In addition to revolving installations created by artists-in-residence, the Mattress Factory, founded in 1977, is home to permanent site-specific installations by Greer Lankton, James Turrell, Winifred Lutz, Yayoi Kusama and more.
"Danaë," James Turrell, 1983
James Turrell manipulates light in his installations. He uses no magic tricks, no sleight of hand, just a well-researched understanding of the possibilities of light and the known perceptions of the eye. From a darkened entryway, you walk into a long, white-walled room. On the far wall stretches a rectangle in lavender grey. As you move toward it, you slowly realize that instead of a painting, or a solid plane of any kind, it is an opening into a smaller room saturated with ultraviolet light.
"Pleiades," James Turrell, 1983
Pleiades is the first piece in this series of site-specific works. It is a Dark Piece where the realm of night vision touches the realm of eyes-closed vision, where the space generated is substantially different than the physical confines and is not dependent upon it, where the seeing that comes from 'out there' merges with the seeing that comes from 'in here,' where the seeing develops over and through dark adaptation but continues beyond it.
"Catso, Red," James Turrell, 1994
Light is a material with a three-dimensional quality in this cross corner projection. From the first series of light works Turrell made as a student, he carefully sculpted light so that it takes on an almost solid form. This is seen in Catso, Red, a red cube which appears to be suspended in the corner of a room.
"Infinity Dots Mirrored Room," Yayoi Kusama, 1996
For her project at the Mattress Factory, Kusama chose to create three new installations, two of which are still on view at the museum. Her two adjoining polka-dotted mirrored rooms, the largest she has ever undertaken, present infinite reflections and the contrast of cool black light and hot white light, reminiscent of the movement between hot and cool water in the traditional Japanese bath.
"Repetitive Vision," Yayoi Kusama, 1996
Through a second set of double doors, the viewer walks first into a black corridor and then into an intensely lit space whose floor is covered in hot red dots. Three female mannequins painted white, their bodies and hair covered with the dots, are reflected in the mirrored walls and ceilings. Through her work, Kusama powerfully evokes larger questions of individual identity, perception of reality and the permeability of boundaries between the self and the outer world.
It's all about ME, Not You (1996) by Greer LanktonMattress Factory
"It's all about ME, Not You," Greer Lankton, 1996
Open a tall gate and pass through a narrow alley beside a "white trash" house. It is clad in white siding with old windows and an astroturf patio littered with fall leaves. Ruby slippers, at the end of legs in striped stockings, emerge from under the house. Inside, Greer Lankton recreated the Chicago apartment where she lived and worked. The walls are painted in deep colors. Stars cover the ceiling. The room is inhabited by the dolls and figures Lankton made during the course of her life – Raggedy Anns, one of whom is anorexic, a morphine addict on a cot surrounded by pill bottles.
Throughout the room are shrines Lankton has created; to Patti Smith, Candy Darling, Jesus, and others for the artist herself. Several of Lankton's figures were included in the 1995 Whitney and Venice Biennale, but she never before had the opportunity to create a large-scale installation. Lankton's installation explores drug addiction and the AIDS crisis which surrounded her. It questions the norms of gender and sexuality as a transgender person, alongside broader issues of iconography, popular culture and consumerism.
Lankton's It's all about ME, Not You was first shown in 1996. Unfortunately, Lankton passed away after the exhibit opening. However, thanks to the generosity of the Lankton family, it has been donated to the Mattress Factory for permanent display.
610-3356 Sarah Oppenheimer (2008) by Sarah OppenheimerMattress Factory
"610-3356," Sarah Oppenheimer, 2008
For this installation, Oppenheimer created an opening in the floor of a small gallery on the fourth floor. This is the first time in the museum’s 40+ year history that an artist has reconfigured the building structure in this way. This aperture, or “wormhole,” as Oppenheimer refers to the type of hole she created, offers a new line of sight within the exhibition space and functions as both a hole and a screen, directing the viewer’s gaze down and out the third floor window. The hole creates a disorienting sense of an impossible proximity between the fourth floor and the external world outside.
The title of the work, 610-3556, is derived by reference to a typology or classification system created by the artist that describes, in graphic form, how the hole is perceptually perceived and the materials used to create it.
Garden (1997) by Winifred LutzMattress Factory
"Garden," Winifred Lutz, 1997
On the site where the Lutz's garden now stands, was a four-story brick building constructed in the 1890s for the Italo-French Macaroni Company. In 1900, a six-story addition was constructed, which now houses the Mattress Factory. During the Depression of the 1930s, it was used to store and sort clothing and other materials for relief for victims of the 1936 St. Patrick's Day flood. Later it was occupied by Gorman Candy Company, then the Stewart Paper Company from the late 1930s until 1963, when it burned to the ground.
By the time Winifred Lutz began work on her permanent outdoor garden installation in 1993, she had already studied the site for five years and drew on this history for her work. Lutz used both historical and physical research on the site to design a garden that responded to and incorporated the history and foundation of a building that had burned many years ago.
