‘A joy to experience:’ SAMA hosts new, colorful art exhibit | News, Sports, Jobs

Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Pittsburgh artist Patrick Schmidt fine tunes his floor work entitled “100 Squares.” The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona will be hosting his installation “Intersections: Color, Shape and Geometric Abstraction” now through Sept. 18.

Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona’s exhibit “Intersections: Color, Shape and Geometric Abstraction, Patrick Schmidt 2004-2022” is a colorful feast for the senses.

The Pittsburgh artist has transformed the museum’s Shirley and Fred A. Pechter Gallery and the Paul E. Detwiler Education Center using various materials and methods to take the visitor on a progressive journey.

From the entryway glass windows filled with vibrant colorful lines, geometric shapes and patterns, to three-dimensional hanging banners and curtains, Schmidt blurs the line between traditional canvas art and sculptures. His creativity isn’t limited to traditional hanging canvases but splashes and spills from the glass entryway windows to the galleries’ walls and floors and space in between with hanging banners and a piece entitled “Curtain,” which colorfully bisects the Pechter gallery.

For “Curtain,” the artist drew inspiration from fabric patterns from throughout the world and old paint sample books, he said. The strips are created from canvas or fabric cut into 6-inch wide strips and hanging 5 feet long, with abstract patterns painted in acrylic.

Nearby hanging banners were inspired by patterns from throughout the world, from Islam, indigenous cultures and even Cold War Era Eastern Block propaganda.

Pittsburgh artist Patrick Schmidt looks through his piece entitled “Curtain,’ which bisects the Pechter gallery.

The exhibit, on view through Sept. 18, is unlike anything previously undertaken, said site director Hannah Harley. Schmidt has created an abstractionist’s playground filled with vibrant colors and textures that echo and reverberate through the galleries as its architecture interacts and accents his creations.

SAMA summer intern Vic McElheny and visitor services coordinator Zinnia Heidler assisted Schmidt with the two-day installation.

In the hallway between the two galleries, Schmidt painted a colorful wall mural as a transition between the front and rear galleries.

The line mural is a physical, symbolic and metaphorical transition that moves from his early exploits and explorations into interplay between color, shades and patterns to newer works that combine his love of computational graphics with music. Works’ titles reference a song lyric or song title and refer to something in the painting itself, he said.

“I’ve used elements of old work to produce new work,” Schmidt explained. As his techniques have evolved, so has Schmidt’s approach to these interactive, transformative exhibits. Previous installations found him upon arrival at a gallery with detailed drawings but he found each space’s architecture posed anticipated challenges. While he still prepares for an installation using photos of the gallery, he adapts and changes as he works to create a more fluid and intuitive installation — and each one of a kind.

In the Pechter gallery, for instance, a floor work entitled “100 Squares” features 100 canvases. Each 12-inch square canvas has been first painted in a flat acrylic paint, sponged with additional colors. Schmidt then hand-crafted two different plastic stencils which he overlaid. While the process to create each square is the same, the interplay and interchange of colors and stencils makes each unique — no two squares are alike.

“The pieces can be displayed in various ways. Once I started I changed the color combinations about five times since I arrived. There’s not a definitive way to display it,” he said. The piece and its challenge provided him with a deeper understanding of color, he said. It is that continuing exploration into the complex relationship between colors, shapes and patterns which unite the showing.

Michael M. Strueber, SAMA director emeritus, said in a press release, “This exhibition is one of the best contemporary exhibitions ever hosted by SAMA. His mural is outstanding and his work is optimistic, colorful and a joy to experience … it is an exhibition not to be missed!”

“Patrick Schmidt’s brilliantly colored pieces reflect his adoration for music, with the colors and abstracted patterns feeling rhythmic and bold,” Harley said in the release. “His interpretation and understanding of color — empowered by the idea that there really is no right way to interpret or understand color — has enabled him to beautifully convey the relationship between color, shape and pattern, and conclude that color is truly what we make of it.”

“Color is inherently timeless,”according to Schmidt, who is a professor of Art at Washington & Jefferson College. Schmidt’s research is also based on the beautifully simple idea that color and pattern possess a unique power to define us and speak to (viewers’) prejudices. Color, pattern and geometric shapes have been a driving force throughout an illustrious career, and Schmidt has developed a unique blending of digital art with stencils to create a powerful balance between chaos and harmony, officials stated in a release.

Throughout his grade school years, Schmidt, already fond of drawing and creating, found a deep passion for music. It was a drawing class in his first semester in college, however, that turned his attention back to the power of the visual arts. Despite his self-described ‘epiphany’ and transition to artistic studies, he has closely studied music, and it became a large influence in his pursuit of a career as an artist.

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