Tag Archives: Carnegie Museum of Art

Arcangel’s AUDMCRS

A turntable, headphones, a pair of white gloves, and 839 cataloged record albums.

This Friday, a study table in our Music, Film & Audio department will become the home of an art installation entitled AUDMCRS Underground Dance Music Collection of Recorded Sound, a new work by Cory Arcangel.

Mr. Arcangel’s collection of trance and underground dance music is yours to peruse and listen to from November 2, 2012 through January 27, 2013, during the Carnegie Museum of Art’s exhibition, Cory Arcangel: Masters. Visit the Music, Film & Audio department during library hours, and one of our at-your-service librarians will gladly give you a tour.

Tina Kukielski, who moved to Pittsburgh to co-curate the 2013 Carnegie International, recently told me, “I insist on taking visiting participating artists on tours through the library because I love it. Cory, when he was here, was inspired!” She describes the exhibition in the following quote from the Museum’s web site.

Best known for his modified versions of obsolete video games, Arcangel employs readymade digital technology as his primary medium, bringing a playful hacker’s sensibility to critical modifications of pervasive pop-culture phenomena such as websites, YouTube videos, Hollywood films, music, and various other internet platforms. Cory Arcangel: Masters provides a focused survey of Arcangel’s practice in the form of predominantly time-based works and performances, which live as witty interventions into contemporary culture that expose ephemeral moments of modern life. The exhibition reflects the artist’s work since 2002, including the debut of a new installation in the neighboring Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main branch, and Selected Single Channel Videos, a performance by Arcangel.

“In the past decade, few artists have so successfully melded criticality with the sense of playful irreverence that pervades our modern do-it-yourself digital culture as Cory Arcangel,” says Kukielski. “We live in a technological world that combines ubiquity with rapid obsolescence. Some artists turn away from our oversaturated world, while Arcangel embraces the noise.”

Stop by and see/hear for yourself.



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Mirror to the Past

Just as the Civic Arena tore apart the relationship between downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District neighborhood, that dome, known as The Igloo, is being torn apart now. In 1960-61, black and white images of the dome’s construction  were captured by a local studio and Pittsburgh Courier photographer. From 1937 to 1983, Teeny Harris snapped photos of events and locales central to the African American experience in Pittsburgh. His images hold a mirror to Pittsburgh’s past. Since 2001, Carnegie Museum of Art has archived nearly 80,000 Teenie Harris negatives, with nearly 60,000 images scanned and cataloged to date.

Sit with me at Carnegie Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story. In a darkened gallery, a jazz soundtrack—newly commissioned and recorded for this installation—sets an appropriately bouncy mood. Seven bigger-than-life projections flash on and off, each projection releasing a volley of images. Nearly 1,000 Harris photographs are grouped in seven themes: “Urban Landscapes,” “At Home,” “Style,” “Crossroads,” “Gatherings,” “Words and Signs,” and “Rise and Fall of the Crawford Grill.”

The Crawford Grill jazz club, the first incarnation of which was demolished for construction of the Civic Arena, once crowned the Hill District. Do you see that glittering piano on the stage, tiled entirely with mirror? Who is the woman playing and singing? Look, there’s Satchel Paige seated at the bar, regaling a group of friends. According to the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper of July 26, 1941, “Satch’ is shown telling . . . how he struck out Joe DiMaggio three times and beat Dizzy Dean four out of five. Satchell is slated to pitch in the East-West game Sunday.”

With seven scenarios projected at one time, we could spend hours in this room before we’d see all the available Harris photos. Catch the ones you missed, or revisit favorites on the Museum’s web site. Each image is carefully annotated. Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to add their own knowledge of identities, locales, and circumstances to the archive.

Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story
Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
through April 7, 2012


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———————Old Friends———————


Michel de Montaigne, philosopher, inventor of the essay form

Andrea Palladio, the most influential architect of the Western world,

and Montaigne’s contemporary


Carnegie Museum of Art Cafe

MONTAIGNE:  Signore Palladio! We meet in the New World. It’s Carnegie Library that brings you to Pittsburgh?

