The Pittsburgh Press from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 6, 1986 · Page 35
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The Pittsburgh Press from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 35

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Thursday, February 6, 1986
Page 35
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The Pittsburgh Press Section D Thursday, February 6, 1986 t I The clay mask of slain I San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, right, j ri..u c 1 L.i ailU OUlldl, UC1UW left, are part of the Rob- ert Arneson exhibit at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Richard Lipscher's ceramic "Iron River Spirit Man," below right, is at The Clay Place. Both shows are part of a citywide consor tium on political art Sriv Ilk 1 opening Saturday. Ijjgj. - 'mfrt; . J Political art has the floor OP- Jerry Kearns' "Three Mile Rapture," part of a Gallery G exhibit of work by activists By Patricia Lowry The Pittsburgh Press SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR Dianne Feinstein wanted a memorial to her slain predecessor George Moscone, but what California artist Robert Arneson came up with wasn't exactly what she had in mind. Arneson's ceramic "Portrait of George," which had been commissioned after the artist's sketch had been approved, featured a grinning head of Moscone atop a pedestal on which Arneson had inscribed phrases relating to Moscone and his killer, Dan White. "Trust me on this one" was one of Moscone's favorite sayings; "California State Senate Majority Leader" and "Liberal Democrat" references to his political background. But it was Arneson's references to White ("He hated to lose") and portrayal of the murder weapon on the pedestal to which Mayor Feinstein particularly objected. Arneson's sketch had not included the graffiti. "The pedestal in its present form simply is not appropriate as the hallmark of a great convention center ..." she wrote in a letter to the city's art commission, which then voted against the work's installation in Moscone Center. The memorial, almost 8 feet tall, was later bought by a private collector who won't lend it to exhibitions, but a life-size drawing of it is now on view at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. "Robert Arneson: Points of View," an exhibit of his prints, drawings and sculpture, is part of "Political Art 86," a collaboration of seven arts organizations and the center's second citywide consortium (the 1983 "Urban Pulses" exhibit was the first). Arneson's works in clay have long mixed social commentary, self-parody and humor (a 25-year retrospective of his work is now touring the country), but it was a New York exhibit of his anti-war drawings that inspired the center's exhibitions director, Sande Deitch, to bring his work and the work of other political artists to Pittsburgh. "There's more art being produced today that's political," says Ms. Deitch. "Artists are reacting to the conservative climate. I'm also a believer in what (artist) Nancy Spero says, that all art is political. It has a point of view and tries to persuade you." "There's been gradually an increase in awareness among artists to communicate beyond the art world," says Lynne Gumpert, curator of the New Museum for Contemporary Art and its "End of the World" exhibit of nuclear protest art two years ago. She will give a slide lecture Sunday at 1 p.m. on "Art in Politics Now" at the center. After two decades of mainstream art that mostly addressed formal and aesthetic concerns but opened up a world of possibilities for what art could be America is experiencing a rebirth of socially conscious art on a scale it hasn't witnessed since the 1930s. Political art today comes in a variety of formats and takes on a wide range of issues, from Jenny Holzer's anti-nuclear electronic message boards to Judy Chicago's, feminist art to Peter Saul's paintings of a warmongering President Reagan. In addition to six exhibitions that include both historical and contemporary works, "Political Art '86" features films, lectures and performances. Nationally, political art is being exhibited by museums and galleries, bought by collectors and analyzed by the media. Last October, the Village Voice carried a special supplement called "What Is Political Art ... Now?" featuring interviews with artists, curators and critics, and reproductions of the winning entries in its own "Political Art Contest." But for all its acceptance in art circles, blatantly political art like Arneson's clay portrait of George Moscone, is still sometimes blatantly rejected. Sculptor Robert Morris was commissioned in 1980 to create an outdoor work for the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bay Pines, Fla. The following year, Morris submitted his idea replica casings for "Little Boy" and "Fat Man," the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, mounted on pedestals. The VA wrote back: "Stop all work under this contract immediately." Much of Arneson's recent work also deals with the threat of nuclear War and annihilation. "Sarcophagus" is a large sculpture depicting three military officials with monstrously grotesque heads and bloody hands sitting behind a coffin. Inside is a human