitchen. More on these in future posts. 

Rich Pell has operated the Centre for Post-Natural History for about a decade. I was expecting a thrifty studio space with some objects on makeshift tables, but the presentation was top-notch, with a full library of books, museum-quality glass cases, audio descriptions, projected films and taxidermied animals. 

The week was pretty packed, and we only managed to visit three bookstores: Fungus Books and Bottom Feeder (both excellent and around the corner from each other) and Caliban, which - we later learned - was involved in an eight million dollar heist, regarding prints and plates cut from books from the Carnegie Library (read the story, here, at the Smithsonian site). 

Over the next week or so I’ll try to get to the above titles, which tell the larger story of some of the great places we visited. 

No comments:

Post a Comment