PALLADIO:  Monsieur Montaigne, I am honored to meet you at long last. Ah, but no. No library for me. It is the Heinz Architectural Center of the Carnegie Museum of Art where I briefly reside.

MONTAIGNE:  Oui, and I am in permanent residence in the arched hallways of this Library, where some of your ideas appear to have been, how shall I say—borrowed?

PALLADIO:  My influence is everywhere. Was I not famous enough that you visited my home in Vicenza in 1580?

MONTAIGNE:  Indeed, but I couldn’t find you!

PALLADIO:  You looked in the wrong place. (Gestures downward.) By the time of your visit I had gone, let us say, underground.

MONTAIGNE:  Ah, pity. Your demise prevented you from reading my first published Essays. But me? I was quite aware of your splendid architectural writings.

PALLADIO:  But . . .

MONTAIGNE:  No, no. My Italian, she, he . . .


MONTAIGNE:  It. It is good. You know, I adore conversation. We have much in common, much to discuss—a fascination with the classical world, our unconventional, risky writing. After just missing each other four centuries ago, let us open this bottle of wine I brought from my Bordeaux estate, and cut into this comte I ordered.

PALLADIO:  And with it, let us order some Risotto, made with the excellent rice grown in my home province.

MONTAIGNE:  My friend, this Thursday evening you and I will be reunited in a rare view of your drawings . . .

PALLADIO:  . . . and a discussion of your essays.

TOGETHER:  A toast! We shall be bound together!

Bound Together Book Club, a collaborative program of Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, this Thursday features a gallery talk and walk through Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey*, followed by a lively discussion of How to Live: Or, a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell.

Thursday, December 8, 6:30 – 7:45 PM

Space is limited. Call 412-622-3288 to register.

Meet in the Museum of Art lobby.

*This exhibition includes original drawings by Palladio, and is not likely to ever travel again. See it now through December 31, 2011.



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Let’s Get Small

There is an extraordinary fascination and charm about smallness…a special satisfaction in creating a tiny replica of any object.” –Clifford Musgrave commenting on Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House in Windsor Castle

One of the added perks of working at the Main library is the fact that it is attached to both a Natural History Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Hypothetically, this means that I should be able to spend my lunch breaks learning all I can about artists like Paul Thek as well as dinosaurs and evolution. I rarely take advantage of these perks, but I do occasionally drop into the art museum when I need a pick-me-up, and I usually make a beeline for my favorite collection: the miniatures.

Tucked into a small hallway between the Hall of Sculpture and the Hall of Architecture, the miniatures collection feels like a tiny secret. It’s comprised of eleven scenes and includes dining rooms, sitting rooms, an entertaining parlour, each equipped with miniature minutiae—tiny lamps, telephones, books, board games, ashtrays, clocks, dishes and the like. According to an esteemed co-worker, these rooms were purposely ransacked for a past art exhibit, so that their tiny displays of aristocratic living  were transformed into the ruins and excess of an all-night, binge drinking wild party night (I would like to see a picture of this, if anyone knows where to find one). Luckily, peace has been restored to the proper little rooms. According to the sign describing the collection, this “suite of miniatures opened to the public in 1969….The collection of approximately 350 objects on view were given to the museum by the estate of Sarah Mellon Scaife,” and some of the rooms are even modeled after rooms in Mrs. Scaife’s actual houses.

I have often marveled at the craftsmanship that goes into these tiny, abbreviated works of art and recently did a catalog search to see what sorts of books we carry on miniatures. I was delighted to find that not only do we have numerous books dedicated to the art of the miniature, but we also have an interesting collection of instructional books on everything from making dollhouse furniture to miniature birds, to tiny foods and cards. To use one of my favorite artists Alexander Calder’s words, making miniatures is like engaging in “a little private celebration.” If you need a break from words, I suggest taking a look at these delightful works of haiku in object form.


PS – This post is also partially inspired by one of my favorite characters on the television show The Wire, Lester Freamon, a homicide detective and dollhouse miniature maker extraordinaire.


