By Sally Kalson
Post‑Gazette Staff Writer

French artists add whimsy to high-tech theme.

The new exhibit at the Mendelson Gallery looks like a collection of fanciful robots painted on scrap metal, but it’s also much more.
The works stand alone as joyful, brightly colored figures, while the theory behind them adds to the humor and imaginativeness of each piece. All 40 paintings in « Robotics’85 » were produced in Pittsburgh during the last three weeks by DIX 10, a French art group that now‑consists of two members who call themselves J.J. Dow Jones and Roma Napoli.
DIX 10 works with à literal concept of the term « art object. » For their first show in Paris, they transformed the gallery into a supermarket and sold only paintings of items normally found on supermarket shelves. Each piece was done on cardboard and sold for the price of the object represented. Thus a painting of a loaf of bread was long and thin and sold for 50 cents, while a painting of a jar of caviar sold for $100.

Next came a show called « Lilies of the Valley » which took place in a street market. The paintings of flowers sold for the price of a bouquet. This led to shows of carpets in Milan, a sex-shop in Berlin, a flower shop in Nice, ceramics in St. Paul de Vence, and a toy store in Paris.
The artists pushed the theory to the limit last year with the show « Inestimable Art Works » in Paris, where their version of the Mona Lisa bore a price tag of $8 million. in keeping with their strict concept  an offer of $10,000 was refused. Luckily, they brought it ‑with them to Pittsburgh, so some discerning local art lover can still snap it up.
On the other hand, the prices at their Modigliani exhibit were quite low, since the works were paintings of the now‑famous forgeries perpetrated on an unsuspecting art establishment by a couple of students. The group’s work has been enormously successful in terms of volume and have sold more than 8,000 works in 14 European shows. In addition, their art is sold in vending machines throughout Paris for 5 francs, or about 50 cents.

Jones and Napoli, who say they have a combined age of 64, chose the robotics theme for their Pittsburgh show due to the city’s new‑high‑tech‑image. They got their « canvases » of zinc, aluminium and stainless steel at local scrap yards, including the one owned by Paul Warhola, artist Andy Warhol’s brother. Then they went to a number of local activities that inspired various robots. A trip to the movies, for example, resulted in the popcorn eating robot, an evening in Bloom field gave birth  to the bingo robot.

Also in the exhibit are robots with the following labels: Hysterical, Submarine, Marathon, Ghost, Crooner (holding its heart),  Sadist, TV watcher (with three eyes) Duck Follower (with flippers) and flycatcher. A personal favorite is the two‑figure painting in which a voodoo‑robot in a grass skirt puts a curse on another robot, causing it to break dance.

For the show, the gallery has taken on characteristics of a used car lot, with hand‑painted signs that read, « We have anything you want, » and « Money problems? Ask your dealer! »

In addition to the robots, priced between $200 and $3,000, the show is a retrospective of some of the aforementioned European exhibits.
The show opened Nov. 7 as a counterpoint to the opening of the Carnegie International, in which no French artists appear.

« Robotics’85 » runs through Dec.. 5 at the Mendelson Gallery,
286 Morewood Ave. in Shadyside. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5p.m., or by appointment (621‑0159).