skeleton whose hands grasp a peace symbol. While such images may heighten our collective consciousness and stimulate discussion, artists who tackle the nuclear issue and their numbers are ever increasing may ultimately feel as powerless as most of the rest of us in affecting real change. With other issues in other times, that has not always been the case. , Please see Political, D8 Emile Servan-Schreiber and Bruce Bergenfeld of Zone Bleu harmonize at the Electric Banana. . Electric Banana is a lab for new music' By Peter B. King The Pittsburgh Press "Pi UNK'S NOT DEAD," proclaims a scrawled message on the door of the Electric Banana, an Oakland nightclub. No, not dead. But like a brat who's matured into middle age, the punk scene has changed. Now it's called "new music," a big bucket of a term catching any rock that's, first of all, new, and second, uncommercial enough not to be mistaken for Journey or Foreigner. From punk to cowpunk to neo-psychedelic, the Banana has nurtured offbeat rock 'n' roll since January 1980. In its spartan laboratory on Bigelow Boulevard, customers pay a modest cover to hear untried bands both local and from out-of-town. Sometimes the fans shout "Eureka!" Sometimes they send the bands back to the drawing board. "The Banana is a great showcase," says Bruce Bergenfeld of the band Zone Bleu, "because it's a pretty unpretentious setting and the bands are pretty much llfitfr'' free to do what they want. We experiment a lot." "If you're paying your three bucks at the door, you're taking your chances," says Archie Werner, formerly with Carsickness, the first punk band to play the Banana. "It could be a great band, it could be a terrible band." But the club's willingness to give new bands a shot makes the Banana important, he says. He describes it as "the actual edge of the envelope as far as music is concerned." Recalling A magic night at the Banana several years ago, he asks: "Where else could you hear a three-piece garage band from California playing a funked-out version of 'Ode to Billy Joe' that was tremendous?" While the late Phase III in Swissvale booked punk bands earlier than the Banana, the Oakland club has had a much longer run. It is the only Pittsburgh nightspot that books new music exclusively. Johnny and Judy Zarra, the Banana's owners, became godparents of the local new wave scene largely by accident. Zarra, who wears sunglasses and frequently jokes, "It's tough being fabulous every day," bought the Banana in 1970, when it was a go-go bar called The Spotlite Loipge. Zarra hired the first male dancer in Andy SiarnesThe Pittsburgh Press Pittsburgh, "a guy called Goldfinger who used to paint himself gold from head to toe and wear a loincloth." Mrs. Zarra, an enthusiastic woman with long hair well down her back, met her husband when he hired her to dance. That was when go-go dancers still wore clothes, she stresses. "The costumes kept getting smaller. I quit right around then." The couple dropped the go-go dancers, then tried a black-oriented disco. Next, they turned to live music. At first, they booked rock cover bands. One day Werner telephoned the club and asked for a gig. "When he called and said their name was Carsickness," Mrs. Zarra recalls, "I said, 'Carsickness?'" But the Zarras liked the band. More important, so did the audience. "I wanted to have something different, that nobody else was doing," says Zarra. In the harshly lit, largely black room that looks like a movie set for Eurgatory, groups such as Hector in Paris, Kids After iark, Carsickness, The Cardboards, The Wake, The Five and November's Children got their start. The club has brought in several out-of-town acts that have achieved measures of national success, including ' Please see Banana, D4 Mardi Gras activity has Cajun flavor By Mark Kenny For The Pittsburgh Press TUESDAY is Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday - the culmination of 12 days and nights of indulgence and hedonism before the start of the austere, 40-day Lenten season. For those whose hearts are with the revelers in the French Quarter of New Orleans but whose feet are mired in the mid-winter mud of Pittsburgh, chin up. Coal Country Traditions, a local folk dance organization, is sponsoring a Cajun dinner, dance and party Saturday at the Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Ave., in Oakland. "The Cajun Mardi Gras is a more rural event than the New Orleans Mardi Gras. We're focusing on more traditional dance and music," says Susan Waggoner, community dance organizer for the group. She said the event features a Cajun dinner of chicken or vegetarian gumbo, a Mardi Gras parade and dancing to the music of Stand Bayou, a Cajun band made up of fiddle, guitar, triangle and button accordion players. Ms. Waggoner said their parade will be a Pittsburgh version of the Cajun tradition of the "Trail Ride," a secretive trek from house to house which is led by a captain, a respected member of the community. During the ride, costumed participants beg for food as they gather members along the way. The end of the ride is marked by dinner, music and dancing which continues until midnight. Ms. Waggoner encourages partygoers to dress in Please see Cajun, D8

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