March Snapshots: Photography’s Shifting Landscape


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Sara Cwynar, Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals), 2013. Courtesy the artist and Foxy Production, New York.

If I had to choose one image to encapsulate the visual and verbal conversations that have embodied the Initiative over the past two years, I’d probably put Sara Cwynar’s Girl from Contact Sheet 2 (Darkroom Manuals) among the top five. Okay, maybe more like the top three. It’s not just because of the tension-cum-synergy between digital and analog that the picture so powerfully and poetically conveys (and that Oliver Wasow finds so evocative in his commissioned response this month). It’s because the image represents a growing shift in the medium “from taking pictures to making pictures,” as recently described by the publisher of FlakPhoto, Andy Adams. This making consists of everything from appropriating vernacular photographs to digital wizardry with the tools of Photoshop to physical layering made up of any and all media available to an artist.

The successful admixture of these elements depends, of course, on an audience savvy enough to understand the constituent parts and interpret what their juxtaposition might mean or say. An audience that gets the way in which contemporary photographic practice is no longer (or perhaps has never been) about either-or, but rather both-and. An audience that traffics regularly and with ease in the increasingly universal language of images.

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The Time Avant-Garde Filmmaker Jonas Mekas Visited Pittsburgh


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Jonas Mekas talking to the audience at his screening event on April 1, 1970. Carnegie Museum of Art, Film and Video Department archive (photograph by Robert Haller).

On this day in April of 1970, Jonas Mekas became the first filmmaker to visit Pittsburgh as part of Carnegie Museum of Art’s brand new film program (also known as the Film Section, the Section of Film and Video, and the Department of Film and Video). Film curator Sally Dixon invited him to screen selections from his films and talk about his ventures in experimental cinema in New York. Mekas was the first of many non-narrative filmmakers to visit the museum (names like Robert Breer, Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Peter Kubekla, and James Broughton are common in our Program Notes), but more than any other film or video artist, he set the tone for moving image programming at CMOA.

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CMOA Commissions a Sculpture of Pittsburgh Icon Rick Sebak


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WQED’s Rick Sebak stands in the Hall of Sculpture at Carnegie Museum of Art, the future location of his sculpture. Photo: Bryan Conley.

We always get excited to work with living artists, and so we were excited to see the announcement of a major commission by famed British artist Lucie Poole. She has chosen Pittsburgh icon Rick Sebak as the latest model in a series of works featuring contemporary American men, and the sculpture will be installed in the Hall of Sculpture at the heart of the museum. Poole will be the first artist to install a work in the Hall since Nicole Eisenman’s Carnegie-Prize winning works in the 2013 Carnegie International. One of these sculptures, Prince of Swords, was acquired by the museum, and remains on view.

Poole has chosen Sebak to be the latest subject of her series (hyper)MASCULINE, and will arrive at the museum next week to begin the work. The series meditates on classical ideals of male beauty, and focuses on what the artist calls “men whose masculine energy presents itself to them, almost uncontrollably,” and who are “enigmatic, yet bound by their own externalities.” Subjects are given almost impossibly perfect forms, taking cues from Greek and Roman sculpture. Previous selections include writer and television host Anthony Bourdain, and Massachusetts senator Scott Brown. Works in the series can be found in the collections of the Tate Modern and Detroit Institute of Arts. The series presents what Poole calls “body archetypes” that “invert the normative conditions of our temporal states through an eruption of antiquity into our contemporary world.”

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A Family Affair: Daughters of the Civil Rights Movement


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Charles “Teenie” Harris. Seated from left: Linda Wilkins, Marcia Ruffin, Marlene Harris, Janet Moore, Jo Ellen Ely, Rosalyn or Rosalind Rivers, Nancy Primus, Gloria Harper, and Carolyn Kimes; standing: Marlene Scott, Thelma Williams Lovette, July 1962. Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Teenie Harris Archive invited women whose father and/or mother were integrally involved with the local civil rights movement, to reflect on their personal experiences living with such involved parents. Knowing that a public figure lets their hair down at home, so to speak, prompted the question: What was it like to grow up with a civil rights leader? Teenie Harris often photographed these dynamic men and women—parents of a proud generation of women.

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Decoding the Secrets of Buky Schwartz’s ‘The Big Video Chair’


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Installation photographs of The Big Video Chair, 1987. Image courtesy of the Estate of Buky Schwartz.

As the media archivist and co-director of the Time-Based Media Project at Carnegie Museum of Art, I am responsible for ensuring the long-term accessibility and usability of the museum’s time-based media artworks. Time-based media is a broad term that refers to film, video, audio, digital, and computer-based artworks or installation art with a specified duration and a dependency on changing technology. Collecting, preserving, and exhibiting artwork with technological dependencies can present unique challenges for museums. By nature, they are unstable, they don’t exist until they are installed, and they generally require additional documentation to support installation and preservation efforts.

CMOA’s collection is comprised of nearly 1,000 time-based media works, including numerous complex artworks that have dependencies on obsolete technology such as a cathode ray tub (CRT) monitor or a slide projector. Since I started working on this project last year, I’ve been drawn to Buky Schwartz’s The Big Video Chair (1987), a sculpture comprised of wooden beams, mirrors, and a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system. From a conservation perspective, it’s an interesting piece that poses several unique challenges: it is dependent on obsolete technology; the condition of the technical components are unknown; it was defaced the last time it was on display in 1988, leaving the condition of the affected parts unknown; and there is very little documentation available.

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