Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Uncommon Encounters Mattress Factory Marks 40 Years of Unpredictable Art

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Uncommon Encounters Mattress Factory Marks 40 Years of Unpredictable Art

Article excerpt

An encounter with the unpredictable - a visual, a thought, a configuration - is a hallmark of a Mattress Factory visit and that titillating tension hovers over visitors touring the North Side museum's 40th anniversary exhibition.

The six artists selected for this milestone show reflect the range of expression that has been presented by the museum over four decades, from the enthusiastically immersive to the conceptually engaging.

The museum's focus has been on site-specific installation art typically made by an artist or artists in residence. In early years, visiting artists stayed in the "Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence" that were created in 1988 by exhibiting artist Allan Wexler.

The museum has since opened a residency unit elsewhere in the neighborhood, but Mr. Wexler's ingeniously designed rooms remain as part of a small but select permanent collection.

His current exhibition, "Sculpting Gravity," comprises work from various periods that reveal a wry sense of humor and an inquiring mind that disrupts conventional ways of thinking (or not) about our world. Levels and wedges re-orient assumptions about gravity in three-dimensional works such as "Slanting Table/Reslanting China." Beautifully rendered imagery like "Monolith with Wedges," from a recent series of hand-worked inkjet prints, "Breaking Ground," raise questions about our impact upon and relationship to the land.

In the adjacent gallery, Meg Webster's "Solar Grow Room" is a sensual bath of color, form and scent. Known for the earthworks she exhibited at the museum in 1984, the artist this time has organic matter living and thriving under a bank of LED grow lights powered by an off-grid solar electrical system. The lights give the room a rosy cast and distorting Mylar-lined walls suggest aquarium as well as terrarium.

Ms. Webster was inspired by the decline of honeybees due to habitat loss and the overuse of pesticides. The original plants will move to a nearby yard in the spring to provide blossoms for native bee populations. At the exhibition's end, an indoor replacement planting and the planters will found a second bee plot.

Cuban Yoan Capote, who exhibited in 2004, will install work in the museum's lower level early next year. In the meantime, enjoy Ezra Masch's held-over "Stations," an uncanny simulation of movement, as though one were standing in a subway train as it pulls out of the station and gains speed.

The remaining artworks are at the 1414 Monterey St. satellite gallery a block away.

One encounters Vanessa German's "sometimes we. cannot. be. with. our. bodies." Text fills the building's windows. On one side of the entry is the poetic, seemingly stream of consciousness commentary which she performs nationally and has dubbed "spoken word opera. …

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