Archive for the ‘History of Carnegie Museum of Art’ Category

Carnegie International, the catalogs, and their covers

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Cover of the 1961 Carnegie International (called Pittsburgh International Exhibition)

The earliest Carnegie International catalog covers featured a profile with the motto “Honos Alit Artes” (in English, “Honor feeds the arts”). This phrase is attributed to Cicero, who argued that an artistic discipline, such as painting, requires recognition and support from the public in order to flourish. This cover design was used from 1896 to 1914, when the annual show was put on hold due to the war. When the exhibition was brought back in 1920, the covers had a new, modern design. This Art Deco look was used from 1920 to 1922, and the show was renamed the International Exhibition of Paintings. 1924 saw the introduction of a new cover design, this time a classic image of a goddess. (more…)

Film Posters 1976–1981

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Between recent exhibitions like Paul Sharits at Greene Naftali and upcoming shows like Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde in the 1970s at Albright-Knox, experimental filmmakers who came to prominence in the 70s are getting their due these days. We’ve been taking stock of our film collection, too, with help from an A.W. Mellon Foundation grant, so it seemed like an opportune moment to share a selection of posters from an amazing series of artist talks and screenings hosted by the Carnegie Film Section (1970–1980), later the Department of Film and Video (1980–2003). Some of the rarest and most valuable material in our collection are recordings from these presentations.


James Lee Byars, 1964 Carnegie International

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

In 2010 one of our registrars, Elizabeth Tufts-Brown, turned up a treasure trove in the museum archives: a box filled with postcards and letters (performable objects?) sent by artist James Lee Byars to former Carnegie director, Gustave von Groschwitz, between 1964 and 1967.  Byars’s even, rounded lettering, usually in pencil or China marker, appears across this remarkable collection on everything from ultra thin Japanese rice paper to purple construction paper and newspaper, even cellophane. One was a large circle (printed only with “A White Paper Will Blow Through the Streets”), several were heart-shaped, some were scrolls. One was an entire 119-foot-long roll of cash register tape on which Byars had painstakingly written out a lengthy invite list complete with mailing addresses. Reading through all of these long-forgotten letters was amazing, and sometimes (as Byars undoubtedly intended) required quite a bit of maneuvering.

Many of the letters, which we exhibited as part of Ordinary Madness in 2010, pertained to three performances that Byars staged at the Museum in conjunction with the 1964 Carnegie International, which von Groschwitz curated. The first two took place on November 6, 1964  (1 x 50 Foot Drawing) and January 13, 1965 (A 1000-Foot Chinese Paper). Both were performed by a Catholic nun named Sister M. Germaine, and involved her carrying a folded paper object to the center of the room, then slowly unfolding and refolding it over the course of an hour. A third happening, The Mile Long White Paper Walk, was performed in the Hall of Sculpture on October 25, 1965, by dancer and choreographer Lucinda Childs. For this work, a riveted, 475-foot-long paper form was manipulated through the course of the performance by Childs, who was dressed in an elaborate white ostrich-feather costume. Alternating between each end of the paper form, Childs moved one riveted section at a time toward the center of the room, creating a pinwheel effect on the floor.

In both cases, a “performable object” of the artist’s design dictates the actions of the performer by virtue of its particular folded form, mechanizing her motions as she unravels an ephemeral drawing in time and space. In full habit or feather costume, she becomes a remote and ethereal icon, moving silently across the white marble floor. The Hall of Sculpture (which was constructed in the early 20th century to simulate the interior of the Parthenon) must have immediately appealed to Byars, with his penchant for purity and perfection, symbolism, and drama. Many artists have taken on the space since that time; most recently, Icelandic artist and musician Ragnar Kjartansson staged a long-duration performance there that Byars would surely have appreciated. In the photo above, Ragnar’s nieces recall the Three Graces, as they sing the refrain, “The weight of the world is love…”


The light lock in the lobby: Recent films and moving images in Forum

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

When I arrived at the museum in May 2009, my first show was in the Forum Gallery. I brought together three moving image works that kept kicking around my head over the preceding year. The dark, granite floored gallery seemed a good place to experiment with their simultaneous presentation. All silent, the group included Joachim Koester’s frantic, beautiful, and strange 16mm film Tarantism, William E. Jones latest version of his Farm Security Administration digital photo animation hypnotism Killed, called Punctured, and Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer’s nighttime film raid on the Met, Flash in the Metropolitan. You can read more about the Jones, Koester, Nashashibi/Skaer: Reanimation here.


John Kane

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

John Kane, Scene from the Scottish Highlands, c. 1927 © 2006 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

John Kane, Scene from the Scottish Highlands, c. 1927 © 2006 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

“On his third try in 1927, however, Kane succeeded in winning over the Carnegie jury with one of his own compositions, a painting he called Scene in the Scottish Highlands. The admission of a common house-painter and handyman to so prestigious an exhibition caused an immediate furor. Indeed, it was the first time ever that a living self-taught artist had been recognized by the American art establishment.” —Jane Kallir

“Genius has been discovered!” announced the Pittsburgh Press when John Kane’s Scene from the Scottish Highlands was accepted in the 1927 Carnegie International exhibition. The selection was indeed remarkable, for Kane was a simple laborer who entirely lacked formal artistic training and had never previously exhibited his work. His canvas, chosen from over 400 entries by most of the major painters of the day, was the only work by a Pittsburgh artist to be admitted to the show.

Reporters soon traced the artist to his shabby one-room apartment by the railroad tracks in Pittsburgh’s market district, where Kane had painted for years without an audience or recognition. Suddenly, he became a national celebrity. In the next several years he participated in four more Internationals, and in 1928, 1929, and 1932 he won prizes in the Annual Exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Outside the city he exhibited at Harvard University, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. By 1930 he had sold paintings to such well-heeled clients as Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and John Dewey, chairman of the department of philosophy at Columbia University.

Kane himself later remarked, “If I had tried the world over for an exhibition to show my work I couldn’t have found a better one than that International, right here in Pittsburgh.” He was by no means overwhelmed, however, by the honors that came his way. “I have lived too long the life of the poor,” he noted, “to attach undue importance to the honors of the art world or to any honors that come from man and not from God.”

More about Scene from the Scottish Highlands

More works by John Kane