Winter 2007

Above left: Elizabeth Rothwell, American, c. 1877-1946; The Chinese Coat (detail), 1910; Lent by Graham Shearing.
RIght: Daniel Bolick, Portrait #24. Courtesy of the artist. Westmoreland Museum of Art
Exhibition Award.

“Yes, it is just a local show. But these local shows are held here and elsewhere and are the living springs which feed the main current of national art. We are playing a definite part in the art life of this country, and we are quite as necessary to New York as New York is to us.”

- Everett Warner, a member of the painting and design department at Carnegie Tech. 1934, Carnegie magazine.
The Popular Salon of the People: Then and Now 
By Barbara Klein

L to R: Annual exhibitor Elizabet DeVita, Popular Salon of the People curator Vicky Clark, cross-over artists Richard Stoner, Robert Bowden, and Adrienne Heinrich, and AAP president Pati Beachley. 
Photo: Tom Altany
A new retrospective of work by Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, on view at Carnegie Museum of Art, demonstrates the power of regional art, reveals the impact the group’s annual exhibition has had on artists’ careers, and showcases some of the most significant artists to have lived and worked in the city.

For just shy of a century, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) has been home to many of the region’s artists.

Founded in 1910, this predominately all-volunteer ensemble is the second-oldest regional artist group in the country. And through the decades, its mission to promote art and the work of its members hasn’t changed.

The Annual remains its stock and trade. This yearly juried show allows artists to speak directly to patrons and the public—most notably and almost always from within the big house of Carnegie Museum of Art.

“I became a member in 1958 when I was still in college at Chatham,” recalls member Fran Gialamas. “AAP provided marvelous opportunities for artists to show their work in a museum, and so the motivation was always there to do my very best.”

And it’s this vehicle that has enabled AAP to not only survive, but also to present more regional art to the public than any other group in the city. At last count, in its first 50 years alone, more than 10,000 works were displayed—some of which belonged to artists exhibiting for the very first time (a statistic that makes AAP very proud), and others by artists who later catapulted into careers as art stars, including its most famous  members Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, Jonathan Borofsky, Robert Gwathmey, Balcomb Greene, and John Kane, to name a few. The first three gained exhibition experience by participating in the Annuals while students at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University.

Wrapped up in the history of AAP is the development of such repeat exhibiters as Johanna Hailman, Christian Walter, and Samuel Rosenberg.

“Among professional artists in this region,” says Richard Armstrong, the Henry J. Heinz II director of Carnegie Museum of Art, “AAP is the collective people want to join. It’s the biggest and the most ecumenical.”

To honor that fact, this year, in addition to its annual juried show, Carnegie Museum of Art presents a companion retrospective survey, Popular Salon of the People: Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annuals, 1910–2006. Organized by independent curator Vicky A. Clark, the exhibition is the kickoff to the group’s approaching landmark centennial and includes the work of 74 artists while highlighting the contributions of 20 particularly influential members. Both exhibitions, collectively dubbed Associated Artists: Then and Now, are on view at Carnegie Museum of Art through January 21, 2008.  

Art Succeeds
Driven primarily by the work of a trio of artists—Lila B. Hetzel, Horatio S. Stevenson, and Ferdinand Kaufmann—AAP’s very first exhibition in 1910, organized in a single month, included 202 paintings by 64 artists hung on maroon velour draperies in the lobby of Pittsburgh’s Grand Opera House (now Warner Center). Recognizing the value of creating more than just a one-time show, the participating artists formed AAP.

No one could have imagined then what staying power the Annual would demonstrate. Dubbed the “Popular Salon of the People” by the Pittsburgh Press, the following year it was held in four rooms at Carnegie Museums, and from that point forward all but four Annuals over nearly a century would call Carnegie Museum of Art home. (The Warhol played host twice, and the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon each hosted when gallery renovations and the museum’s schedule could not accommodate the show).  

