"Arte Bendito/Arte Filantrópico" (Blessed Art/ Philanthropic Art) is an example of one artist, Marta Sanchez, and how her many civic efforts mix with art for art's sake.
Large, ornate banners, the kind seen in old photos of parades with fraternal-organization marchers, line the walls of the front room of Taller Puertorriqueño gallery (2721 N. Fifth St.). They are tributes Marta Sanchez has made to recall 20 years of making Cascarones por la vida. Artists as well as community groups have created the confetti-filled eggs that are a part of fiestas. The whole center of the floor is carpeted with brilliant flats of these eggs, sold to fund art lessons for kids affected by HIV.
An offrenda (altar) of small crosses and other typical religious images raises money for the sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity who are working with newly arrived families trying to master English as a second language.
Sanchez loves trains. Look for their images snaking throughout the exhibition. The major work is one that recalls the tiles often seen in the Southwest, a larger image of a romantic scene or the Virgin of Guadalupe is painted over a series of rectangles. In this case one wall is covered with images that may be purchased separately, but working together they represent "Un Pedazo de mi/A Part of Me" — Sanchez sharing an intimate image of her studio for the benefit of Taller Puertorriqueño.
On the final day of the show, Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., meet Sanchez and hear her speak about art and philanthropy and how artists underwrite social causes with their work.
Though Philadelphia’s burgeoning gallery scene provides many opportunities to check out work from adult photographers around the world, rarely is the younger set given a chance to shine. Last week, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (full disclosure: I used to volunteer there) unveiled its annual Teen Photo Exhibition, a two-week showcase for six up-and-coming local photographers. Every Wednesday afternoon since October, the teenage artists came in to take lessons, borrow equipment and learn from other photography exhibits around town. With a notable influence of street photography, the exhibition provides a valuable firsthand look into the lives of Philadelphia youth in 2012.
June 14-30, free. 1400 N. American St., Ste. 103, 215-232-5678, philaphotoarts.org.
Philadelphians are, by now, used to the disrupting presence of outdoor art. Claes Oldenburg’s giant clothespin and the larger-than-life game pieces of Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropoulis and Roger White adorn the nucleus of Center City, and murals and mosaics pepper urban blocks in all directions.
The upcoming "Out of Bounds" exhibition at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education explores this fascination with open-air art, placing work originally meant for an indoor studio in an outdoor space.
Participating artist Ana B. Hernanadez hopes the installations will "provoke viewers to consider more closely spaces they may overlook in their everyday life," inviting a more diverse audience that includes those who may not seek art in traditional settings. Hernanadez's Wart is composed of over a hundred satin and rope modules that reference a foreign body rooting around a host, a concept of growth and colonization she believes would lose its humor and spontaneity in an indoor gallery.
Scott Pellet's Somerset highlights the themes of "post-industrial decay, reclamation of nature and the maintenance of the balance." The outdoor work highlights the dichotomy of nature and progress. Pellet notes his own work is about "seeing natural patterns and systems as metphors for our social and economic construction, our policies and ultimately the successes and failures within the 'eco-systems' we create."
The exhibition, a collaboration with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, also features works by other current and past CFEVA Career Develoment Program fellows Susan Benarcik, Booke Hine, Darla Jackson, Mami Kato and Caleb Nussear. And best of all — just like the city's downtown public art — there is no entrance fee.
Through Sept. 2, free, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, 8480 Hagys Mill Road, 215-482-7300, schuylkillcenter.org.
The glint of 23-karat gold immediately catches my eye.
Lining one of the first walls of the Fleisher Ollman Gallery (1616 Walnut Street, suite 100) is Kate Abercrombie's 20 Great American Films, a series of small canvases hinting at figures, some familiar and others more esoteric. Is that E.T.? Marilyn Monroe? Someone from some DVD cover lost in the folds of my memory?
This sense of almost-certainty pervades "A Complete Die, etc.," on view through August 14. The focal point, or "vortex," as curator Anthony Campuzano describes it, is the dice collection of Justin Mitchell. Several large cases in the center of the room contain seemingly infinite dies of all shapes, sizes and colors with symbols ranging from numbers to astrological signs to unfamiliar, rune-like marks.
Eight artists here respond to the "multiple components, fractured surfaces and formal elements" of Mitchell's dice collection, Campuzano explains. Mitchell also has a series of lambda prints, with colorful shapes that hover somewhere between the digital and the architectural. They seem at first to be buildings, or walls perhaps, but the more I look the uneasier I feel. What are they?
Moving through the gallery, the paintings, installations and mixed media pieces by John Finneran, Mark Mahosky, Zach Harris, Jessica Mein, Anissa Mack and Karen Kilimnik instill a similar feeling. These works combine mediums of ink, gouache, wood, sheet metal, birch plywood and even arrowheads, in the case of Mack's stark juxapositions of rock and bright acrylic.
Each artist considers color, symmetry and the collection in a manner that is disorienting but also quite enchanting. Like the thrill of anticipation in the moments just after releasing a die, before it is clear where it will settle.
D.C. may have us one-upped in terms of free museums, but this Friday we, too, can bask in the glory of high art at no cost. In honor of the International Council of Museums’ International Museum Day (Fri., May 18), the Philadelphia Museum of Art will open its doors to the public, waiving admission fees all day long. Over 200 galleries and special exhibits in the main building and the Perelman building will be on view, and the free admission includes public tours, access to the CraftLAB and Art After 5 with Cuban-born jazz musician Francisco Mela.
