To pass the time while riding in the passenger’s seat, Lisa Bergant Koi sketches.
“They’re very abstract kind of markings of what’s coming and what I’m observing,” the Squirrel Hill artist said. “I have hundreds of them in my studio, and I amalgamate from numerous drawings to piece this together.”
Her reference was to her contribution to “Group A: Portals,” an exhibition through Sunday at 707 Gallery on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.
Curated by Upper St. Clair native Kate Lydon, the display will be open during the district’s annual Gallery Crawl, scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. Friday as an open house for numerous galleries, stages, storefronts and unique public spaces.
Koi refers to her piece simply as No. 65.
“I don’t want to create something that is giving the viewer a hint. For me, they boil down to a sense of wonder: What is this? What am I looking at?” she said.
As such, No. 65 fits right in with the theme of the exhibition – “the idea of portals as an opening or a passage into something,” according to Lydon – and the focus of Group A as artists who are interested in abstraction.
“It brings important ideas, and often artists will say, ‘The work I create is half the story. And what the viewer brings closes the loop and really brings the full story to the front,’” Lydon said. “So, I think that’s important in each one of the works here in the gallery.”
She worked with Jill Larson, who often curates area art shows, to put out a call for artists who were interested in contributing based on the theme.
“Based on the size and scale of the gallery, we selected work that we felt was appropriate in terms of number,” Lydon said. “There are larger-scale works and smaller-scale, so that was key, as well, as material usage, color. Those all played into the final choice.”
No. 65 is among those on the smaller side. Dafna Rehavia’s “Rituals,” by contrast, consists of 10 individual pieces displayed along one of the gallery’s walls.
The subject matter is likely to make viewers uncomfortable, as the pieces address the still-widespread practice of female circumcision and mutilation.
“It’s actually an ongoing series that I’ve been working on since 2016. It’s a sort of activism to raise some awareness to cutting. But beyond that is women’s abuse,” the Israel-born artist said. “Most of the beliefs keep suppressing women and look at them as being incapable of thriving and having their own work. So they keep them subordinated to men.”
Her series of sculptures incorporates a variety of materials, from clay to natural wood to rusted metal.
“The idea is to create interaction between something that is soft and vulnerable, and something that is really hard. How do they sync together?” she said. “It’s kind of astonishing.”
Garfield artist Carolyn Wenning has two discrete pieces in the exhibition, including “Gateway,” created from the pages of an old geography book, origins unknown, with accompanying calculations in pencil.
“Something in the back of my mind all the time is the idea of sacred geometry and the way that things exist in the world in kind of a mathematical way, but are very beautiful,” Wenning said referencing natural and man-made designs based on the Fibonacci sequence, in which each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. “So when I found this geometry book, I was overjoyed.”
Her other work on display, “Departure,” features part of an aged manuscript obscured for the most part by small pieces from objects in her studio, colored with natural pigments to produce a certain effect.
“Hopefully, the piece encourages the viewer to depart to another place, another world, another time,” Wenning said.
Other artists featured in “Portals” are Kristen Letts, Kovak, Patricia Barefoot, Barbara Westman, Annie Heisey, Carol Amidi, Scott Turri and Kevin O’Toole.
In addition to its regular hours open to the public, 707 Gallery will welcome guests among the Gallery Crawl’s anticipated 30,000 visitors.
“It’s so important for the community, so many people coming into the city and really being exposed to amazing work,” Lydon said. “So it’s a treat that this is going to be part of the crawl.”