Thursday, May 8, 2008

Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson and A Panorama of Pittsburgh Until June 8 2008

Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson and A Panorama of Pittsburgh Until June 8 2008

March 8, 2008 - June 8, 2008

Images at the Frick website here

Artist Creates Striking Beauty from Pittsburgh's Gritty Mills

As part of its contribution to the celebrations surrounding Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary, the Frick Art & Historical Center will present two exhibitions in 2008 that examine the various ways the city has been depicted “on paper” by artists from the nineteenth century through the present.

These exhibitions are Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson and A Panorama of Pittsburgh: Nineteenth-Century Printed Views. On March 8, 2008, Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson will open at The Frick Art Museum and remain on view through June 8.McPherson works in the urban-realist tradition, producing finely detailed, beautifully atmospheric renderings of urban and industrial environments. His preference for urban subject matter and unpopulated shadowy night scenes is reminiscent of both the Ashcan School of the early twentieth century and the cinematography of mid-twentieth-century film noir.

This exhibition gathers together some of McPherson’s existing Pittsburgh-related works and expands upon these industrial themes with a body of new work in graphite and pastel.Craig McPherson is known for his murals, paintings and mezzotints, many reflecting his 30-year tenure in New York City. McPherson’s work has been exhibited in solo gallery shows in New York, where he is represented by Forum Gallery, and in group shows throughout the world. His body of work includes a number of corporate and museum commissions, including a set of large murals depicting world harbor cities for the American Express Building. Sarah Hall, director of curatorial affairs, worked with the artist to organize an exhibition of remarkable works that provide a visual survey of many of Pittsburgh’s dramatic industrial landscapes.

According to Ms. Hall, this exhibition will allow us to look at the city through the eyes of a contemporary artist whose work can help us to see our environment anew or differently. Comments Ms. Hall, “In Craig’s images we experience the visual drama of our region—from the awe-inspiring conglomerations of the steel mills, to the desolation of a landscape scarred by overuse; to the graceful dance of the bridges that cross our rivers.” McPherson moved to New York City in 1975, settling into a loft without heat or hot water in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Twelve stories up, he had a bird’s-eye view of Yankee Stadium and the gritty streets below. McPherson’s reputation was established with a 1983 exhibition, which included a view of Yankee Stadium at night, the success of which led to a series of high-profile commissions and exhibitions.

It is no surprise that on a trip to Pittsburgh more than 20 years ago to visit his fiancée’s mother, he was struck by the extraordinary views of steel mills, rivers and cityscape. McPherson described his reaction in a recent interview with Sarah Hall: “That first visit left a lasting impression. It was at night in the winter, and there were low-hanging clouds. As we came out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel and were crossing the bridge, the sky lit up orange from the mill up the river. Very odd colors, various grays—cool to warm—and a curry orange. Turner’s The Burning of the Houses of Parliament had nothing on this. As we drove along the river, there was one great image after another.”

McPherson has come to Pittsburgh once or twice a year since then. For him, the city and its environs are a treasure trove of awe-inspiring industrial scenes, expansive vistas and interesting river views. Striking imagery emerging from the darkness was a perfect subject for one of McPherson’s favorite mediums—an antique form of printmaking known as mezzotint. Mezzotint originated in the late seventeenth century, and in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century was the preferred method for reproducing and distributing images of famous paintings. The artist starts with a copper plate and roughens the entire surface with a tool called a “rocker,” which is a curved instrument with sharp, tiny teeth. It takes a great deal of painstaking work to cover the surface evenly with tiny metallic burs, which hold the printer’s ink; and McPherson has taken up to a year to complete one plate. A completely rocked plate prints a rich velvety black. The image is created by scraping and burnishing the burs, which produces smooth areas in the copper—the smoother or more polished the plate, the lighter the area prints.

McPherson is known for resurrecting the art of mezzotint for modern collectors. He occasionally uses a completely rocked plate to print pure black sheets, which he then works with pastel. A number of such works will be featured in this exhibition. The artist has created a substantial body of new work for the exhibition, some featuring the Edgar Thomson Plant and Clairton Works, two institutions with which Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) was involved. The new work is mainly in graphite and pastel and includes Edgar Thomson #3, a large—66 x 86 inches—work in pastel on linen. Clairton, River is a dramatic vertical piece, executed with exceptional precision in graphite on three attached sheets of paper. The stacked, hierarchical format of this work and style of the composition was inspired by a Japanese scroll. McPherson can render with dazzling precision, as he does in Clairton, River, using graphite with incredible finesse to create the insubstantial substance of steam, smoke, and snow, yet he also is capable of working with a sensual, expressive physicality evident in pastels like McKeesport Bridges and E.T.McPherson’s choice of imagery often depicts human impact on the environment—whether it is through his portrayal of an abandoned vehicle, a glowing red-hot furnace in a steel mill, or the insignificant pools of light gathered around streetlamps in a Braddock night scene.

His industrial landscapes capture the childlike awe of first witnessing the magnitude of the nearly mythic factories, and he deftly reveals the beauty in surroundings that are often derelict, neglected or overlooked.The exhibition and accompanying catalogue include more than 30 Pittsburgh-related works by McPherson, who has been interpreting the region’s landscapes and industrial sites for the past twenty years. Currently planned in thematic sections, the exhibition will feature a section devoted to the Edgar Thomson Plant, one devoted to the Clairton Works, and others presenting mill interiors and local landscapes. Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson is organized by the Frick Art & Historical Center and made possible by a generous grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation.

CATALOGUE An illustrated catalogue, produced by the Frick Art & Historical Center, accompanies the exhibition Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson. In McPherson’s images we experience the visual drama of our surroundings—from the awe-inspiring conglomerations of the steel mills, to the desolation of a landscape scarred by overuse, to the graceful dance of bridges. The catalogue will include an interview with the artist, discussing the exhibition’s themes and works, as well as the techniques involved in their creation. The catalogue is richly illustrated with full-color reproductions of all works included in the exhibition. Price: $13.50 for Frick members, $14.95 for non-members.

THE FRICK ART MUSEUM The Frick Art Museum at the Frick Art & Historical Center contains collections of fine and decorative arts assembled by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of Henry Clay Frick. In addition to exhibiting its permanent collection, which has strengths in Italian Renaissance and French eighteenth-century painting, the Museum has an active program of temporary exhibitions.


The Frick Art & Historical Center is located at 7227 Reynolds Street in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. Free parking is available in the Frick’s off-street lot or along adjacent streets. The Frick is open 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday and closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to The Frick Art Museum, Car and Carriage Museum, Greenhouse, and Playhouse is free.Docent-led tours of Steel: Pittsburgh Drawings by Craig McPherson are available free of charge on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Groups of five or more and those interested in scheduling a tour of the permanent collection are requested to schedule a private tour at an alternate time. The cost for group tours and permanent collection is $7 per person, and reservations must be made one to two weeks in advance. Call 412-371-0600, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00p.m., Monday—Sunday.For additional information or images, please contact Greg Langel, Media and Marketing Manager, at 412-371-0600 ext. 524 or


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