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Popular CultureS: Installations by Michael Parekowhai, Ravinder Reddy, and Yinka Shonibare 

By Jordan Weeks

June 8 through September 2, 2001 WC: 434 

While they boldly explore popular culture, multidisciplinary artists Michael Parekowhai, Ravinder Reddy, and Yinka Shonibare are not at all tethered to American or Western ideas of popular culture. On the contrary, each explores/excavates his own cultural heritage and upbringing, which sometimes sheds light upon Western pop culture’s influence.  

q       "I was never into cars,” asserts Maori/New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai, adding, “I always thought owning a smart guitar would be much cooler than owning a car…. The Maori colonized the guitar, not the other way around….” His preference for the stringed instrument is obvious in Ten Guitars (1999), one of his many works in Popular CultureS . The guitars in the exhibit are crafted from assorted woods and adorned with classical Maori kawhaiwhai designs, and are meant to be played by Parekowhai and others as they explore interpretations of Maori-appropriated 1960s' Western pop music. The title of the work is taken from a Maori-adapted Englebert Humperdinck song from that era, and the Maori cultural icons in the traditional inlay designs are the same ones that are appear on widely circulated Maori souvenirs.


q       Ravinder Reddy, an Indian sculptor, explores co-existing contemporary and traditional elements in his brightly colored, sensually evocative, larger-than-life creations. Often he contemporizes images of traditional Indian goddesses, and deifies contemporary Indian women, thus raising conflicting issues of desire, lust, reverence, and worship. His new-old juxtaposition is paralleled by the physical materials he uses in creating his sculptures. Initially forged from clay, his figures are ultimately made by using fiberglass. Reddy reacts vigorously to what he calls an “unprecedented exposure to the media, mainly to advertising and the cinema. ” He injects both parody and humor into his work, while still addressing spirituality, religion, and traditional Indian iconography.


q       A native of London born to Nigerian parents, Yinka Shonibare moved to Nigeria with his family when he was four, then returned to the U.K. at seventeen to go to art school. Shonibare focuses heavily on issues of identity, race, colonialism, class, and commerce, as well as "the mixed-up layering” of contemporary global culture, which he explores via his multidisciplinary forms of statement. In “room installations” like Victorian Philanthropist’s Parlor (1996/97) and a photographic series such as Diary of a Victorian Dandy (1998), he tackles aspects of identity, culture, and commerce inherent in the “applied arts" of fashion, fabric design, and interior design. Knowingly, he juxtaposes such materials as Dutch wax-print fabrics and Victorian clothing. “The fabric is not one thing,” he explains. “I am interested in those kinds of influences which make up so-called identity--the things we construct for ourselves.”

Financial support has been provided by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency, and The Rockefeller Foundation. Yinka Shonibare's presentation has been made possible with assistance from the British Council. 

International Sculpture Conference      

June 6-10, 2001  

For the first time the International Sculpture Center (ISC) conference is coming to Pittsburgh, and The Warhol will be an integral hub, hosting the conference’s closing night celebration (on June 9)--a fete corresponding with the opening of the Museum’s Popular CultureS: Installations by Michael Parekowhai, Ravinder Reddy, and Yinka Shonibare. Additionally, Warhol director Thomas Sokolowski will be a featured speaker at the conference.

“It’s probably the first time that a local group has taken such an active interest in generating programming in connection with the conference, and in promoting the host city,” says Allison Pultz of APT Pittsburgh (Art + Performance + Technology). Her group was activated solely for the purpose of creating programming and marketing this conference. “Other cities have taken a more laissez-faire approach to ISC, whereas in Pittsburgh the conference is actually being presented in collaboration with us.”  

In conjunction with the ISC Conference, a lifetime achievement award will be given to sculptor Nam June Paik, who will have an exhibit at the Wood Street Gallery, featuring works from his retrospective exhibit at the Guggenheim in New York City as well as a new work, Hannibal.  

“APT takes the spirit and theme of Nam June Paik’s work and uses it as an opportunity to promote Pittsburgh as a center for art and technology,” explains Pultz. “Since Paik’s work moves the idea of sculpture along from being forged objects into being technological installations, we’re trying to make that link in Pittsburgh--a movement from the industrial to the digital.” 

