Friday, January 22, 2016

2016 Pittsburgh I (1/22/2016)

Friday, January 22, 2016
We were able to hit the road by noon, and despite threats of a blizzard on the East Coast, which somehow included Pittsburgh, we headed to that very city for a weekend getaway. The drive took only a couple hours, and we soon arrived at the Inn on The Mexican War Streets.
The Inn on Mexican War Streets
This Bed and Breakfast was the former residence of Russell H Boggs, financier and co-owner of the department store Boggs and Buhl. The 1888 mansion and two-story carriage house were designed under the direction Henry Hobson Richardson, known for his Richardsonian Romanesque style. The owners live in the carriage house that has a private-event restaurant in the first floor.
The Inn on Mexican War Streets
Mexican War Streets? In 1848, the original developer of the neighborhood named the streets after Mexican-American War (1846-1848) battles and generals (Buena Vista, Monterey, Palo Alto, Resaca, Sherman, Taylor, and Fremont). As a historic district, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
The Inn's foyer (KSS)
The grand staircase (KSS)
The parlor (KSS)
The library/breakfast room (KSS)
The dining room
Embroidered silk kimono in the upstairs sitting room
Since we were the only guests for the weekend, we were given our choice of rooms, and took the front bedroom with all its windows.
Mr Bogg's Room
Mr Bogg's Room
Stained glass window
Note in the bathroom
Note the fireplace mantel detailing
We took a walk up Monterey Street past Victorian rowhouses,
Monterey Street rowhouses
Monterey Street front door
with real gas lanterns
and took a right on Sampsonia Street that was like an alley. The houses on this street were built in 1910. We were looking for the Poet Houses, part of the City of Asylum Project that started in 2004, which were "works on art to honor the exiled foreign literary writers who lived in them." Apparently at various times, five exiled writers have lived in some of the houses, and many more have visited for one to three months.
410 Sampsonia Street, façade (2006) by Tom Sarver
This painted house was the Tom Museum from 2006-2009, a performance and installation venue of the Mattress Factory, where artist Tom Sarver lived and worked.
408 Sampsonia Street, House Poem (2004)
by exiled Chinese writer Huang Xiang
Huang Xiang was the first writer to complete the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s exiled writers’ residency program. Since his work was banned in China for forty years, he celebrated his arrival in Pittsburgh with this very public expression of excerpts from his poems, written in his trademark "grass style" of calligraphy.
402 Sampsonia Street, Winged House (2006)
House Permutation (2006)
The storm door art is a collaboration of artists Laura Jean McLaughlin, Bob Ziller, and the Mattress Factory’s Community Art Lab, using the handwritten words of a passage from Nigerian Nobel Prize–winner Wole Soyinka's memoir called The Man Died. Soyinka is a co-founder of City of Asylum. The sculptures on the house, Spiritual Wings (2006) by Thaddeus Mosley, made in response to Soyinka's words.
324 Sampsonia Street, Pittsburgh-Burma House (2010)
The Pittsburgh-Burma House was the residence of Khet Mar and her husband, Than Htay Maung. Than Htay Maung created the mural based on Khet Mar's story about her transition from Burma to Pittsburgh.
320 Sampsonia Street, Jazz House (2010)
Jazz House is a collaboration between Than Htay Maung and Oliver Lake, a jazz saxophonist and composer who worked with City of Asylum to create the Asylum's Jazz Poetry concert series. Lake is also an artist, and the murals are based on his works. The safety pin is inspired by a character from Lake's hometown of Marianna, Arkansas, who covered his overcoat with safety pins. He would remove one to pin on a child and tell them they were now part of the Club. When a younger Lake asked what he had to do to be part of the club, and the man replied, "Just be good."
314 Sampsonia Street
Another house showed portraits and words of Venezuelan poets José Antonio Ramos Sucre and Rafael Cadenas. I can only assume that this is the home of one of the current exiled writers-in-residence, Israel Centeno of Venezuela.
We continued to Arch Street,
1416 Arch Street (1877),
former Engine Company No. 3 of the
Pittsburgh Fire Department
and turned left to find Randyland at the corner of Jacksonia Street. You can't miss the "psychedelic recycled art kingdom, a world of its own."
1501 Arch Street (1910), Randyland (1996-ongoing)
Randy Gilson was a waiter who knew little about painting, art, or gardening, but was a natural at turning waste into wonder. In 1982 he started by using unemployment funds to buy whiskey barrels, and filled them with dirt and flowers to place along the streets of the Mexican War Streets neighborhood. Kids volunteered to help and neighbors got involved to create whiskey barrel gardens, eight empty lot parks, and 50 vegetable gardens. In 1996, Gilson purchased the building at auction for $10,000. He has used found building materials, paints, plants, plastic animals, yard sale finds, and the help of anyone who will lend a hand, to add to this Pittsburgh landmark.
Randyland; Gilson apparently copied the clouds and trees
from a Lewis & Clark mural in a local museum
Randyland detail; the top of the fence
musical staff surrounds the property
Randyland; the courtyard appears to be
two empty lots shared by three houses
Rats in the courtyard
The third house on the courtyard
Randy with Kent
It was snowing as we walked down Jacksonia Street to the Mattress Factory, a former Stearns & Foster mattress warehouse, which in 1977 became a contemporary art museum and experimental lab.
The Mattress Factory at 500 Sampsonia Street (1900)
Two outdoor art installations include Garden (1993) by Winifred Lutz
and Music for a Garden (1991) by Rolf Julius 
The other side of Music for a Garden
We took the elevator to the fourth floor. One of the rooms was locked, but you could see that there was a structure that surrounded a hole in the floor. There is a good photo in an NPR article of July 2015, plus other pictures from the Mattress Factory.
Detail of Faculty (2015) by Rob Voerman
View from inside Faculty
Fantastically amazing spherodendron (2015)
by Bill Smith
 Down to the third floor:
Infinity Dots Mirrored Room (1996)
by Yayoi Kusama, one of two
mirrored room installations
There were two other installations on this floor, one showing drywall in various stages during construction and being painted.
The second floor contained works by James Turrell done in 1983. We were warned it would be dark and not to use flashlights. I later found a description for Danaë"From a darkened entryway, you walk into a long, white-walled room. On the far wall stretches a rectangle in lavender grey. As you move toward it, you slowly realize that instead of a painting, or a solid plane of any kind, it is an opening into a smaller room saturated with ultraviolet light."
Kent stuck his hand in the "painting."
A description for Pleiades: "You approach the gallery through an inclined corridor so dark that you are virtually without sight. At the top of the ramp, you sit in a chair and face blackness. After your eyes adjust, an amorphous sphere of grey-white, or perhaps red, begins to appear, more a presence than an object. As you look harder, the form becomes smaller. You turn away for a moment and back again. It grows and glimmers. But the source of light itself is constant and still."
Not knowing what to look for (seven stars?), we did both see an amorphous grey-white glow just to the left of middle. We never did see the hands in front of our faces. The installation is for two people at a time, and another couple interrupted us, bumping into us until we relinquished the two chairs to them.
Down the the lower level:
The Ghost Train (2015) by Marnie Weber;
like a Mexican Day of the Dead train station
It was snowing in earnest when we went to another Mattress Factory building at 516 Sampsonia Street (1890). The whole house (three floors!) is the art installation of Trace of Memory.
Trace of Memory (2013) by Chiharu Shiota
Memories of the house are trapped in webs of black yarn. See the NPR article for better photos.
Trace of Memory detail (KSS)
Mailboxes at 516 Sampsonia Street
Onward to the third building of the Mattress Factory at 1414 Monterey Street (1875):
Part of Living Things (2015)
by Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier
The living things are the microorganism Spirulina algae, and it can be harvested through the kitchen below. It can be dried into a powder and the artists hope to work with bartenders and chefs to create drinks and dishes featuring Spirulina at events held here.
Another part of Living Things (2015)
by Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier
A video of Ash (1991) by Rolf Julius:
Up on the second and third floors, it appeared each artist was given a room or two and given free rein.
The Color of Temperance: Embodied Energy (2015)
by Julie Schenkelberg
Across the room appeared to be
a mirror reflecting a wall lamp,
but where was the wall lamp?
"Inside" the "mirror"!
Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence (1988)
by Allan Wexler
The beds can be pushed through the wall for various configurations of sofa and beds, and the headboard turned to create the sofa back. The light bulbs can be extended into either room.
Wall between the rooms
Ship of Fools: Discovery of Time (1986) by Bill Woodrow
We walked back to the Inn on Mexican War Streets, and had to brush an inch of snow off the car to drive to dinner in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Since it was only 17:30, we had to pay for street parking until 18:00. A friendly woman stopped us to say we didn't have to pay for parking after six. She hadn't realized it wasn't six yet!
Piccolo Forno was, as Juan F stated, "smart and heartfelt." Unfortunately for Kent, it was a BYOB restaurant, but the food was unique and delicious. We started with soup, the Pasta Fagiole, which was a creamed as in puréed soup here. Kent had the Gnocchi di Semolina (Roman-style baked semolina rounds with braised beef short ribs, currants, and cippolini agrodolce/sweet and sour cipolline/spring onions).
Gnocchi di Semolina with cipolline onions (sorry it's blurry!)
We are used to potato gnocchi which are much smaller, not the size of stuffed cannelloni!
I had Tagliatelle con Sugo di Funghi/Pasta with mushroom gravy.
Kent had received Pittsburgh recommendations from Juan, the son of his work colleague, Fernando F. Today, of his recommendations, we went to Randyland, the Mattress Factory, and Piccolo Forno. All outstanding!
But we aren't done yet!
On Friday nights in January, the Andy Warhol Museum has free admission. No photos allowed.
Andy Warhol Museum tag
You are directed to the seventh floor to follow the life of the artist, graphic artist, filmmaker, music producer, stage designer, author, publisher, and collector chronologically, making your way back down floor by floor. Many of us know Andy Warhol as a celebrity who was a leading figure in the pop art movement, but he was much more.
He was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh and his parents were Byzantine Catholics from the Carpatho-Rusyn region of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now part of Slovakia.
Warhol studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. After graduation he moved to New York City to work in magazine illustration and advertising. He started using the silkscreen printmaking process and developed the blotted line technique. He began exhibiting his work in the 1950s. In the 1960s Warhol began his paintings of iconic American objects and celebrities, resulting in "pop art." He also began making films, managing and producing the rock band, The Velvet Underground, and he founded the magazine, Interview. The 1970s he hung out with the rich and famous and could be found at NYC nightspots, notably Studio 54. In 1979 he co-founded the New York Academy of Art, and became affiliated with younger prolific artists who helped his popularity re-emerge in the 1980s. Upon his death in 1987, most of his estate went to create the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Working with the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Foundation purchased and helped renovate an industrial warehouse to open the Andy Warhol Museum in 1994. It is the largest museum in the USA dedicated to a single artist.
Back to the Inn on the Mexican War Streets.
Next: Pittsburgh II.

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