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One of my favorite librarian duties is choosing books for discussion. For Dish! A Foodie Book Club (which meets tonight), I vary the subject month to month—memoir, history, food industrycultural aspects of food.

Selecting titles for Bound Together Book Club, a collaboration between Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, requires additional planning, since our mission is to create dialogue about art and literature.

House (1879, ink and watercolor on paper), by A. Charrie. Carnegie Museum of Art.

For our May 13 meeting, Bound Together’s focus is “Imagining Home,” title of the current exhibit of the Museum’s Heinz Architectural Center. To pair a book with this exhibit, I searched for fiction in which a house plays an important role, or could even be considered a main character.

I chose Sarah Waters’ horror novel The Little Stranger, with slight reservations. The thought of reading a thick (458 page) horror novel intimidated (and frightened) me, even though this haunted house story met the criteria of home as protagonist.

It’s frustrating that novels are categorized in reductive ways. Genre labels such as horror, romance, mystery, tell us where to shelve a book and offer a hint about storyline, but reveal nothing of literary quality.

The Little Stranger, however, came highly recommended. Sarah Waters previously penned three historical fiction novels, two of which were shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker prize. The Little Stranger landed on the Booker 2009 shortlist, too.

Just a few pages into The Little Stranger I relaxed, knowing I’d chosen well. Set in 1947 rural England, war rationing is still in place. The narrator, an articulate, likable middle-aged physician, answers a call to Hundreds Hall, a declining Georgian mansion he remembers visiting as a young child, when his mother worked there as a maid. Hundreds Hall and the family who live there gradually absorb, haunt, and finally possess his thoughts, time, and energy.

It’s a strangely beautiful novel, creepy, psychologically complex, atmospheric, one I’ll continue to ponder.


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Bound Together!

Setting: 15th century France. A new tapestry has been delivered to the castle. Woven of wool, silk, silver and gold threads, the labor of four weavers over one year, it cost the equivalent of the finest warship, or a wealthy nobleman’s entire year’s income. Queen Isabeau contemplates its placement. 

Queen: Charlie is daft. A 14-by-18-foot tapestry? Hung on the west wall? Sure, the sea scene will reflect the moat. Nice touch. And it will cut down on drafts. But hanging it so close to the dampness of the moat? Hasn’t the King ever heard of reeky mildew? Yech! [steps back to gaze at tapestry] Nice ship, nice looking guys . . . 

After a design by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (Flemish, 1502–1550) The Defeated Pompey Meeting His Wife at Sea, from The Story of Julius Caesar, designed 1540, woven c. 1640, wool. Gift of George Leary to Carnegie Museum of Art, 54.5.1


This is my little fiction. I’ve been reading big fiction (574 pages) to prepare for next month’s meeting of the Bound Together Book Club, the Library’s collaborative program with the Carnegie Museum of Art. On February 11, we’ll stare in wonder at the beautifully restored wall-sized tapestries in the Gods, Love, and War Exhibition, learn how they were made and what the imagery means. We’ll also discuss a relevant historical novel concerning Charles VI of France, In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse.  

In a Dark Wood Wandering follows strict parameters of the historical fiction genre: it presents a story that takes place during a notable period in history (beginning with the reign of Charles VI, known as the Wise, the Well-Loved, and the Mad King); the story centers on a significant event in that period (the second half of France’s Hundred Years’ War with England, which includes Joan of Arc’s military career); and the novel presents actual events from the point of view of people living in that time period (the majority of In a Dark Wood Wandering is from the point of view of Charles VI’s nephew, Charles, Duke of Orléans). To prepare for our discussion, I’ve been reading authoritative background history, none of which is nearly as compelling as this fictional account. 

Please join us for Bound Together. Space is limited. Call 412.622.3288 to register. Gods, Love, and War: Tapestries and Prints from the Collection will be on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art until June 13, 2010. 


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Who knew American suburbs could be so inspiring?

