Blackcube logo

Lenka Clayton & Phillip Andrew Lewis

Historic Site

Lenka Clayton & Phillip Andrew Lewis

Historic Site

about the project

Historic Site
Lenka Clayton & Phillip Andrew Lewis


Ongoing / Permanent

Opening Reception
Saturday, September 18 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET

Free + open to the public

Details of the unveiling event here →

General Information

Sabrina Merage Foundation Artist Fellowship

Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis are Black Cube’s first named Artist Fellows under the Sabrina Merage Foundation. 

Historic Site is an 8-foot-tall cast bronze plaque in Pittsburgh, PA by artists Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis. Installed on the façade of a 120-year-old building, the absurdly large plaque is a contemporary companion to a small existing bronze plaque on the building’s exterior, commemorating its first use as an incline train station.

During their Sabrina Merage Foundation Artist Fellowship with Black Cube, Clayton and Lewis spent a year researching everything that could be documented as having occurred on the site. The artists scoured all archives available to them, and spoke to many experts including an anthropologist, two architects, several archivists, the author of the book on Pittsburgh inclines, a curator of the anthropocene, the director of the National Aviary, a big cat specialist, a botanist, a cinema historian, a city historian, an entomologist, a geomorphologist, a local historian, a curator of invertebrate paleontology, the official historian of Isaly's, two librarians, neighbors, among others.

The resulting information was compiled into a lengthy text—over 1,000 words—that begins 600 million years ago and extends indefinitely into the future. Mimicking the original plaque, the text was cast in bronze with the same typeface, format, and material, and was even fabricated by the same local foundry, 34 years later.

In addition to being the permanent site for the Historic Site plaque, the building also serves as Clayton and Lewis’ artist studio and their new artist-run project space called Gallery Closed. Conceived during the pandemic, the gallery is designed to be permanently “closed”, yet at the same time continuously open. All exhibitions are accessible 24-hours a day by peering through two street-facing windows.

The inaugural exhibition at Gallery Closed, organized by Clayton and Lewis, is a durational exhibition titled Historic Sight comprised of 27 artists that responds to the Historic Site plaque. Over the course of a year, the artists will be invited to visually interpret a different word or phrase from the plaque. The exhibition presents a plurality of voices engaged in an abstract and poetic play, collectively challenging the traditional authority of a singular historical narrative.

. . .

The artwork Historic Site and the exhibition Historic Sight are presented by Black Cube and are the culmination of Clayton and Lewis’ Sabrina Merage Foundation Artist Fellowship, a program created by Black Cube to support contemporary artists working at the intersection of inclusivity and diversity. Additional support provided by the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art. Seed funding for Gallery Closed provided by Black Cube.

<p><p>Sabrina Merage Foundation Artist Fellowship <br /><br /><span>Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis are Black Cube’s first named Artist Fellows under the Sabrina Merage Foundation. </span></p></p>

Excerpt from the Historic Site plaque: 
"The place on which you are standing moved into position ten degrees south of the equator. The receding ocean left behind a warm tropical landscape covered with leafy ferns, enormous trees, and thick peat bogs. Fish, invertebrates, amphibians, and precursors to reptiles and birds thrived here, including the Fedexia, a two-foot-long, five-pound prehistoric amphibian named after it was discovered in 2004 near a Federal Express depot at the Pittsburgh International Airport."

Special thanks: 

Sabrina Merage Foundation
David and Laura Merage Foundation 
Pittsburgh Office of Public Art 
United Bronze of Pittsburgh
Matthews International

Image credits: Exterior of 1733 Lowrie St, Pittsburgh, PA. Future location of
Historic Site, a plaque by Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis.; Existing historic plaque on the building façade commemorating Troy Hill Incline. Courtesy of the artists and Black Cube.