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Art Reviews: CMU's Miller Gallery debuts with trio of provocative exhibits

Saturday, February 26, 2000

By Mary Thomas, Post-Gazette Art Critic

Audience involvement continues to be key in contemporary art as evidenced in programming to complement three exhibitions at the new Carnegie Mellon University Miller Gallery, which lists as a goal "pushing the envelope of art, architecture and design." A visit to the exhibitions can be complete in itself, but supplemental activities that will appeal particularly to video and filmmakers, and to those curious about the direction contemporary art is taking and the parallel implications for the artist's role, will be worthwhile for those who want more.

"Speech: How to Acquire It "(1999) by Bellamy Printz (an installation of Xerox transfer on paper, found objects and wax) is part of the Reading Visual/Text: Regional Volumes exhibit at the Brew House Space 101 on the South Side. (Tony Tye, Post-Gazette) 

The Miller Gallery, named for alumna and donor Regina Gouger Miller, is actually three exhibition spaces on different floors of the new Purnell Center for the Arts that are connected by stairway and elevator. The inaugural exhibitions are an installation created for the site, videos by the Philadelphia-based Termite TV Collective and an old favorite from The STUDIO for Creative Inquiry group cast in a new light.

The STUDIO'S several-years-in-the-making Nine Mile Run Greenway Project has raised more than a few eyebrows in people who question how an activist environmental political action can be considered art. The opportunity to address this important and provoking subject will be offered at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday when a new campus discussion series, "The Hybrid: New Models in Artmaking Today," is launched in the second-floor exhibition with New York art historian and critic Robert Atkins and artists from the project.

The project is becoming part of our local heritage, in accumulated data and visuals that document the work's process and, more importantly, in the living entity that is the Nine Mile Run Greenspace. Excellent videos include one taken from the air that follows the Monongahela River and, without narrative, makes commentary on use of riverbank space. An admirable presentation is made by amateur nature photographer Clifton McGill, whose lovely images and intelligent commentary on the ecology argue a strong case for the site.

Termite TV, founded in 1992, is concerned with issues of community and culture. Last summer members drove across the United States in an old school bus to film the "Living Documentary Project" shown here -- more than 100 people who tell their life stories in five minutes. While singular presentations are almost awkwardly amateurish, the overall work is profound as individuals attempt to sum up their lives for the camera and find themselves at a loss for things to say. The four collective members, Dorothea Braemer, Michael Kuetemeyer, Carl Lee and Anula Shetty, will speak at 5 p.m. on March 2 in McConomy Auditorium in the University Center.

New York artist Sharon Louden's "swells and extensions" is a three-dimensional exploration of line that's given an added phase through the use of luminescent paint that phosphoresces during a light/dark cycle. The latter is an clever idea, but one that would be better appreciated by the visitor if the cycles were longer; the relatively quick turn of the lighting tends to jar one out of contemplation of the work's moods rather than contribute to it.

Exhibitions run through March 3. Gallery hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

Further information, 412-268-3877; or go online at;

"Reading Visual/Text: Regional Volumes" an exhibition of artists' books at the Brew House Space 101, contains works by several regional artists who are proficient in this medium and by a number for whom, one senses, making books is a more exploratory act.

The best of the works done in a somewhat traditional vein include Michael Alpert's exquisite bound books that heighten poetic text with clean abstract design, Eric May's delightful keepsakes, Lisa Austin and Brad Ireland's exceptional, meditatively quiet "GRACE," Diane Crandall's "Violent Crime," which projects a tense but appropriate rhythm, and Carol Barton's great pop-up books.

Fine "unbounded" examples include jewel-like works in metal and precious stone by Cappy Counard Wolf and a wall of pages by Holly Morrison and Mary Jo Toles that juxtaposes preciousness and disease to speak of vulnerability.

"Text" is at 2100 Mary St., South Side, through March 25. Gallery hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Several artists will lecture at 3 p.m. on March 25 (412-381-7767). Related workshops will be held on March 4 and March 18 at the Foreland Street Studio, North Side. All events are free.

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