Stretching Pittsburgh’s boundaries has always been a focus of the Carnegie International, but the latest iteration of the city’s triennial import of contemporary art, which launches Oct. 5, takes the concept literally. Expected to draw over 100,000 patrons, the show will exhibit the work of 35 artists from 19 countries and bring site-specific projects to the historic mill towns of Braddock and Homestead.
And then there’s the worm.
The Day Glo Lozziwurm coiled outside the museum’s Forbes Avenue entrance, inviting kids to crawl through its striped segments, is a clue: This year’s International, the 56th since Andrew Carnegie began the tradition, is a little more lighthearted than its predecessors. Dan Byers, one of the three young curators of the show, says that play and playgrounds are an important theme of this year’s effort.
The Lozziwurm ties into a first-ever exhibit on postwar playground design in the U.S., Europe and Japan at the Heinz Architectural Center. That show, opening June 8, connects in turn to a film project by Ei Arakawa and Henning Bohl. The work documents a road trip through playgrounds throughout Japan, including one in Arakawa’s hometown of Fukushima, site of the 2011 nuclear disaster.
The full fall lineup of artists ranges from the work of South African photographer Zanele Muholi, founder of a black lesbian organization, to that of Guo Fengyi. The self-taught Chinese artist, who died in 2010, created room-length scrolls of rice paper illustrated in ink. Mexican artist and architect Pedro Reyes and Iranian filmmaker Kamran Shirdel will participate, along with Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey, whose work combines sculpture, performance, sound and film.
The Braddock project, by five women artists living in an abandoned church there, pulls Andrew Carnegie’s first library into the conversation. Braddock arts collective Transformazium will operate a lending library of more than 100 portable works donated by both Pittsburgh artists and those represented in the International. “Each artist will be donating a work, and library patrons will be able to check the works out by visiting the Carnegie Library in Braddock,” Byers explains. At the conclusion of the International, the 1888 Braddock library—a newly certified national historic landmark—will permanently house the works.
Byers says the museum’s Lawrenceville apartment, which has sponsored informal talks with both local artists and the International artists, has pushed this year’s show further into the community. “Pittsburgh must export itself and bring ideas from outside. So we’ve done 50 or 60 events there over the past two years. It’s been a place to get to know artists in Pittsburgh and share the [curators’] experiences, as we travel to visit artists elsewhere. Our visiting International artists stay there. They actually have neighbors and get to know the city.”
An ambitious reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, also opening June 8, will explore the International’s legacy. Local visitors will recognize the visionary work of Pittsburgh folk artist John Kane, first shown in the 1927 International. The retrospective makes room for ultra-contemporary acquisitions, such as Haegue Yang’s 2009 “Series of Vulnerable Arrangements—Domestics of Community,” a room-sized installation of light sculptures, electronic cables and metal.