Creativity pops up Downtown

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

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A painting of a Pepsi can, a storefront window transformed into a makeshift art studio and an overhead projector illuminating an arrow and the words “Puppet Photo Booth” on a wall: The artwork displayed at 131 7th St. is more than it appears.The Sound Gallery, a visual and aural art installation, and The Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa, a performance art spectacle, plan to intrigue almost every human sense when they officially open their shared space within a few weeks as part of Project Pop-Up: Downtown. The space at 131 7th St. is split in half, with the front of the room primarily featuring The Sound Gallery’s artwork and the back of the room reserved for creations by The Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa.“It is a wonderful opportunity for us to show in practice not so much what is going on [in a work] but how you choose to make the work,” Sean Neukom, The Sound Gallery Installation director, said of sharing the space in a phone interview April 5.While both organizations promote creativity and fuse performance with art making, their projects differ in their messages and techniques.“We’re not one in the same, but we are very excited to support [the Society] and see what inspiration we can draw from them being there,” Neukom, 29 of Lawrenceville,  said.The Sound Gallery is a collaboration between artist Derek Reese and Symbiotic Collusion, an organization created in January 2011 to provide resources for classical musicians and reach out to the community through music education, according to Neukom, who manages and composes music for the organization. The various musicians who comprise Symbiotic Collusion perform throughout Pittsburgh, and Neukom believed  collaborating with a visual artist would further expand their work, according to Reese, who was sought out by Neukom for the experiment.“It started as just [us saying] let’s just get together and try to find the commonalities between composing music and composing artwork, and then we gave ourselves objectives,” Reese, who acts as art director, said in an interview at the space on April 3.After spending some time discussing music and art over a few beers one night, Reese and Neukom discovered four commonalities between music and visual arts: overall context, technique, emotion and the “macro” view of the piece, or what the artist wants the audience to take away from viewing a piece, according to Reese. After defining these elements, Reese listened to an original composition by Neukom titled “At 7.0” and created pieces of visual art in response to the composition.“The experiment was to break down the process of writing music and process of art-making into four areas,” Reese, 30, of Pittsburgh, said.Reese’s own creative process produced “The Four Paraboloids,” a series of four large speaker-shaped objects made up of panels of paintings and various materials like duct tape, wood panel and turquoise tile pieced together. Reese incorporated his love for “low-grade, blue collar materials” into the paraboloids to bring his own “flavor” to the installation. He also created “The Connective Tissue,” several smaller paintings on raw-edge white paper that repeat the use of low-grade materials like duct tape and masking tape. Stenciled letters and words, repeated colors and shapes are seen throughout the series of pieces. Each painting and paraboloid represents how Neukom’s composition inspired Reese as he considered the four commonalities of making music and art.The paraboloids and paintings are currently displayed in The Sound Gallery. When it opens, a string quartet called Freya Quartet, which is affiliated with Symbiotic Collusion, will perform the music near the artwork while visitors view the visuals inspired by it. There are also speakers set up by the paraboloids that will play the music when the band is not present. The shape of the paraboloids will catch and bend the noise hitting them, creating a true interaction between music and visual art, according to Reese. This interaction makes up the installation, titled “Through Perspective.In addition to “Through Perspective,” Reese has established his own working gallery and exhibition studio in the front window of the space where he will slave over his own art as visitors walk around the room. Reese wants it to be “a place where other people can see the multiple stages of artwork being done.”“It will be kind of like a showing studio,” Reese said. “As things get done they will come into the space.While it was open during the Project Pop-Up: Downtown gallery crawl on March 30, The Sound Gallery is still not officially opened and has yet to set an opening date. Neukom plans to have it open by the end of the month for the Cultural Trust’s gallery crawl on April 27. For more information, visit Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa is not officially open either, but has been working diligently to bring its part of the space to life.“[The Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa] is a gallery and performance space that seeks to infuse wonder in downtown Pittsburgh,” co-founder Murphi Cook said in a phone interview April 4.A few years ago, Cook, 25, of Squirrel Hill, combined her writing skills with the puppeteer skills of Zach Dorn, 25, of Squirrel Hill, and the pair founded the organization to create art that conveys “the magic you felt when you were a little kid,” according to Cook.“We’re trying to recapture the eyes you had when you were a child,” Cook said of the Society’s goal.

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