Pillbox

Gallery Crawl offers free cultural experience

During last Friday’s Gallery Crawl, various galleries showcased thought-provoking artwork, including an axe stuck in a wall burning incense and a futuristic multimedia installation (above). (credit: Samantha Ward/) During last Friday’s Gallery Crawl, various galleries showcased thought-provoking artwork, including an axe stuck in a wall burning incense and a futuristic multimedia installation (above). (credit: Samantha Ward/) During last Friday’s Gallery Crawl, various galleries showcased thought-provoking artwork, including an axe stuck in a wall burning incense (above) and a futuristic multimedia installation. (credit: Samantha Ward/) During last Friday’s Gallery Crawl, various galleries showcased thought-provoking artwork, including an axe stuck in a wall burning incense (above) and a futuristic multimedia installation. (credit: Samantha Ward/)

Swarms of yinzers, hipsters, families, and students converged on Pittsburgh’s Cultural District on Friday to experience this season’s Gallery Crawl, an event that showcases Downtown. Visitors are allowed free admission to over 30 art and entertainment venues around Liberty and Penn Avenues.

The Wood Street Galleries, located at 601 Wood St., displayed work by a number of authors who focus on experimental poetry, fiction, history, and geography. The exhibition — titled The City & The City: Artwork by London Writers — explored new ways of combining art and writing in examination of the modern city. Guests were welcomed inside with the deep hum of vibrating tribal music.

A set of velvet curtains were pushed aside to reveal a room covered in four separate projections of slow city scenes. “Flying Down to Rio” by artists Chris Petit, Emma Matthews, and Iain Sinclair presented a vague and uneasy view of city streets. Viewers’ dark shadows were forced into the projections, propelling them into the imaginary, time-warped space.

“Sight Unseen” by artist Rachel Lichtenstein displayed precious Old World jewelry, bottles, and treasures in dimly lit display cases. Viewers had to wait in a small line to get a closer look at the delicate items. Lichtenstein’s display corresponds with the launch of her new nonfiction book Diamond Street: The Hidden World of Hatton Garden. Hatton Garden is London’s secretive diamond and jewelry quarter, home to a private community of craftsmen.

Their experiences and memories piece together the fragments of “Sight Unseen.” Lichtenstein commented that she wanted “a slightly Victorian era feeling to it, and an out of time, mystical sense to it.”

Down the street in the SPACE Gallery at 812 Liberty Ave., crawlers were greeted with a more modern, interactive take on art in an exhibit titled Circles of Commotion and Moving Pauses. A huge, seemingly paint-covered boat — beautiful, blue, and mysterious — stood in front of viewers. A strange maze of video projections and almost translucent mirrors confused onlookers as they struggled to make sense of the path and the artwork.

“It’s actually a really cool experience,” said sophomore Chris Skaggs, a double major in decision science and philosophy, as he made his way through. “But I imagine this is what it’s like to trip acid and have it not go well.”

A DJ set up by the front windows of SPACE added loud, pounding sounds. The noise, which at first contributed to the strange, futuristic nature of the show eventually became an annoyance that drove people out of the room. Stepping back outside into the night air was a sensory relief.

Perhaps the most welcoming portion of the Gallery Crawl was found in the small food and art booths set up in cozy nooks between buildings. Smoke from the small BRGR stand wafted into the night sky, illuminated by strings of lights. Crowds of people meandered around in the cool night air, surrounded by the Downtown skyline.

Further down Liberty Avenue, smaller galleries welcomed visitors. Recent Carnegie Mellon alum Martin Swift (BFA ’12) displayed work at Currency, 937 Liberty Ave., with a group of other young artists. His three paintings — titled “Oscar,” “Luca,” and “Tyler” — towered over visitors. The scene at Currency was more lighthearted and less crowded than the more professional scene at Wood Street Galleries.

Other notable artworks displayed were a series of metallic, textured panels and an axe sticking out of the wall slowly burning incense. “This might be my favorite gallery,” said Nicole Anderson, a sophomore Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student. “It feels familiar, like CMU. I could see this in the Miller Gallery.”

A perfect end to the night for crawlers was finding the Cell Phone Disco, a huge screen in an alleyway that visualized the electromagnetic field of a cell phone. The installation art piece featured thousands of small ligwhts illuminated when someone near it made or received a phone call.

Pittsburgh welcomed new and old visitors to the rich arts and culture scene in Downtown. The Gallery Crawl only happens four times a year, so mark your calendar for the next time it comes around.