Decades later, Mary Brignano, co-author of a book about AAP’s first 75 years, wrote, “All the necessary elements of a good drama are here—strong, unique personalities, the conflicts of artists vs society, artist vs critic, artist vs artist, and the artist vs the historian. The success of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh seems almost in defiance of the odds. Men and women of artistic temperament sustaining a continuing association in a predominantly business-oriented city for three-quarters of a century.” 

Lila B. Hetzel, American, 1873-1967; Lit Cigarette, 1948;Lent by John Schulman and Emily Hetzel.
One of those unlikely success stories: Lila B. Hetzel, whose gatherings in her downtown studio were the precursor to AAP, carved out a permanent place for women as leaders of the group. Most notably, in 1964 an all-female jury weighed in on the Annual, and in 1972 Barbara Ford became the association’s first female president.

Today, it’s a trio of females—curator Vicky Clark and artists and Annual co-chairs Adrienne Heinrich and Susan Sparks—who are making an important contribution to the history of art in Pittsburgh and offering a glimpse into its future by way of the AAP retrospective and the 97th Annual.

The Pulse of a Place
The relationship between the local, national, and international art scene remains complex, says current AAP President Pati Beachley. But the retrospective definitely brings AAP into a national focus.
“We have long heralded the importance of regional writers in capturing the flavor and texture of a locale, and crafts people are expected to embody the continuing traditions unique to this area,” says Beachley. “This, too, is the value of the local, of the regional, of Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. …Cities and towns are beginning to recognize that if artists are not present to actualize the pulse of a place then that place is historically and culturally off the map.”

Everett Warner, a member of the painting and design department at Carnegie Tech and a 10-year member of AAP, felt the same as early as 1934, when he wrote this about the Annual in the pages of Carnegie magazine: “Yes, it is just a local show. But these local shows are held here and elsewhere and are the living springs which feed the main current of national art. We are playing a definite part in the art life of this country, and we are quite as necessary to New York as New York is to us.” To this point, it’s rare in a city the size of Pittsburgh to have two large-scale exhibitions, the Annual and the Carnegie International, reach a centennial, says Clark.

In many respects—for funding and exhibition space in particular—in Pittsburgh the Annual continues to compete, and survive, alongside the bigger, brighter Carnegie International. And prior to the late 1980s, when the International began presenting fewer artists per show, it’s no coincidence that many AAP artists exhibited in the International

Three contemporary members have made it into the show: Borofsky, Pearlstein, and Warhol. But the shared constant, of course, is Carnegie Museum of Art, whose collection includes works from both exhibitions.  

Connecting to the World
Popular Salon of the People looks beyond the museum walls, says Clark, and offers a glimpse into the life and times of 20th-century art in Pittsburgh. It’s all there: the big names, the ever-changing aesthetics ranging from industrial landscapes to abstraction, and the ongoing prominence of present-day artists, such as Thad Mosley. “I have tried to organize the exhibition around major trends and to bring to light several underrated or forgotten artists,” she notes.

In an effort to contain 90-plus years of history in a single show, Clark arranged the work into four major sections.

Richard Harrison Crist, American, 1909-1985; Hill Houses, 1939;
Special Collection of the Greater Latrobe School District

 “Starting Out” chronicles the founding of AAP and the traditional (some might say conservative) landscapes, portraits, and still lifes that dominated both the local and national art scenes during the early 1900s. Standouts, Clark asserts, were Aaron Gorson and Christian Walter. “Both obsessively captured industrial Pittsburgh in paint-laden canvases.”

As “The Machine Age” came to prominence in the 1930s and 1940s, a number of Carnegie Tech artist-teachers like Samuel Rosenberg, Roy Hilton, and Peter Müller-Munk explored and challenged the boundaries that stood between representational and abstract art. “These were exciting decades for the Annual,” Clark adds, “witnessing an astonishing shift from recognizable subject matter to abstract composition, a change that evolved on the walls of the museum in both the Annuals and the Internationals

Left: Robert Lepper, American, 1906–1991, Gas Producer, 1941,Carnegie Museum of Art, Patrons Art Fund.

