The best time to find trash, Kim Alsbrooks says, is right after New Year’s.
She goes to the drag known as “Two Street” (aka Second Street) in South Philly, the site of the Mummers’ after-party. Along with booze-soaked feathers and crushed sequins, the streets are lined with her preferred garbage: smashed aluminum cans.
Alsbrooks paints tiny, delicate portraits of aristocratic men and women onto Colt 45, Olde English and Arizona Iced Tea cans, crushed flat as coins by a penny press. Displayed in the group show “Recovered Delights,” her oil works poke fun at — and holes in — the “finer” things in life.
“It’s a joke,” she says. “It makes fun of all the things that are held up in society.”
That includes politicians, rich folks, revered families and classical art. The juxtaposition of a traditional portrait of an 18th-century gentleman and a cruddy beer can raises all sorts of questions about class, art and beauty. The pieces can also give you a good dose of cognitive dissonance.
“With the juxtaposition of the portraits from museums, once painted on ivory, now on flattened trash of beer cans and fast food, the artist sets out to even the playing field, challenging the perception of the social elite in today’s society,” explains Alsbrooks in a statement.
Alsbrooks, a Philly-based, West-Prize-winning artist, is joined by other found-object virtuosos like Randall Cleaver, Judith Hoyt and Bill Reid. The works include playful porcelain masks, colorful sculptures made of coffee filters and serious examinations of childhood.
Through Aug. 15, opening Fri., July 6, 5:30 p.m., 303 Cherry St., 215-238-9576, snyderman-works.com.
The El Bar
Why is the El Bar, a Fishtown dive that’s almost always wall-to-wall busy, holding a First Friday reception?
Because the people wanted it, says manager Jasper Del Carlino. Every First Friday, patrons would ask why the bar didn’t join the party.
“But I myself am very interested in art, too,” says Del Carlino. “It’s not necessarily for business.”
Earle Johnson, an El Bar bouncer, is displaying mixed-media works at “ART SHOW.” Using spray paint, acrylic and clips from magazines, he creates graffiti-like images of tribesmen, astronauts and otherworldly creatures. The works are spontaneous and chaotic.
“I never really start a painting with an end game in mind,” says Johnson. “I let it talk to me while I work.”
Proceeds from the show will go to help a fellow bouncer, Tommy, who just survived a motorcycle accident and now has steep medical bills.
Through July 31, opening Fri., July 6, 8 p.m., 1356 N. Front St., 215-634-6430.
In Sophie Xu’s second exhibit at Curated Goods, she strays from her past in fashion photography, full of pretty little things and sparkly landscapes. She is now focusing on abstract images, bold colors and captivating light patterns in “Drowninsanity.” The photographs are more nuanced and mature, though they retain a charming cuteness.
Xu says a broken heart is responsible for the transformation. “I was going through relationship problems with my boyfriend,” she says. “I tend to bottle up my feelings, and I let it out on the camera.”
Xu’s best pieces are her most mysterious, like the primary-red photograph (shown, right) that could be anything from a close-up of carpet to NASA’s image of the day. Or an abstract, red-and-blue image of condensation on a window.
Her fire and water hues, along with her obsession with light, make her new works more organic and subtle. “It’s more personal, more raw, more natural,” says Xu.
Through Aug. 15, opening Fri., July 6, 7 p.m., 421 Fairmount Ave., 215-609-4363, shopcuratedgoods.com.