The Mattress Factory, a museum specializing in installation art, is tucked away on Monterey Street and Sampsonia Way. In the main building, a former Sterns & Foster warehouse, are works by two contemporary stars: James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama.
Turrell has been shaping light inside Roden Crater, an extinct volcano near the Grand Canyon, since 1979. Three of his early optical pieces are on the second floor. A sheet and map titled "HOW TO ENJOY THE ARTWORK OF JAMES TURRELL" explains: "Before entering Pleiades (the darkest piece), call out before going up the ramp."
Visitors who step into the third-floor Kusama rooms, called "Infinity Dots Mirrored Room" and "Repetitive Vision," are transported into seemingly infinite, contrastingly lighted spaces filled with her signature round decals and, in one room, mannequins. The installations seem in the spirit of Pittsburgh's native son, Andy Warhol.
The Andy Warhol Museum, the largest single-artist museum in the United States, is the North Side's top cultural draw. From the moment you enter -- with dozens of pink cow heads silkscreened on canary yellow wallpaper to your right and left -- you are in Andyland, following Pittsburgh's Pied Piper of Pop Art.
Warhol was the son of a coal miner, Andrej Varhola, and his wife Julia, both Carpatho-Rusyn, Byzantine Catholic immigrants from what is now Slovakia. In 1949, Warhol moved to New York, where he drew shoe ads and designed album covers.
In July 1962, his plainly depicted Campbell's Soup cans were exhibited in a solo show in Los Angeles. A solo show in New York, including the first of his silkscreened Marilyn Monroe portraits, followed that November, just three months after her suicide.
Warhol was off and running: painting, silkscreening, photographing, filmmaking, partygoing, founding Interview magazine and supervising production at his studio and "superstar" hangout, The Factory.
The Warhol Museum's seven floors display an abundance of his output. Along with a selection of his paintings, there are arrays of video screens and monitors, cases with the contents of several of his 610 "time capsules," a re-creation of his "Silver Clouds" balloon installation and a taxidermied lion and Great Dane (Champion Ador Tipp Topp, who was stuffed at Yale and ended up in a New York antiques shop, where Warhol bought him and named him Cecil).
Though not on the North Side, the Carnegie Museum of Art is currently hosting the 2013 edition of the Carnegie International, a survey of contemporary art. Through March 16, works by 35 artists from 19 countries are on view, interspersed with the museum's permanent collection.
A bonus for Carnegie Museum of Art visitors: Without leaving the building, two miles east of downtown, you can also take in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's dioramas, dinosaur bones, gems and artifacts.
Terry Robe is a writer on travel and the arts and can be reached by email at terryro...@gmail.com.