Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bridging The History of Public Art

As you may have noticed on your commute this week, the Andy Warhol Bridge has been yarn bombed.  Thanks to the dedication and vision of fiber artist Amanda Gross, 1,847 volunteer knitters and installers, and a number of foundations and institutional partners, Knit the Bridge stands as the largest yarn bomb in the United States! Knit the Bridge is not only super cool piece of ephemeral art, but it helps to raise awareness of the wealth of public art in the Pittsburgh region.  In celebration of the Knit the Bridge project and the recent release of the new edition of the Pittsburgh Art in Public Places: Downtown Walking Tour ,we did a little digging around in our archives to find a handful of historical video clips of the public art works produced by the Mattress Factory artists over the course of our 35-year history.

One of the earliest public art pieces the Mattress Factory supported was a series of performances by Chrome, an Australia-based performance art group.  Having already performed all over the world, in Tehran, in Paris, all over Australia, and throughout Canada, the Mattress Factory's presentation of Chrome was the group's premier performance in the United States.  The performances took place in early August, 1983 and progressed from Market Square to One Oxford Center.  Consisting of a unique mix of song, dance, music, mime, comedy, and improvisation. The performances captivated crowds in downtown Pittsburgh.

Chrome's artwork Public Performance in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh.

Chrome's artwork Public Performance at One Oxford Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

For more information about Chrome, visit their website.

A couple years later, the Mattress Factory again presented a public art performance work that fascinated local audiences.  The work, Steamshuffle Pittsburgh by artists Christopher Janney and Joan Brigham, consisted of eight large glass panels that were inscribed with the text of a poem by Emmett Williams and installed upright in Oliver Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh.  In this interactive work, movements by pedestrians triggered electronic sounds and activated jets of steam aimed at the glass panels, thereby revealing the text of the inscribed poems. 

Look in the botton right corner of this video to see Founder and Co-Director Barbara Luderwoski chatting with passersby as a child interacts with Steamshuffle Pittsburgh.

Steamshuffle Pittsburgh was exhibited during the winter of 1985 in Pittsburgh.

The Mattress Factory also maintains two public artworks as part of the museum's permanent collection.  These works, Garden Installation by Winifred Lutz and Music for a Garden by Rolf Julius, are available to the public during regular museum hours.  Check out this video of artist Winifred Lutz sitting in the chair in Garden Installation.

Winifred Lutz sitting in the chair in Garden Installation.

and this video of her walking around the various levels of the artwork. 

Caption: Winifred Lutz in Garden Installation.

You can read more about Winifred Lutz's artwork at our website or stop by the museum lobby to see the models she created while planning the artwork. 

Rolf Julius's sound work, Music for a Garden, neighbors the Lutz garden, but is an independent work of public art.  In this archival video, Rolf Julius discusses the relationship between Music for a Garden and Winifred Lutz's Garden Installation.  

Interview with Rolf Julius about Music for a Garden.

Julius discusses the sculptural elements to his sound piece.

You can read more about Music for a Garden and several other Julius artworks on view at the Mattress Factory at our website.

As you can see, public art plays a vital role in the creative life of Pittsburgh.  We tip our hats to the Knit the Bridge project and to Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council's Office of Public Art for all their efforts to raise awareness of the rich cultural heritage available in our region!

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