Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





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Forum:  Mel Bochner Photographs, 1966–69 

October 12 – January 12, 2003


Mel Bochner (b. 1940) is known primarily as one of the founders of Conceptual Art, a movement whose practitioners emphasize the idea behind the art rather than its physical nature of the work or its aesthetic.  In 1966, Bochner began creating small structures out of wooden blocks and photographing them.  He was less intrigued by the final shape than by the process of imposing, impermanently, a certain order.  “For him,” writes Curator Scott Rothkopf, who organized this exhibition for the Harvard University Art Museums, “they were not to be seen as autonomous sculpture, so much as the individual steps in a larger serial process.”  Through photography, Bochner was able to capture the structures while minimizing their “physicality.” For three years, he explored the ramifications of this process.


While the earlier photographs in this exhibition deal largely with the mathematical ideas behind the work, Bochner also examined such principles as scale, perspective, color, and texture.  In later works, Bochner cut the edges of the photographs to correspond with the edges of the object photographed.  He then backed the photograph with masonite, making the picture project into the room. 


Subsequently in the late 1960s, Bochner’s investigations exploited new technologies that allowed him to subject clear substances to polarized light, take brightly colored and garishly lit cibachromes, and shoot photographs from television screens.   At a time when photography was not widely accepted as fine art, Bochner used this medium to test the boundaries between the idea of a piece and its physical execution.


The exhibition includes approximately 35 photographs from this period in Bochner’s career.  As Rothkopf writes, “Unlike many exhibitions of Conceptual Art in which photography serves as a document for actions requiring lengthy label descriptions, Bochner’s pieces have immediate impact and visual appeal.  Further, they demand museum viewing, given their often large-scale and highly polished formal clarity.” 


Bochner eventually turned away from the camera toward other works on paper, as well as installations, but his experiences with photography informed his work for more than three decades.  



Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates

November 9, 2002 – February 3, 2003

Heinz Architectural Center



When Robert Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1991, the jury wrote, “He has expanded and redefined the limits of the art of architecture in this century, as perhaps no other has through his theories and built works.” Venturi is widely credited with changing the course of architecture by rejecting Modernism and finding both honesty and beauty in ordinary buildings.


Venturi graduated from Princeton University in 1947 and earned a graduate degree there in 1950.  He worked in the office of Eero Saarinen, and his first built project that captured the attention of the architectural community was a house (begun in 1959) he designed for his mother in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. 


Denise Scott Brown, Venturi’s wife, has been a partner in the firm since 1969, as well as Venturi’s collaborator in the evolution of architectural theory and design. As partners they are known for their emphasis on social conditions and ethical considerations relating to urban planning and their belief that architects should respect the realities of people’s lives.


The firm has been recognized for the playfulness and iconoclasm of their projects; it was Venturi who responded to Mies van der Rohe’s famous modernist rule, “Less is more,” with “Less is a bore.” 


Out of the Ordinary was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is the first retrospective of Venturi and Scott Brown’s work.  The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and will include more than 150 drawings, models, photographs, and decorative arts objects, ranging from Venturi’s first commissions in 1958 to the firm’s most recent projects.


Guests at the annual Founder-Patrons Day celebration on November 7 will have an opportunity to preview the exhibition while enjoying cocktails and dinner in the Hall of Sculpture.  The evening begins with cocktails at 6:00 and dinner at 7:30. To receive an invitation, call 412.578.2552.


Recent Acquisitions   


Eugène Isabey

French, 1803–1886

The Shipwreck, late 1830s

Oil on canvas

Major Paintings Acquisition Fund, 2002.11


After seeing Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa in 1819, the young Eugène Isabey began making regular trips to the Normandy coast to study the sea.  Within 10 years, Isabey’s marine paintings were winning recognition at the Paris Salon, and his style was becoming more fluid and spontaneous. 


The depiction of people battling the elements and losing was a popular Romantic theme, and Isabey had many models working in this genre who influenced him, including Turner, Delacroix, and Rembrandt.  In this painting, the influence of Gericault may be easily seen, not only in subject matter, but also in the way the painting’s structure is based on a rhythmically repeated pyramidal shape.


“In works such as The Shipwreck,” says Louise Lippincott, curator of fine arts, “Isabey is revealed at his most dramatically experimental and advanced.  Here an intensely Romantic theme is expressed in a vigorous, broken technique that reinforces the crisis and essence of his subject and represents a vital link between the art of the early 19th century and the beginnings of Impressionism.”



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