10 January 2016

Uptown Rhythm by James Simon

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Duquesne University takes up a large percentage of the Uptown real estate. They used to stick pretty much to the area south of Forbes known as The Bluff, but began an expansion across Forbes a while back. Uptown has had little in the way of shopping and eating establishments. The University brought in a Barnes and Noble bookstore, Starbucks and a Jamba Juice across from the main entrance to the campus. In an effort to connect with the community a bit more, they’ve also commissioned some artwork that reaches out to the neighborhood.

Uptown Rhythm is a 25 foot high relief mural on the outside of the Duquesne University parking garage on Forbes. It’s colorful, fun and stuffed full of an assortment of images. Jennifer Baron’s article on Popcitymedia.com explains some of the images:

Musicians, dogs, BBQ.

The relief’s lower half is primarily comprised of musical themes, reflecting both the Hill District’s legendary jazz history, as well as the significance of music in Simon’s life. A violinist in the lower left–hand corner connects the project to Simon’s long career as a violin maker and to his father, who played the instrument. The lower panel also celebrates distinct characteristics of Simon’s urban neighborhood, featuring a man grilling ribs, corn and chicken – a heartfelt depiction of spontaneous street barbecues that dot city streets during warm weather, and a nod to Uptown favorite Mr. Ribbs, located at 1315 Fifth Avenue.
Guy on a bike with turtle; women playing basketball.
Simon creates a fluid composition, juxtaposing animals and figures in unexpected pockets of the relief: a turtle appears on the handlebars of a bright blue bike while dogs twist and turn below a gathering of horn, piano and guitar players. Architectural elements immortalize the Hill District houses adored by the artist, and include details of Duquesne University’s Cathedral, which the artist sculpted from a photograph. The gothic Duquesne D logo and bright blue arch echo the University’s entrance, creating a visual bridge and a colorful perch for a playful parrot. Parrot at the top holding a flower and large letter D.

On his own website Mr Simon states that the Uptown Rhythm relief sculpture depicts the activity of a vibrant community on a typical day. Though it alludes to the history of a Pittsburgh neighborhood, it examines the magic and beauty of the idea of community, an important theme in my work.

We asked Mr Simon about the significance of the turtle. He told us that he just likes turtles. Sometimes we try to read too much into the art we find!

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