After a year in the making, David Spriggs debuted his 36-foot-wide art installation, “Gold,” this past weekend at the Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District.
The massive structure is shaped like an inverted pyramid and, as the name suggests, glows in an array of golden hues. The pyramid displays sheets of film suspended within the pyramid, painted to look like upside-down human figures.
During the Renaissance, artists inverted their subjects in portraits as a way to defame them, according to Spriggs. Spriggs sees his inverted pyramid, which is shaped like the triangular front face of the New York Stock Exchange building, as a protest against “excessive wealth.”
“This pyramid structure is kind of reminiscent of the global wealth pyramid, where you have the top 1 percent earning more wealth than the rest of the world,” Spriggs said. “It’s mind-blowing, really, this extreme division of wealth.”
“Gold” is Spriggs’ latest in a series of stratachromes, which he defines as an object with multiple layers of color. This stratachrome explores the symbolic meaning behind the color gold, which he believes speaks to relevant themes of “super-wealth gilding the corruption underneath.”
Although the figures in the installation are clearly definable from the front, they become blurred and hazy from the side-view of the work, symbolizing the illusion that wealth has substance.
“It’s a piece that you really have to walk around to experience. It is static, it has a calmness to it, but as you walk around you see different elements of it. It kind of changes, so it has experiential elements, too,” Spriggs said. “I hope people take time to walk around and experience the work.”
Patrons did just that Friday evening, circling the piece to observe the altered physical qualities from different viewpoints, at the first stop of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Gallery Crawl.
The crawl began at the Wood Street Galleries and led to 17 other locations, all free and open to the public, throughout the Cultural District.
The Gallery Crawl — which lasted from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. Friday — was one of four that will take place this year and featured exhibits and activities ranging from a concert by acoustic guitarist Daryl Shawn and cell phone disco to improv at Arcade Comedy Theater.
In addition to “Gold,” the crawl featured visual art from a number of artists, including an exhibit by Hannah Altman called “Luminous / Weightless.” Altman used sewing needles to poke holes into photographs of women and then backlit the photographs so that light poured through the holes, highlighting different areas of the female form.
The Crawl also included the Winter Night Market, an indoor market which featured local independent vendors, and two performances by aerialists and gymnasts of Bombyx Collective.
Marqui Lyons, the program manager in the Community Engagement and Strategic Partnership Department at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, said the event is free of charge so more people can attend.
“It’s about bringing the community together to experience thought-provoking art, not to make a profit,” Lyons said.
The crawl, which began in 2004, draws a large number of college students and young professionals, according to Lyons. Annually, the four renditions of the crawl attract more than 30,000 visitors, according to the Cultural District’s website.
Anthony Kuntz, a junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, attended the crawl in 2016 as well as the two previous years. Kuntz said each year’s crawl has a number of displays he can still recall months after.
“I’ve seen [an exhibit] highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement, [an exhibit] sponsored by Catholic charities, stalls run by local artists selling their work, interactive light shows, video games from CMU’s Game Creation Society and even paintings done by local middle schoolers,” Kuntz said.
The galleries were only a few blocks from each other — most of the events were contained within the rectangular area formed by Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Liberty Avenue from Sixth to Ninth Street — and attendees stopped at stalls along the way to grab a free drink, play a game of Jenga or purchase artwork. Kuntz said the crawl is more fun in groups and he makes sure to bring friends every year.
“[My friends and I] visited [a] gallery of paintings from local students [and] I bought one of a bird done by a sixth grader,” Kuntz said. “The students listed prices on their work if they were selling them, and Leslie — the students all included their names on the pieces — only wanted $9, but I made sure to give her $10 since I liked the piece.”
The crowd that gathered for the crawl moved through galleries in small groups, laughing and talking in front of the artists’ tables or gazing thoughtfully at paintings and installations. Each crowd member was free to choose how they spent their time during the crawl, whether on installations like Spriggs’ or gymnast and aerialist performances.
“[The Gallery Crawl] exposes the community to local and international artists that they may never have gotten to see before,” Lyons said. “And it brings the greater community downtown to the Cultural District, where we want everyone to know they are always welcome.”