Configuring Disciplines Runs Through Oct. 5 at UAG

Issue Date: 
September 8, 2014

Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia, an exhibition at Pitt’s University Art Gallery, invites viewers to examine how a variety of genres and media—photographs, maps, plaster models, digital projection—create visual knowledge in fields ranging from anatomy and biology to astronomy and physics.

Polaroids shot by Andy Warhol, for example, can help us understand the role of images in shaping celebrity. His photos of Mick Jagger contributed to the rock star’s stature as an “icon,” an individual made recognizable to the public by mass media. More generally, portraits from different periods and contexts shape ideas about social status and the nature of individuality, serving as visual documents in disciplines such as history and anthropology.

The exhibition runs through Oct. 5 at the University Art Gallery in the Frick Fine Arts Building. The idea for this unique show emerged from a seminar course taught earlier this year in Pitt’s Department of History of Art and Architecture by Drew Armstrong, director of architectural studies, and Josh Ellenbogen, director of graduate studies. Students examined visual documents from the 18th through the 20th centuries in atlases, encyclopedias, scientific treatises, and other works held at a number of Pittsburgh libraries and museums. The seminar served as a think tank for the exhibition. Armstrong is especially proud of the collaboration between Pitt students and curators at the institutions where they studied materials, including the University’s Special Collections, Frick Fine Arts Library, Falk Library of the Health Sciences, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives, Carnegie Museum of Art, and others. “Partnering with institutions in this way builds good will and exposes students to the complexities of original research,” Armstrong said. “Putting together an exhibition is challenging and contributes to our department’s aspiration to rethink the University Art Gallery as a space for teaching and for engaging with the larger community.” Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. For more information, visit or call 412-648-2423.—By Sharon S. Blake