Tony Cokes creates still and moving image works that feature text over multi-chromatic color blocks, usually accompanied by the sound of pop, experimental, industrial, or electronic music. The text fragments are drawn from speeches, lyrics, and other writing by politicians, comedians, and cultural theorists and address wide-ranging subject matter from racism to the notion of evil and megalomania. In a media-saturated culture whereby visibility is incessantly pursued, Cokes is interested in the practice of non-visibility, which moves away from the singular, iconic image and hyper-spectacle to a state of attentive awareness and fluid imagination. In the artist’s words, “non-visibility” is a “strategic withdrawal, or evasion of the mistaken identity that is certainty.”
Drawing on the life and legacy of American pop artist Andy Warhol, Pittsburgh.Isms (2022) is an example of Cokes’s “word portraits,” which feature quotes by or about one person. Originally born Andy Warhola to a Slovakian immigrant family in Pittsburgh, the artist relocated to New York in 1949, where he first worked as a commercial illustrator, publishing his first images in a Glamour magazine article, titled “Success is a job in New York,” and developed an art practice concerned with mass production, celebrity, and mortality. Cokes surreptitiously edits Warhol’s words and inserts them among everyday advertisements on four digital billboards along Route 28.
James “Yaya” Hough, A Gift to the Hill District
Pittsburgh-born and based artist James “Yaya” Hough painted A Gift to the Hill District, a mural in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, a cultural and artistic hub where Hough was born. Visit the mural at 2317 Centre Avenue.
James “Yaya” Hough’s art practice includes drawings and works on paper that address topics of authority, confinement, and oppression, as well as racial and political violence in the United States. The cultural and psychological traumas that these issues perpetuate are augmented by recurring protagonists and imaginary characters that populate wide-ranging scenarios across Hough’s bodies of work.
Hough, with the support of Carnegie Museum of Art and Pittsburgh-based organization Nafasi on Centre in the Hill District, held community workshops where participants discussed the role of public art in their personal lives and in their neighborhood, the content and imagery they wanted to bring to the project, and challenges and dreams that shape their vision of the future. Hough found inspiration in a quote by revered Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson that captured the spirit of the conversations. The artist also held paint days in collaboration with BOOM Concepts to provide opportunities for people to paint sections of the mural panels, which were later mounted to the wall. As his first public commission in his hometown, and specifically in the historical cultural hub of the Hill District where the artist resides, this project expands on Hough’s practice of making art public to create common imaginaries. A selection of the artist’s recently acquired drawings is on view at Carnegie Museum of Art in conjunction with the mural, showcasing multiple aspects of Hough’s practice.
terra0, A tree; a corporation; a person. (DAO #01, Black gum tree, Pittsburgh PA)
Founded in 2016, terra0 is a group of developers, theorists, and artists exploring the creation of hybrid ecosystems in the technosphere. The group’s first work, the terra0 whitepaper (2016), based on research in areas of distributed ledger technology (DLT), ecology, and economics, proposed technologically augmented ecosystems that can act as semi-autonomous agents.
For the 58th Carnegie International, terra0 proposed an augmented tree that owns its land. The land is donated by the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pittsburgh, on which a black gum tree was planted in May 2022. The tree is the single living entity of Pittsburgh Lobby for Tree Personhood, a 501(c)4 social welfare organization, and its de facto owner. The tree will govern itself through a smart contract and issue annual “certificates of care” in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to Carnegie Museum of Art for the services that the museum provides during its lifetime, such as water, pruning, pest control, liability, and the like. While this work responds to broader environmental concerns, it is particularly relevant in Pennsylvania, which lost a large percentage of its forest to the logging industry in the 19th and 20th centuries.