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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Robert Qualters retrospective and six solo shows open at PCA

Why you should go: The best place to get immersed in art this weekend is at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PCA). On Friday, February 7th, from 5:30 to 9 p.m., the Shadyside venue will unveil six new solo shows and one retrospective exhibition during an opening reception.

From an interactive dome of synchronized light and sound, to sculptures constructed from hemlock, cedar roots and white neon, the Center's latest batch of solo exhibitions highlights a wide variety of cutting-edge concepts and compelling creative practices being explored by contemporary artists working today.

Curated by Adam Welch, the solo exhibits showcase new work by selected artists from around the Pittsburgh region. Featured artists are: Ian Brill, Keith Lemley, Daniel Luchman, Jennifer Myers, Meghan Olson and John Sanders.

Step into Ian Brill's immersive installation Plume, which uses audience-generated data such as motion, sound and color to create an "ephemeral and ethereal ecosystem." Animating the gallery's dark still space, the other-wordly interactive dome of synchronized light and sound gestures takes on cinematic proportions that Brill hopes will "address our footprint on this planet and beyond." A multimedia artist based in Pittsburgh, Brill currently teaches at Penn State University's World Campus and the Community College of Beaver County. Born in New York City, Brill received his MFA at Penn State University in new media. His interactive, performative and multi-sensory environments, installations, performances and writing have been presented internationally at conferences and festivals and in galleries.

In his sculptural installation Past Presence, artist Keith Lemley incorporates hemlock, cedar roots from trees near his home and white neon. Lemley's mix of natural and manmade materials both illuminates and embellishes the wood, while also suggesting "new areas for growth." A native of rural Appalachia, Lemley's creative process reflects his deep interest in observing and being a part of natural systems. Lemly received his MFA in sculpture from the University of Wisconson (Madison), and has recently exhibited work at UnSmoke Systems Artspace in Braddock, PA.

Daniel Luchman
's conceptual installation, Replica of the Universe Methodology, focuses on "mapping and the relationship between the physical and cultural reality of a particular city, neighborhood, or landscape." In what the artist describes as "searching for a narrative cosmography," Luchman—who received his MFA in sculpture from Carnegie Mellon—established the project by using Pittsburgh as his first work site. His sculptural works are the result of a three-day working process that includes: reading, planning, engaging in reality, sensory absorption, note taking, and constructing and assembling data. Next up for the project is a second installment of Replica of the Universe Methodology that Luchman will produce in Seoul, South Korea.

Multi-disciplinary artist Jennifer Myers created Women In Time to be a series of sculptures and photographs that pays homage to unknown women who have "gone through life unrecognized, under-appreciated and never awarded a trophy." Based in Pittsburgh, Myers uses discarded trophies and additional materials to "embellish and reclaim a place for those never rewarded," and to combat and eradicate societal notions about the inferioriry of women. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa.
Stepping into Meghan Olson's A Mind of Winter, viewers will encounter sculptural works installed on the gallery's floor and walls. To explore the "simple transformations of seemingly uneventful materials and processes that can reveal themselves as poetic," Olson applies processes and phenomena found all around us in nature—such as gravity, pressure, expansion and saturation—to everyday materials including paper, styrofoam, wood, glass and metal. Currently an MFA candidate at West Virginia University, Olson received her BS in History from Portland State University. She  Olson recently exhibited work at UnSmoke Systems Artspace in Braddock, PA.

John Sanders
' Rampart explores relationships between the body, architecture and landscape. Featuring paintings and sculptures, Rampart continues Sanders' prior exhibition entitled Indivisibler, which brought textures and materials together in order to present associations between the human body and art and to connect the inside with the outside—such as textures and functions between human skin and fiberglass insulation. With Rampart, Sanders encases lard and cut tar paper in clear vinyl, and installs the materials into a wall of pink fiberglass insulation. Based in Pittsburgh, Sanders received his MFA from Ohio University.

A life in art

The six new solo shows opening at PCA are running concurrently with a special retrospective of work by acclaimed local artist, Robert Qualters, which will be featured throughout the Center's entire first floor.

On view through April 20th, Robert Qualters: A Life will also open during Friday night's public reception. Curated by Vicky A. Clark, who is also author of the new book, Robert Qualters: Autobiographical Mythologies, the comprehensive first-of-its-kind retrospective features more than 60 paintings, prints, drawings, as well as photographs of the artist's commissioned murals and installations.

Known for his signature vivid color-saturated depictions of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, bridges, and steel mills as well as self-portraits and collaborative works with other area artists, much of Qualters' work features the artist's commentary written in cursive text in the borders of his work.

Recognized as Pittsburgh Center for Arts' "Artist of the Year" in 1985, Qualters moved to California in 1956 on the G.I. Bill, enrolling in the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, where his mentors included renowned painters Nathan Oliveira and Richard Diebenkorn—founding members of the Bay Area Figurative Movement. In 1957, Diebenkorn invited Qualters to be in the inaugural Bay Area Figurative show.

Born in 1934 in McKeesport and raised in Clairton, Qualters' prolific career as a painter, installation artist and printmaker spans six decades. His work, which has become familiar to Pittsburghers over the years, has been featured in more than 30 solo shows in galleries and museums across the region, including at Carnegie Museum of Art. Qualters has also created more than 24 public murals and site-specific installations, including commissions from Mercy Hospital, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Three Rivers Arts Festival and Oxford Development. Associated with the Bay Area Figurative Movement of Representational Painting, Qualters has also created 12 murals with Pittsburgh high school students.

Qualters' work is featured in the permanent collections of Carnegie Museum of Art; the Oakland California Museum of Art; and the Westmoreland County Museum of Art; as well as in the offices of PPG Industries, Alcoa, The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments; and in private collections throughout Southwestern PA. Past president of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Qualters has taught painting at the State University of New York, Oswego; University of Pittsburgh; Carlow College; Slippery Rock State University; Indiana University of PA; West Virginia University; and Carnegie Mellon. He has also been a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome, and an artist-in-residence at Pittsburgh's High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Qualters received his BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, and his MFA from Syracuse University.

Off the walls

In addition to Friday's opening reception, PCA will host a number of public programs in conjunction with the new exhibitions.

Don't miss a book launch party for Clark's Robert Qualters: Autobiographical Mythologies, on March 13th at 7 p.m. The event will also mark Qualters' 80th birthday and will include an Artist Talk and exhibition tour at 6 p.m.

On March 20th, Melwood Screening Room will premiere the short film, Robert Qualters: A Life on Film, by Pittsburgh-based artists Joe and Elizabeth Seamans, followed by a reception at 3583 Butler Street from 7 to 9 p.m.

Clark's new book, Robert Qualters: Autobiographical Mythologies, will be available for sale at the opening reception and also at the March 13th event.

Friday's reception is open to the public. Admission is $5 (free to Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for Arts members).

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