Unsettling Matter, Gaining Ground brings together historical artworks from the museum’s collection alongside contemporary projects and new commissions to narrate the complex stories of how fossil fuel economies have been produced and upheld; whom they have excluded and left vulnerable; and how they have shaped and disrupted cities, communities, and ecologies.
Extending to multiple geographies across the United States and returning to our immediate context thousands of feet below our ground, works in this exhibition look to the very sites where processes of extraction materialize. Abundant in anthracite and bituminous coal, mines of Pennsylvania fueled the proverbial Second Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. With gas trapped in the sedimentary rock of the Marcellus Shale—stretching from the Allegheny Plateau to the northern Appalachian Basin—the region becomes once again a node in the intimately connected global energy networks.
Visitors can encounter 10 bodies of work spanning an array of media including paintings, prints, sculpture, film, architectural drawings, and archival documents. In tandem with works from the museum’s collection, seven projects by contemporary artists, architects, and collectives chart avenues for creatively contending with extractive forces in the context of our contemporary urgency. Within their multiplicity, a common thread weaves these projects together. From raising awareness and recording struggles of frontline communities to providing a space to mourn and diligently mapping destruction, these new commissions offer aesthetic, emotional, and cognitive tools for coexisting on a warming, scarcer, and more unstable planet.
Unsettling Matter, Gaining Ground is co-organized by Theodossis Issaias, associate curator, Heinz Architectural Center, and Ala Tannir, curatorial research fellow, Heinz Architectural Center.