Sunday, March 6, 2011

Muralist Douglas Cooper’s Pittsburgh: “Pinburg”

Pinburgh from Douglas Cooper on Vimeo.

A video titled “Pinburg” is making the Internet rounds these days. I have to share it here as this week’s image because it’s so fascinating to watch. The animated film takes us into one of Cooper’s monochromatic murals depicting Pittsburgh’s industrial landscape and hillside neighborhoods. No matter how hectic your day is, do yourself a favor and lift your spirits by taking time to watch the five-minute video (be sure to view it in full-screen mode with sound). In fact, maybe this would be a good way to start every day.

Douglas Cooper, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, creates amazing charcoal-on-paper murals which emphasize Pittsburgh’s topography. The sidewalk stairways, which ascend to steep hillside neighborhoods and descend to the industrial river valleys, are somewhat reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s drawings. Cooper’s panoramas are filled with complex details for the viewer to discover – framed inside lighted windows, on porches, in passing trolleys and trains, and other surprising places within the scene. Many of these details show people engaged in activities, some of them based on memories of elderly Pittsburghers he has interviewed as part of his creative process.

Each time I see Cooper’s work on exhibition I’m transfixed, pulled into the scene in a very physical sense. Am I standing in the gallery, or am I standing inside the drawing? The scenes seem to be from multiple viewpoints and angles, yet merge together as vignettes that tell a story.

Doug Cooper’s first urban mural (created in 1992-93 as a work in progress at the Carnegie Museum of Art) is now on permanent display at the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center in Pittsburgh. Concept Art Gallery, in Pittsburgh’s Regent Square neighborhood, has smaller drawings by Cooper on display. To see more of Cooper’s work via the Concept Art Gallery website, click here. Cooper’s book, Steel Shadows: Murals and Drawing of Pittsburgh (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) is also still available in the paperback edition (144 pages, 11 x 9).

If you’ve read this far and still haven’t clicked on the “Pinburg” video, go ahead. Do it now. Indulge. Release your inner Yinzer.
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