In Colorado, where Matt Ziemke grew up, there were droughts every summer. It was so arid that it was often illegal to water your lawn, and swimming in reservoirs was off limits.
“Reservoirs are drinking water out there, and it is precious,” says Ziemke. “Anything that isn’t evergreen is brown nine months out of the year unless it’s near a water source or irrigated.”
Ziemke, an artist-in-residence at Philadelphia’s Clay Studio, says he didn’t realize how much water scarcity had affected his life until he moved east. Now, the issue is his muse. His exhibit “Cadillac Desert” is named after Marc Reisner’s book Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, which explores the politics behind the world’s No. 1 resource.
Some of Ziemke’s orange-and-black sculptures look like remnants of construction sites; others mimic maps. They’re harsh, intricate and impressive, and their complexity reflects the lack of easy solutions to water scarcity — one proposed project, for example, would pump water from Utah’s Green River to a part of Colorado hundreds of miles away.
“It’s really a pretty dramatic thing to go to that length for something that I think most people take for granted,” says Ziemke. “More and more extreme solutions are being proposed.”
Ziemke is passionate about water scarcity, but he doesn’t suffer any illusions about art’s role in the problem. He simply wants to get people talking.
“I wouldn’t ever pretend to have answers to issues which have been generations in the making,” he says. “But art has a way of disarming issues.” Through Nov. 30, opening Fri., Nov. 2, 6 p.m., 319 N. 11th St., second floor, napoleonnapoleon.com.
Francesca Pastine destroys icons beautifully.
Since 2008, she’s been slicing and dicing her friends’ ARTFORUM magazines with an X-Acto knife.
“I was intrigued by their square format, particularly when the bloated art market was reflected in their one-inch thickness,” she says in an artist’s statement. “Starting with the covers, I cut, bend, manipulate, pull and dig my way through them, revealing a visceral topography of art trends.”
Her exhibit “Unsolicited” features seven ARTFORUM dissections, made of screws, wood and Plexiglas.
Like any good provocateur, Pastine seems to respect her subject even as she pokes fun at it. She even talks about her artwork like it’s a partnership of sorts — an “unsolicited collaboration with the magazine and the cover artist.” Through Dec. 15, opening Fri., Nov. 2, 6 p.m., 145 N. Second St., 215-625-9990, pentimenti.com.
Glitter doesn’t have the best reputation. In the art world, it ranks somewhere between googly eyes and scrapbooks. But British artist Kate Bright somehow makes it look good. She uses glitter, glass, paint and other materials to depict the surface of water. The paintings, which range in color from beach blue to muddy brown, are tranquil despite their party-friendly materials.
Still, there’s something slightly off about the paintings. Bright explains in a statement: The works “aspire to be a perfect moment and, of course, the perfect moment is manufactured from various elements and therefore is unreal.”
Locks is also showing 25 paintings by the late, great Warren Rohrer, a former Philadelphia College of Art professor. Like Bright, Rohrer was motivated by landscapes. He grew up in Lancaster County, maybe the best place in Pennsylvania to enjoy autumn, and the blocks of densely layered color in his work are full of seasonal oranges and reds. The two exhibits make a natural pair, even if Rohrer’s works don’t feature that crafty gift that keeps on giving. Through Dec. 5, opening Fri., Nov. 2, 5:30 p.m., 600 Washington Square South, 215-629-1000, locksgallery.com.