Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 9: Pittsburgh - Art and Ballgame Traffic

There are a couple of things that identify you as a local person here in Pittsburgh and some of them have to do with traffic. Realizing that a GPS is often useless is one - off the bucket list. Then you have "Giving directions to aht-of-tahners" - did that this morning guiding a lost guy through the one-way-street-system of the Strip to Pamela's. And then we have the last and most significant one: banging head on wheel while being stuck in ballpark traffic because the Pittsburgh Pirates loose in high speed against the Phillies (!). I think ... now I am ready for citizenship, right? SIGH!

But - as usual - let's start with the beginning and a cappuccino at La Prima. Luckily Gabi likes the place and  the coffee as much as I do and so we went back this morning for caffeine and stocked up on biscotti next door at Enrico's. After this sweet start into the (again) sunny day we drove out into Mon Valley to Braddock. You may have heard already about this little town just outside Pittsburgh. In the time when steel and coal were the king and queen of Pittsburgh lots of people lived and worked out there. With the steel industry the population later collapsed and the few who stayed usually did that usually only because they had no chance to find work and a better life somewhere else. 

For a couple of years now Braddock has with John Fetterman a very special and very engaged mayor who tries to turn things around for his community. Braddock Redux - the local organization he started - runs and supports several projects from - for example - education to a farm with organic vegetables to several art projects including the art gallery UnSmoke Artspace
Sad enough our trip just fell between two awesome exhibitions at UnSmoke and we ended up seeing neither the one or the other (if you are a local Pittsburgh reader just click the UnSmoke for more information about the opening reception this Saturday), but we nevertheless made our way out there because of the Ohringer Building. The former department store from 1929 is a classic piece of Bauhaus architecture and was high on Gabi's list of places to photograph. The little trip also felt a bit like time traveling and gave us a small impression how the old industrial Pittsburgh must have looked like. 

After Braddock we went back to our favorite sports here - river crossing - and drove to the ol' town of Allegheny better known today as The Northside. Yesterday Suzy had killed off our plans  to visit the Mattress Factory but today we wanted to make it there and ... we did. 

Now excuse my French, but HOLY SHITBALLS! Forget the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York! Come to Pittsburgh and go to the Mattress Factory - it is the way better choice. I do not even know where to start ... Most of the pieces were simply mind blowing. From the recent show "Installed" "The Offering" by Than Htay Maung made of dozens and dozens of hands holding  a piece of bread and "Para-Site - video projection on architecture" by Pablo Valbuena were our favorites. Especially the last one plays beautifully with light to create three dimensional impressions. It's simply stunning

At the permanent exhibition we fell totally in love with James Turrell's Danaë. You go into a dark room and there is a blue square at the wall. You look for  the projector but there is none. You go close and realize that the square is a hole in the wall and that goes into another room. The lightening is set in a way that you loose the idea of space, room size and distances. I have vertigo and my impression was like looking out of a window with a low windowsill into a deep nothing. My knees went weak. AMAZING and very emotional.
The whole exhibition is fantastic and there is so much to explore. I felt like a little kid carefully going from room to room - some dark some not and some with very special effects like the probably most famous Mattress Factory pieces "Infinity Dots Mirrored Room" and "Repetitive Vision" by Yayoi Kusama, which we both loved. I think that is how art should be - it should help us rediscover in us the unlimited curiosity of a kid when it starts to conquer its world.
Additionally to the great exhibition the Mattress Factory has really nice and helpful staff and is much more supportive towards people like us, who would like to do photos, write about the place and publish things than most other museums are. It's an all about fantastic place and we strongly recommend to go there.

After our museum visit we walked over to the downtown side of the river again. We did not move the car though since we were lucky enough to have a spot (thank you Mattress Factory!) ... which is not so easy when there is a stadium around the corner which hosts the baseball home opener. So we went over the Clemente Bridge, the sun was shining, people were filling up PNC Park and it was just breathtaking. Even Gabi who is not the biggest fans of American Sports was impressed by the great atmosphere around and in the stadium. It was really Pittsburgh at its best.

In the city we met with Michelle and Mike - better known as The Pens Knitting Lady and her husband PensAreYourDaddy, who has the BEST Pens photoblog, at Las Velas. I know I repeat myself, but it was again so much fun to meet social media friends in person, chat, laugh and share stories. The food was also great - especially the guacamole and the highly recommended molé sauce. But the highlight of our lunch was definitely the delicious cheesecake with extremely yummy and very interesting tasting Chipotle raspberry sauce. Damn - SO GOOD!

After lunch the plan was to quickly cruise home, relax, change into my Pens stuff and go to the game (for me) and go to the Strip for an extended photo session for Gabi. We ended up banging our heads on the steering wheel of Roberto for about an hour in the stupid ballpark traffic. PLAIN HORRIBLE!
When we finally made it here I grabbed my Letang jersey and immediately ran out of the door again. Late for the Pens game? NO WAY!

I made it in time. All good, but that is an extra posting. 

The Ohringer Building in Braddock

"The Offering" by Than Htay Maung

"Para-Site - video projection on architecture" by Pablo Valbuena

"Infinity Dots Mirrored Room" and "Repetitive Vision" by Yayoi Kusama

PNC Park & Clemente Bridge for the Pirates home opener

All Polaroids by Gabrijela Obert


  1. holy shitballs made me laugh so hard. love your excitement. xoxo

  2. Hehe ... but the Mattress Factory (the folks there loved that comment too ;) was REALLY so much better than the thingy in New York. I almost wet my pants so much scared me that one piece of art work that felt like falling into nothing. It was so real .. totally amazing.

  3. It's quite comical at times... telling people who live here in Pittsburgh to visit the Mattress Factory. I often here, "Why?, I already have a bed." We have a mattress factory here that is called "the mattress factory" and they advertise all over TV and Radio, so I can understand why some Pittsburghers have no idea that the Museum actually exists.

    Off topic, but, they hold conventions here for bridge engineers from all over the world. We have more bridges than Venice they say. And they say that because to be considered a bridge it has to be traversable by commercial traffic (aka big rigs) and all of ours qualify. Take a look at this site... and click "tours" then select a river, at the top you will see each bridge that crosses that river and when it was built. Click on one and you will get every detail about it's construction and history. It's really quite amazing. --pghpete

    1. Thank you for the link great link about the bridges! Gabrijela, who traveled with me, was totally fascinated by them and I love them, too.

    2. You are very welcome. I am very glad you both had such a great time in Pittsburgh. We love having visitors like yourselves. --pghpete