Last night was the gala benefit for Life on Mars, the 55th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The International is the second oldest contemporary art survey in the world, just a few months younger than the Vennice Biennale, and it's always fun to have ArtWorld descend on pretty little Pittsburgh. Recent past Internationals have been, to my mind, uneven affairs, although, to be fair, that's in part the nature of any survey.
Well. Life on Mars is just extraordinary, full of exceptional, idiosyncratic, loving, mocking, beautiful works. The International has never before had a theme or title, and I was admittedly skeptical, afraid that it would become programmatic. My doubt was misplaced. The title gives the show a gentle coherence, and the art--particularly the new and comissioned works--respond to it generously. That is, in fact, probably the best descriptive of the entire show: it's generous. It feels at once substantive and whimsical, engaged but not self-serious. There are some shockingly beautiful pieces, and a few that are terrifying, and at least one or two that I absolutely despised. I haven't had so much fun in a museum in a long time.
Richard Wright, a British artist working out of Glasgow, made a remarkable room of obsessively repeated geometric forms that seem to rise and curve out of the walls. Kai Althoff made a frightening red room that's worth it just for the smell. (Really, the smell.) Rajani Shettar showed "Just a Bit More (2006), a delicate room-sized web of thread and hand-molded beeswax," which is one of the loveliest things I've ever seen. Matthew Monahan deconstructed sculptures. Thomas Hirschorn built a cave. Haegue Yang made a room-sized installation full of colorful window blinds and lights that makes you feel like a miniature person in the middle of a nursery mobile. Noguchi Rika (that's her photo above) filled a black room with photographs of sunlight. There are forty artists. Come to Pittsburgh. Check it out.