Pope.L, ‘Fountain (reparations version),’ 2016-2017, acrylic, oil, oil stick, chalk, and chewing gum on porcelain fountain, Carnegie Museum of Art, A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, © Pope.L, Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY. Used by permission from CMOA.

The Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) is digging into its archives for a major reinstallation of its galleries dedicated to postwar and contemporary art. These works reflect nearly a century of history, society, politics and biography.

Crossroads: Carnegie Museum of Art’s Collection, 1945 to Now features more than 150 works ranging from recent acquisitions to familiar masterpieces, including Bruce Conner’s 1976 film, “CROSSROADS” — a collage of U.S. military atomic bomb tests — which gives the installation its title. It will open to the public starting July 20, with a special sneak preview on July 19 during the CMOA’s popular Third Thursday series.

“Andrew Carnegie’s mandate to acquire the art of our time has resulted in a collection that is more than the sum of its parts,” says the CMOA’s Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Eric Crosby, in an announcement about the installation. “I hope Crossroads will allow visitors to see art of the recent past through the lens of the present and to connect with themes and stories that resonate today.”

Many featured sculptures, paintings, films and other artistic mediums have never appeared before in CMOA’s collection galleries, including Kerry James Marshall’s “Untitled” (2016) and Alex Katz’s “Vivien Baseball Cap” (2006). Visitors will also be able to see a rarely exhibited, large-scale painting by Keith Haring, posters by the 1980s feminist art and activist collective, Guerilla Girls, and Louise Bourgeois’s 1991 found-object installation, “Cell II.”

Guerrilla Girls, “You’re seeing less than half the picture,” 1989, inkjet print poster, Carnegie Museum of Art, Alan D. and Marsha W. Bramowitz Contemporary Print Acquisition Fund. Image courtesy of CMOA.
Guerrilla Girls, “You’re seeing less than half the picture,” 1989, inkjet print poster, Carnegie Museum of Art, Alan D. and Marsha W. Bramowitz Contemporary Print Acquisition Fund. Image courtesy of CMOA.

The works unfold in a series of eight chapters. Here’s what we’re told about them:

A New Horizon — Prompted by new artistic freedoms and a shifting global order following World War II, artists of the 1950s respond with innovative forms of abstraction in painting and sculpture.

Call of the Wild — In the late 1940s, a loose-knit band of northern European painters and poets called CoBrA experimented with art that was mischievous, playful and irreverent. The gallery reintroduces CMOA’s extensive, rarely exhibited CoBrA collection.

More than Minimal — Though Minimalist works of the 1960s and 1970s may seem cold and impersonal, behind each is a story of touch, perception and lived experience, lending a human dimension to otherwise simplified forms.

Night Poetry — Borrowing its title from a 1962 painting by the Pittsburgh-born artist Raymond Saunders, this dream-like gallery summons rarely seen works from the darker recesses of the collection.

Artists’ Cinema – Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the museum served as a hub for a vibrant local film community. This gallery features a rotating program of important and under-recognized works from the museum’s collection.

Less Than Half the Picture — The turmoil of the 1980s prompted widespread debate about the value and role of art in society. A new generation of artists embraced politically charged ways of working in response to the most vital issues of the day.

The Persistence of Painting — From the rise of the internet to the ubiquity of digital cameras, today’s complex visual environment has pushed a centuries-old medium in unpredictable directions.

Free Radicals — How do artists locate themselves in our complex world? How do they redress historical omissions? How do they embody forms of resistance and protest? And how do they challenge tradition and the status quo?

This approach permits curators to refresh galleries in the future through new rotations and themes. Drawing from its broad collection, CMOA’s contemporary program will continue to surface ideas and stories that speak to our rapidly changing world.

“CMOA has an incredible collection, yet we are only able to present a sliver of it at any time,” says Catherine Evans, acting co-director and chief curator. “Crossroads signals a renewed energy for these galleries, and its format creates opportunities to do some deep digging into our holdings to prompt new perspectives and conversations. In 2019, we’re excited to bring more innovative approaches to engaging our visitors in our collection spaces.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.