By Onastasia Youssef
LOVENEVERENDING by local artist Ramon Riley at the Boxheart Gallery is more than just abstract paintings and evocative renditions of the Steel City’s familiar bridges. A careful look at the works unveils a poignant and powerful exploration of some of the hot-button issues pulsing beneath Pittsburgh’s surface.
The exhibit on the main and second floors include fairly traditional abstract pieces, including his series Pixels and Gingkos. All of these works are safe, but beautifully so, pulling the audience in with their warm tones. His laser-cut collages based on snapshots of Pittsburgh, though, are the stars of the show.
Chicken and Waffles combines this technique with graphite and watercolor to paint diverse figures in what looks like your favorite local diner. It is a classic Americana scene reduced in rosy shades of red to simple shapes and quick but loving renderings of individual faces. Banjo Night uses the same technique in burnt orange and greys to show a crowded room with the American flag looking out over the scene.
Blind Progress casts a new light on these works. Another laser-cut collage in blues and greens, we see a city street scene with shuffling people and the words “Walnut on Highland” etched on one of the buildings. The work transforms from a simple view of a Pittsburgh sidewalk into a subtle challenge to the recent gentrification of East Liberty.
In the same vein, a girl smiles out from the painting The Viewer. She wears an American flag dress, leaning on a table, while two other young women are behind, representing what we can infer to be the Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. The exit sign above their heads contrast with the primary figure’s dress to evoke recent debates on citizenship and immigration.
Where I Am From is an unassuming small square canvas featuring purple, green and grey faceless figures, holding up blank signs. A silhouette of a man (undoubtedly Trump) stands – his back to us – with raised arms. We are then left to project either our own feelings of hurt or celebration on the crowd, who may be rally members, but whose signs could easily be filled in with words of protest.
In an ever-shifting social landscape, LOVENEVERENDING may not provide answers, but it does provide comfort in a time of great tragedy tearing through our nation, reminding us of the glimmer in each moment we live and the smiles we see – and, hopefully, give – that reflect love, regardless of color or creed.
LOVENEVERENDING is open Tuesdays through Sundays at the Boxheart Gallery in Bloomfield through November 10th and is free to the public.