Lush green landscaped lawns; paved driveways designed for multiple vehicles; retail chain-stores linked in a row: these of course, are all typical characterizations of suburbia.  I mentioned the Carnegie Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes in a previous post.  The exhibition features more than 75 paintings, photographs, sculptures, video and models from over 30 artists and architects. Just like the Walker Art Center, the Carnegie Museum of Art is encouraging the public to create a video of their own interpretation of the suburban experience.  Less than a month into the exhibition, one video is already posted on YouTube:

The first major museum exhibit of its kind, the press release describes the framework of the exhibition as:

The suburbs have always been a fertile space for imagining both the best and the worst of modern social life. On the one hand, the suburbs are portrayed as a middle-class domestic utopia and on the other as a dystopic world of homogeneity and conformity. Both of these stereotypes belie a more realistic understanding of contemporary suburbia and its dynamic transformations, and how these representations and realities shape our society, influence our culture, and impact our lives. Challenging preconceived ideas and expectations about suburbia (either pro or con), Worlds Away hopes to impart a better understanding of how those ideas were formed and how they are challenged by contemporary realities.

There’s also a companion book appropriately named after the exhibition.  A list of artists, a wiki style dictionary of suburbia related lexicon, as well as exceprts from the book can be found on the Worlds Away homepage.

Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes is on exhibit in the Heinz Architectural Center until January 18, 2009.

– Lisa

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Big Boxes

Look around.  Giant bigger and better mega-chainstores are popping up everywhere, leaving their smaller big-box versions empty and abandoned.  What does the future hold for these marginally smaller retail buildings? 

Ohio based writer and artist Julia Christensen has been exploring how communities reclaim the growing number of abandoned spaces since 2003 and authored the forthcoming book, Big Box Reuse.  Christensen writes in her introduction that 253 Wal-Mart owned properties were available for leasing.  Big Box Reuse illustrates the new and inventive ways communities are recycling empty super-center retailers.  Can you imagine,  an 33,000 square foot abandoned K-Mart in Minnesota converted into a Spam Museum?  It’s true.  A barely recognizable K-Mart structure has been home to the mystery meat memorial since September, 2001. 

Alongside Julia Christensen’s book, her newest exhibit, “Your Town, Inc” is on display at CMU’s Miller Gallery through November 23.  The exhibition features photographs and installation pieces that show how communities are creating new uses for vacant spaces.  A collaborative piece with Oberlin College and Carnegie Mellon students will be situated on top of a parking lot.  The structure is titled, Unbox and will be transportable, reusable and constructed with recycled materials.

And if you haven’t had enough, Julia Christensen’s work will be displayed in the upcoming Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, opening October 4.  Organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, artists and architects reimagine new ideas for the familiar look of the suburban landscape.

– Lisa


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Life on Mars

Life on Mars – an art show? The announcements are hot and heavy these days about the fact that “Life on Mars” is soon to open next door. In any other year, the announcements would be for the Carnegie International; this is the first time since 1896 that the Carnegie Museum of Art’s (CMA) international exhibition has been given a unique title.

So OK, another contemporary art exhibition that can provoke the “my-kid-could-do-that” thoughts, or can leave one wondering why in the world anyone would call this stuff art. On the other hand, think about going to the exhibition with your brain wide open ready to be shocked or startled – or occasionally soothed, believe it or not!

As a run up to the show itself, the exhibition’s website is a plunge right into the pool of increasing online inter-connectedness with the purpose of the website to get people talking before it opens. If this isn’t appealing, check out the history of the International both of its earliest years and, more pictorially, of its first 100 years albeit not online. The catalogs of the most recent exhibitions (1985, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1999/2000 and 2004/2005) all have insightful essays that unravel some of the mysteries one encounters in contemporary art. While the art collection is brimming with books about contemporary art and the search for meaning such as Art on the Edge and Over (Weintraub), there are other recent titles that focus on areas such as Bio Art, Destination Art, formlessness, convergences in art to name but a few. These are all fine if you are really eager to read more about contemporary art! If, however, you are not, and would rather explore the potential for a real life on Mars, check this out!


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