Winifred Lutz Garden (1993) by Winifred LutzMattress Factory
The three-quarters of an acre adjacent to 500 Sampsonia Way is a living work. An enclosure for a single chair is surrounded by tall grass. A trellis, made from huge wooden beams, acts as an entryway from the parking area. Water flowing through a concrete trough splashes and gurgles. Large stones, individually selected from a western Pennsylvania quarry, dot the landscape. Cast cement apertures in the brick and stone walls frame specific views. Twisted rebar railings descend 10' below ground level to a cement basin filled with water. Newly-planted trees and indigenous wild flowers attract birds into the urban garden.
"Music for a Garden," Rolf Julius, 1997
Rolf Julius designed Music for a Garden to be heard within the Garden designed by Winifred Lutz. Three pairs of speakers, mounted high and low on the Mattress Factory's exterior walls, are aimed in various directions. From each speaker comes a distinct element of the music Julius has composed for the space. The three elements of music that together comprise the work are: Music for the Air, Drum Piece, and Song.
"Red," Rolf Julius, 1996
Two speakers, suspended from the ten-foot ceiling by thin wire, hang just inches from the ground. They are coated with a brilliant, powdery, orange-red pigment that vibrates with the pulsing sound emanating from the speakers.
"Ash," Rolf Julius, 1991
Julius recorded ordinary sounds, such as birds, radiators, and crickets, and patched them together into a collage of sound. This "music" plays from speakers inside flower pots. They are covered with an orange ash (from German coal-burning fireplaces) that seems to be dancing. It is as though the ash is making the sound "visible." It moves differently with every sound.
"Untitled (Calisthenic Series)," William Anastasi, 1997
Anastasi has been creating timed drawings while blindfolded for close to forty years. The radius of this circular wall drawing is equal to the artist's reach and refers to the relationship of the human body to geometry, illustrated by Leonardo DaVinci's Vitruvius man, whose height and arm span define the measure of a circle and a square. October 4, 1997, 16:02 -16:48.
"Trespass," William Anastasi, 1991
This work is on the wall between an old fireplace and a window. Anastasi had picked up a stone from the sidewalk outside and rubbed and scratched at the surface until some of the paint (and even some of the wall itself) came off. He calls this kind of drawing a "wall removal." Whether he makes marks by adding to the wall or scratching part of it away with his eyes opened or closed, he is still drawing.
"Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence," Allan Wexler, 1986
Two rooms are connected by a flexible, functional installation where visiting artists live while they work on their own installations in other spaces. The space is delineated by color – grey carpet, pale blue on walls, doors, and into the hall. The opening in the wall between the two rooms through which everything shared can pass – light bulbs, beds, and arm rests – is painted bright red. The two single beds roll through the wall for sleeping or sitting. They can be positioned to make sofas, a king-sized bed, or separate beds in each room. Back cushions reverse to headboards.
Unbrella (2009) by Vanessa Sica and Chris KasabachMattress Factory
"Unbrella," Vanessa Sica and Chris Kasabach, 2009
Asked to take inspiration from the Mattress Factory’s annex gallery, Vanessa Sica and Chris Kasabach entered the 2nd floor apartment and recalled their first experience seeing Alan Wexler’s Bed Sitting Rooms for an artist in residence almost 20 years ago as design students. The multi-functional bed/sofa vibrates between absurdity and brilliance, efficiency and fun. The Unbrella comes from this same place -- a utilitarian knee-slap for the artist in residence who may have arrived in Pittsburgh ill-prepared for the weather.
The Unbrella functions indoors as a bright soft light but outdoors as a fully lit umbrella. To use, simply twist the Unbrella into the socket and pull the raindrop to light the room. The room also charges the Unbrella’s battery. Twist out to take to the streets, lighting your way on a dark, rainy day.
Ship of Fools: Discover of Time (1986) by Bill WoodrowMattress Factory
"Ship of Fools: Discovery of Time," Bill Woodrow, 1986
The artist left the turn-of-the-century kitchen in its worn state with peeling paint, neglected wood and antiquated fixtures. He added forms, cut from old metal cabinets. You open the door into a room to see a disaster, frozen in time. The floor has been raised to show the effects of a mounting flood. From a tap made of an overturned gas mantle heater, liquid gold has flowed, filling the kitchen, and has petrified.
A metronome fashioned from part of a cabinet to which it still clings stands as a symbol of time. Emerging from the pantry is the front half of a large water buffalo with a ship's model caught in its horns. A remnant from the cabinet out of which the horns were cut sticks up through the gleaming surface like the fin of a shark. Over all of this, an unshaded bulb casts harsh light.
"Untitled," Jene Highstein, 1986
A form of smoothly troweled, unfinished concrete occupies most of the room. It is compressed between ceiling and floor, swelling out around its middle.
"Acupuncture," Hans Peter Kuhn, 2016
Acupuncture is an imaginative light sculpture by German artist Hans Peter Kuhn, which appears to "pierce" the roof and south-facing side of the Mattress Factory. The installation includes components of what Kuhn calls “light sticks.” Attached to metal scaffolding, the “sticks” appear to cut through the top floor of the building, coming out of the roof and then cutting back through the staircase tower. The installation's size and configuration make the piece visible from all angles throughout the neighborhood and the city.