Among the more favorable Jewish stereotypes are (1) Jews love their mothers, (2) they're all named either “Gold” or “Berg” (3) they love a good bargain. If any of these describes you, despite your religious or nonreligious background, the National Museum of American Jewish History (101 S. Independence Mall East) is hooking it up this month: free museum admission for all guests on Mothers Day (May 13), and free admission for anyone with the last name “Goldberg” during the week of May 13-18. If, unfortunately, you are a Greenberg or a Smith, Goldberg Week is still worth checking out: The museum will be screening episodes of the legendary show The Goldbergs (May 15, 17, 18, 11:30 a.m., $12), which became television's first domestic sitcom in 1949, as well as a documentary about the show's pioneering star/writer/producer Gertrude Berg, whose inspiration for the show came from her own experience growing up at her family's Catskills hotel.
Art-geek extraordinaire Courtney Sexton presents a weekly selection of Philly's must-see gallery exhibits.
"Wild Nature" at Wexler Gallery
Wexler is definitely one of my favorite more traditional galleries in town, with a rotation of exhibitions that always manage to be both refined and cutting-edge. Director Sienna Freeman's vision of what contemporary art is and how much of a role the curator can play in making it accessible and successful keeps Wexler a place worth returning to.
The current group exhibition at Wexler (opening tonight) features four artists — Christy Langer, Julie Anne Mann, Andy Paiko and Jennifer Trask — working in drawing, painting, sculpture and metalwork. The connecting themes in “Wild Nature” are the natural world, the human condition and the sublime. Here, the artists “explore the exotic worlds of flora and fauna from an allegorical approach, often drawing from personal experiences, memories and dreams.” Anthropomorphic tree forms drawn in silver leaf on actual wood, drawings on stretched animal skin and found-object/precious-metal wearable sculptures are just the beginning.
Through June 30, free, Wexler Gallery, 201 N. Third St., 215-923-7030, wexlergallery.com.
Art-geek extraordinaire Courtney Sexton presents a weekly selection of Philly's must-see gallery exhibits. This week: found asparagus and a dude living in a gallery like it's the apocalypse.
“The Last Days of the Apocalypse of Now” at Pageant Soloveev
According to Jay-Z, Beyonce, the Illuminati, and a lot of high school kids on facebook, 2012 is the year of the apocalypse, and Tyler artist Nick Lenker decided to explore what it might be like during one’s last few days on earth. In his installation/performance piece this weekend, the artist will spend three days (beginning 8 a.m. today and ending at 11:59 p.m. Sunday night) living in the Pageant Soloveev gallery and performing various tasks. Visitors are welcome to come share the space; they may not be privy to all of the events that take place, but they are encouraged to drink, as Lenker will be bartending each night between 9 and 11 p.m.
Lenker’s project is “influenced by ideas about domestic space, rites of passage, masculinity, gay subcultures, and the artist’s own experience as a Jehovah’s Witness.” After this weekend, “remnants” from the project will be on view May 2–5 at Tyler’s Temple Gallery.
April 13–15, Pageant Soloveev, 607 Bainbridge St., 215-925-1535, pageantsoloveev.com
Art-geek extraordinaire Courtney Sexton presents a weekly selection of Philly's must-see gallery exhibits. This week: hotel lobbies, Bam Margera, nudes, and... more nudes. On tricycles.
Art at Le Meridien
If you live in town, you might not know that Le Meridien isn’t just your average EconoLodge. It's part of a group of boutique hotels around the country that promote the arts through partnerships with cultural institutions. Here in Philly, Le Meridien teams up with the ICA for LM100, an initiative geared toward “transforming Le Meridien hotels into creative hubs.” The building itself, a former YMCA, is a historic spot, and visual art decorates the rooms, hallways and common areas to “curate original experiences.” (Even the room keys are mini works of art.)
This month, Le Meridien’s hotel lobby space, one of its main viewing sites, is featuring work exclusively by Philadelphia artists so that “visitors from all over the world can get a taste of local talent.” The pieces include Liz Goldberg’s animated sequence Beat Box Philly, viewable at the hotel bar and embedded above. The animated short is set up between two of her paintings, which highlight Philly landmarks and attractions. Other artists featured in the exhibit are Bradford Carmichael, Lynne Filion, Benjamin Gonzales and Angela McQuillan. The series of large-scale abstract portraits installed on the wood paneling of the main seating area make you feel as if you are in Dr. Barnes’s study.
Art-geek extraordinaire Courtney Sexton presents a weekly selection of Philly's must-see gallery exhibits. This week: Tyler MFAs, nostalgic photography and Vox.
Nadine Rovner and Yuichi Hibi at Gallery 339
I wish I could afford to buy one of the Nadine Rovner or Yuichi Hibi’s prints currently on display at Gallery 339 (if any devoted readers are looking to surprise me with a token of gratitude for my weekly guidance…). I can’t decide which is more drool-worthy: Rovner’s series of archival pigment prints, Somewhere Not Here, or Hibi’s gelatin silver prints, 127.
Armed with a Sawyer Mark IV (a Twin Lens Reflex camera that uses 127 film), Hibi hit the streets of NYC to capture a stunning series of black-and-white portraits. While the subjects seem randomly selected, the specifics of the camera, film, and Hibi’s composition create the effect of a formal portrait. This element of formality creates a nice contrast with the poses and expressions of the subjects. If you didn’t know better, you might think these were images from the turn of the last century. Beautiful.
Rovner, a young photographer who has gained much recognition as an emerging name in her field, uses a very traditional mode for the images in “Somewhere Not Here,” a show of staged photography. The effect is powerful, nostalgic and jarring. The sets and subjects in Rovner's images are full of anticipation and tension; you feel like you know the whole story of the subjects’ lives, but are waiting for the other shoe to drop on the moment that has been captured. Julie, Unknown Instructions, Part 1 and Someone Knows (pictured above) particularly evoke that sense of subtly urgent suspense.
Through May 5, free, Gallery 339, 339 S. 21st St., 215-731-1530, gallery339.com
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