Carnegie Museum of Art

Through January 4th
Various times

Move over São Paulo, Venice and The Whitney. The Pittsburgh Biennial is ready for its close-up. With 43 artists, 9 curators and seven venues, the 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial is the largest survey of regional contemporary art. The expansive exhibition kicked off its first phase on July 18th at Carnegie Museum of Art, and continues with dynamic programming at local venues through January 4th, 2015.

A unique partnership between seven of Pittsburgh’s top arts organizations, the Biennial simultaneously presents art in a wide variety of media being created throughout the region today, while spotlighting the area’s world-class arts and cultural venues and calling attention to Pittsburgh’s diverse art scene and role as a dynamic incubator for art.

Curators for 2014 are: Jessica Beck (The Andy Warhol Museum); Nicholas Chambers (The Andy Warhol Museum); Amanda Donnan (Carnegie Museum of Art); Casey Droege (Miller Gallery at CMU); Murray Horne (SPACE); Barbara Luderoweski (Mattress Factory); Heather McElwee (Pittsburgh Glass Center); Michael Olijnyk (Mattress Factory); and Adam Welch (Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Pittsburgh Filmmakers).

First up for phase one of the 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial is a solo exhibition featuring the photographic work of Corey Escoto (b. 1983). On view through September 29th, Corey Escoto: Sleight of Hand marks the artist’s first solo museum show, and the first one-person presentation of his work in Pittsburgh. A native of Amarillo, TX, Escoto has called Pittsburgh home since 2010, and has exhibited his painting, video, installation and sculpture both nationally and internationally.

Bringing together several bodies of Escoto’s thought-provoking new work, the show spotlights the artist’s use of “obsolete technologies and handcrafted processes to subvert digital culture’s slick, instantaneous nature.” Via his own “hacked Polaroid” process, Escoto produces images using a camera that has been modified to allow light-blocking stencils to sit in front of large-format instant film. Escoto composes his photographs by physically masking out portions of a light-sensitive surface to create fragments of exposed film. He then photographs everything from images on his computer screen to landscapes and architecture. Playfully blending boundaries between object and image, analog and digital, and between space and time, he introduces elements of chance, humor and human error in images of geometric forms that are indeed flat but still possess illusions of depth and texture.

A reflection on the production and consumption of illusion, Escoto’s two- and three-dimensional works reflect a complex dynamic within our manipulated, media-saturated world. Exploring Escoto’s multi-exposure “experimental Polaroids,” including his stockpiling of Fuji Color FP-100c45 film (one of the last commercial 4 x 5 instant stocks available and discontinued in 2012), the show also examines the artist’s interest in the “simultaneous emergence of digital photographic technologies, the waning of analog photography, the vast archive of images available via the Internet, and the possibilities that exist for the short time that these technologies will coexist.”

In his sculptural works, Escoto brings 2-D photographic forms into three dimensions. Inverting the very nature of the images on which they are based, Escoto’s photographs evoke depth, while his sculptures emphasize surface. Featuring faux materials that mimic visceral textures of marble, wood and fabric, Escoto’s sculptures are set against large patterned backdrops that appear to be seamless green screens used by special effects artists. Wrapping onto the gallery floor, these “set pieces” serve to disorient visitors’ sense of space within the museum, and embody a sense of artificial reality.

Recently expanded in terms of scope and site—and launched with unprecedented collaborative approach, the Biennial brings together local powerhouse curators and creators for a look at the region’s most thought-provoking contemporary art. A signature exhibition of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts since 1994, the mega-show uniquely pairs young emerging contemporary art curators from each organization, and allows participating venues to break with tradition and create a new collaborative model for the presentation of contemporary art.

Featuring distinct exhibitions that reflect each curator’s and partner institution’s engagement with artists working in and around Pittsburgh, the Biennial will also engage the public in a dialogue about contemporary art practice and production via ongoing public programs at rotating sites, including artist and curator talks, exhibition tours, film screenings, workshops and happy hour events.

Don’t miss the opening events on July 18th, which include an Artist Talk by Escoto at 6:30 p.m. and a reception from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Read a complete list of Biennial artists and venues.

Keep reading NEXT for upcoming 2014 Pittsburgh Biennial events.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.