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Behind the Seams: Randy Rice-Abstract Pittsburgh

Posted by Craig Schroeder on

We've been collaborating with artists over the years to create custom linings and it just so happens that our clients are sometimes artists themselves, like Randy Rice/Abstract Pittsburgh. Randy, a Pittsburgh-native, has been a long time client of the brand and someone we wanted to work with to create a Pittsburgh inspired set of linings to add that Yinzer flair into our CMMP garments.  The new series of 3 linings feature Randy's mesmerizing, kaleidoscope images of Pittsburgh that can be added into the lining of any suit, blazer or jacket.  

CMMP: In most of your work, Pittsburgh is a key component so what inspires you about Pittsburgh as a city? 

RANDY: Pittsburgh sounds singular. It’s not. It’s a mosaic of about 90 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character, icons, and vibe. And the separation of ‘old Pittsburgh’ from ‘new Pittsburgh’ can be as little as ten years. So you can have vintage images right next to – often mixed in with – the most contemporary.

Pittsburgh is a tapestry of old and new. Dark, rusty, soot-stained relics mix with polished and plush textures and tones. It can be a real technical exercise to do justice to both. Perpetually fascinating.

Pittsburgh is like a finely woven fabric. Each color – each texture, down to the individual strand - stands on its own and on the whole.

Pittsburgh is simultaneously severe and seductive. Sharp, angular, bright, . . . all of it compelling.


CMMP: Can you explain how you go about creating the art? Would love to know how you take an image and then turn it into a kaleidoscope of colors and details. 

RANDY: Capturing the image is the first challenge, right? Gradually I’ve become more intentional. Historically though, and most often still, I grab a wider image of a space that seems compelling, with confidence I’ll find the right orientation and framing on review. 

The flow of it. I don’t add anything to my images that aren’t already there. Usually, my pictures will sit for a bit. To this day my first impression of the images I’ve captured, relative to what I’ve imagined tends to be ‘meh’. Plus, they’re in RAW so superficially they appear flat and unimpressive. But then I scroll, and something will catch my eye. I may have scrolled past it dozens or even hundreds of times – unimpressed. And then for whatever reason, it’s like, ‘let’s try this!’. Then it tends to play out like this: Zoom to confirm sharpness! Adjust exposure, clarity, and contrast. Bump the saturation – I’ve become much more intentional with this – I used to just push the slider all the way to the right and be done with it. As my gear has improved I’ve become more practiced with this. Then I jump in and experiment with individual colors until I have a final image. Then rotate and crop – looking for lines that will intersect in the most interesting ways I can imagine. I’m wary of and compulsive about how circles come together. Lines – pretty easy. Then, confirm the crop at a standard aspect ratio (usually) and commit. Then, copy and flip horizontally and merge. Then copy and flip vertically. Occasionally add a black background of modest width. Boom. Done. Next!


CMMP: How did you get started in this? Was this always a passion for you or did it come about as a side project that took off?

RANDY: I’ve always been compelled by the potential of a camera. Back in the days of film, I was always disappointed. The images never matched what was in my head. Not even close. Then – digital. And my world changed. I spent crazy money on a first-gen digital camera that wrote to a 3.5” floppy disk. Then made mobile device decisions based entirely on the quality of the integrated camera. I created a decent array of images appreciated by family and friends. I had no aspirations of more than that until 2019. That was when I created my Instagram account @abstractpittsburgh and very quickly got some traction and evolved the habit of taking shots as I meandered through the city – on my way to and from work, through the weekends to restaurants and breweries. I got intentional about sharing places and things I enjoyed and tagging the businesses/locations. Just this year I got my first gallery show. I knew I wanted something striking to wear. That’s how I found Commonwealth Proper. They cut and made a custom coat and introduced me to the world of custom linings. I thought that was the most badass thing I’d seen – on par with bone buttons and shell cordovan shoes. Just, the next level. And now – here we are.

CMMP: What is next for you and if people are looking to find your art, where can they go?

RANDY: Two things: ‘Bespoke’ custom photography. Bespoke is compelling because – what could be more personal? I am confident there is potential in custom abstract imagery based on subjects that are personally meaningful. Do you own something special and want someone to memorialize it in a photograph you can share in your home or office? I know a lot of photographers who can do a perfectly respectable job with that. And people will see it and will likely give it a good look and a nod of appreciation. Now – abstractify it – and it will pull people in. They will approach it with a sense of what it is, and then spend real time figuring out how it has come together. As engaging as it gets.

Also, I’m exploring more traditional/non-abstract imagery. Landscapes. Industrial. Abandoned. It’s more challenging in a lot of ways. Abstract images are almost universally engaging. But, another picture of a tree, bridge, . . . the skyline that’s been posted on social media by hundreds of others – how do you make that compelling? I like that challenge.

Visit our Pittsburgh showroom to check the linings out but they will be available to be custom ordered into any our MTM garments. 

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