“Ready or Not: Abstraction Arrives” reveals that abstraction was not a given in Pittsburgh, as the mostly negative reaction to its appearance in a Carnegie International of the time would attest. Critics, it seemed, loved to hate it. But it ultimately found its place in the hands of Rosenberg—who, having shown in 48 exhibitions, contributed more paintings to the Annuals than any other artist and is often referred to as the “dean of Pittsburgh painters”—and, in turn, his students Jane Haskell, Lois Kaufman, and Gertrude Half.

The contemporary portion of the show, “Still Working,” features works by Edward Eberle, Paul Glabicki, Thad Mosley, and Diane Samuels, all one-time members who have earned Forum Gallery exhibitions at the museum, as well as pieces from Harry Schwalb, Janet Towbin, and Adrienne Heinrich, all members whose creative efforts have been purchased by the museum for its permanent collection.  

Thaddeus G. Mosley, American, African-American, b. 1926;
Subterranean Moons—for Harriet Tubman, 1995;
Lent by Diane Samuels and Henry Reese.

“It’s exciting for me to see what the   early members produced; what they were thinking,” says Heinrich, co-chair of this year’s Annual and an artist represented in the retrospective.  

For Armstrong, two sections of the exhibition—the founding group of artists and those plying their trade during the ’60s and early ’70s—are particularly enlightening. “Their names may not be recognizable,” he says of the artists featured, “but their work will prompt head scratching and delight.”

 Visitors to the retrospective may also be delighted to discover the truth about some long-held myths. “It’s untrue that our museums do not support local artists,” Clark says, “and that most collectors buy works from New York, or that Pittsburgh does not have a vibrant art scene.

“They will see AAP’s diversity—in styles, techniques, content, everything. I’ve come to appreciate many artists I didn’t know much about, but they have contributed to the cultural life of Pittsburgh. They have great stories to tell.”

Armstrong agrees, “By any reckoning, cities are only as vibrant as their creative   residents make them—and, on this score, Pittsburgh has a favorable history and
perhaps an even brighter future.”

The AnnualStrikes Again

This year’s Annual, Associated Artist’s 97th, prompted nearly 275 artists to submit some 500 works from a variety of mediums, including oil, watercolor, sculpture, ceramics, mixed media, photography, video, and fiber. Due to a surge in interest, the number of pieces submitted by each artist was limited to two, as compared to three in past years. Juror Polly Apfelbaum, an internationally known artist who serves on the faculty of Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in New York, selected 124 pieces by 76 artists.

 “It was difficult to make choices. There were many wonderful works, but as a juror I had to look at what would create an interesting show,” says Apfelbaum. “Pittsburgh is clearly keeping pace with art communities throughout the world. The wide range of media and innovative creative approaches I’ve seen during my time here have been refreshing.”

One of those works just happens to be by Adrienne Heinrich, the Annual co-chair, putting her in exclusive company. She and just four other participants, Aaronel deRoy Gruber, Robert Bowden, Richard Stoner and Karen Kaighin, are “cross-over artists,” meaning they have artworks in both the Annual and retrospective exhibitions. 

While Heinrich’s recent work involves taking silicone casts of her own body parts (a hand here, a breast there), her retrospective piece (Remember the Children, 1992) is an oil-on-slate creation that confronts the issue of young people and gun violence.

“I’ve always been attracted to new media,” Heinrich says, “things I know nothing about.” By contrast, her subject matter is often personal, “revealing deep concerns and interests.”  

Heinrich says she’s busy soaking in the shows and offers this bit of advice to all comers: “Maybe visitors can do the same thing I do whenever I go to an exhibition—delight in the creativity, share the sense of wonder at what people can produce, and revel in the art and the artists.”

Also in this issue:

Walking with the Dinosaurs  ·  Tales from the Supporting Cast  ·  From Trophies to Treasures  ·  Director's Note  ·  NewsWorthy  ·  Now Showing  ·  Face Time: Diplodocus carnegii  ·  About Town: International Appeal  ·  First Person: It takes a village to raise a dinosaur  ·  Artistic License: Size Matters  ·  Science & Nature: Bodies of Knowledge  ·  Another Look: Neapolitan Presepio Celebrates