Find out more about the ISC conference at http://www.apt2001.org/ 

Off the Wall with John Kelly and David Del Tredici' s Brother

May 12, 8:00 pm, Tickets: $15    WC 501 

The eighth and final show in the Off the Wall performance art series, jointly presented with New York’s Performance Space (P.S.) 122 and Three Rivers Arts Festival, is one you won’t want to miss. The series has seen sold-out performances by artists such as Tim Miller and the notorious Karen Finley, and now concludes with Brother, a collaborative interdisciplinary work by New York poet and vocalist John Kelly and Pulitzer Prize-winning pianist and composer David Del Tredici. Both artists have appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and around the world.  

Over the phone from their respective New York residences, it’s clear that both Kelly and Del Tredici are excited about the piece, which had its auspicious beginnings when the two artists first met back in 1997.  

“We met just after John’s 'Joni Mitchell' performance,” remembers classical artist Del Tredici, “where he reenacted Joni Mitchell and sang her songs.” Kelly recalls, “I knew who David was, but I’d never met him. He came backstage and said, ‘I want to work with you.’”  

“He’s such a wonderful personality on a stage—very compelling,” Del Tredici says of Kelly. “I said to him, ‘Whoever you are, I want you to sing my songs!’ Since 1996, I have had sort of a new lease on composing-life,” explains the composer, who might best be known over the past twenty years for his traditional classical piano work and his musical setting of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. “I’ve started to set a lot of contemporary American poetry to music…sexy poetry, and gay poetry, and out-there poetry. I wanted realer singers than you often get in classical music to sing the songs, and that’s what I like about John—he’s a very real performer-singer; he mixes the two.”  

“I’m using five of the songs that we’ve written together,” explains Kelly of Brother, “in addition to songs that David’s written to texts by Paul Monette, Allen Ginsberg, Jaime Marique, and Lewis Carroll. Basically what I’m doing is fashioning these ten songs into…not a strict narrative, but a kind of fractured journey through a man’s life. In the piece, I become different characters at different points. There’s a song about [hate crime victim] Matthew Shephard, from his own point of view. The Paul Monette song has him sitting by his dead lover’s grave.” Kelly pauses. “There’s more cheerful stuff in the piece as well!” he says, laughing. “There’s unrequited love, there’s love…there’s a song about back rooms… It’s vignettes from a gay man’s life and experience. Really, it’s a human’s experience through love, through grief, through hope, through frustration—all those things…it just happens to be somebody who’s gay.” 

“In the classical world,” says Del Tredici, “we’re so square…about what we can allow. And it’s very exciting to have combined two worlds; the two of us working together is a combining of two different worlds, and it really needs to happen. It feels very natural. I’m very excited about it.” 

The 2000-2001 Off the Wall series has been supported by a grant from The Heinz Endowments 

Pop Culture Parking       

How much fun can a parking garage be? More than you think--when you park your car on the "Uncle Sam" level, or any level identified by Warhol's images of pop culture heroes and heroines. 

In April, Pittsburgh's Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) opened its large, handsome North Shore Parking Garage on General Robinson Street, just across the street from The Andy Warhol Museum, in time for the start of the Pittsburgh Pirate's first season at the new PNC Park. Called the "Taj Mahal" of garages by Greg Yesko of SEA, this 930-space garage sends a major message about public accessibility to the new North Shore. It an "Event" garage, meaning crowds move in and out of it quickly. It has four (not two) exits and four high-speed elevators to move people quickly. The architectural firm of WTW made it blend into its surroundings in classic Pittsburgh style, with 17,000 square feet of retail space for cafés and shops on the street level. 

An outside banner features logos for the Pirates, the Steelers, the Pitt Panthers and The Warhol, while the inside parking levels are identified with Warhol's famous pop art images, such as Liz, Bill Murray, Grace Jones, Brillo Box, and others.  

When you visit The Warhol and Uncle Sam watches your car, you'll remember where you parked it. 







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