Junto

Young gallery workers don’t always get the chance to show their stuff as they slog away thanklessly doing clerical work that keeps a gallery working smoothly. But John Ollman, of Fleisher-Ollman, had his young crew curate, with some interesting and surprising results.

“Junto” is their second annual invitational, curated by artists Brendan Greaves, William Pym, and Jina Valentine, and it’s pretty interesting if a little uneven (but then, I find most group shows uneven). The show is named after a historical Philadelphia gentleman’s intellectual and social club that Benjamin Franklin established to make sense of and synthesize the knowledge of his time. The work in the show is pretty wide-ranging, and much of it has an outsider quality, which makes sense for a gallery that specializes in outsider art.

Farthest outside perhaps were Kate Norton, from Alaska, and W. Benjamin Smith II. Norton’s fur collage or assemblage, “Kimodo,” (top image) seems like a talisman against the scary side of nature, a moose-legged creature hanging on a clothesline. It looks nothing like art as we know it, and yet it’s got plenty of mojo. Smith’s drawings and paintings, many with religious themes, look like the deranged scratchings of an obsessive, but they are filled with powerful wit and unexpected imagery. My images of Smith’s pieces, alas, didn’t come out.



Hein Koh‘s iconic paintings of food and food-related ceremonies have 3-D touches in the paint surface and also in objects that are part of the display. One painting shows giant sushi, a nearly terrifying experience, displayed on its ceremonial flat plate. “Happy Thanksgiving” (right) has a real chair at the foot of the holiday table, bringing the painting into the space and standing in stark contrast to Charles Willson Peale‘s “Staircase Group (Portrait of Raphaelle Peal and Titian Ramsey Peale),” with its 3-D stairs at the bottom (image left, from the American Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art).

Peale’s stairs are squarely in the trompe l’oeil tradition in which it’s hard to tell where the painting ends and the real stairs begin. But Koh’s chair, with a forlorn stuffed animal draped across it, in no way pretends to trick you. Its reality stands in sharp contrast to the over-the-top flat, decorative and ceremonial quality of the painting with its wacky perspective. And then there’s the mutt at the top end of the table, presiding. What a ceremony!



Back in the mainstream of the art world are Kara Crombie‘s three videos. I saw “Drink” (still from video, image right) in its entirety, a good thing since this video had a punchline. Crombie, who videotapes herself, sits crosslegged on a window seat, drinking a super-size bottle of soda. She speeds up the tape so she looks like a junkie, all twitchy and jerky–a lot like Ray Charles. The sugar high and the bubbles from the soda finally elevate her until she floats right out of the picture.

Self-obsessed videos are a mainstay of the scrappy, youthful art world, these days, because the cheapest models for artists are themselves. These auto-videos are the modern equivalent of the self-portrait.

In “I am so fun” Crombie sits stuck at home looking like a social loser alone on the sofa, pigging out and playing a video of herself. In the video within the video, she’s a hot ticket, her dancing figure and colorful lights superimposed over her stay-at-home persona while Donovan sings “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”



Also in this show is Isaac Resnikoff (see post here for info on his recent show at Vox Populi), his hand-crafted wooden cornball satire delivering sliders about a culture gone wrong and scary (shown here, “The Citadel”). This work is a little smoother than what Resnikoff showed at Vox, and although it retains the child-like vision, it has lost some of the weird goofiness. I miss that.

I don’t know that my other opinions on the work in this show are fair, given how short a time I spent with the work, but on first take, here’s what I came away with:

Also in this show are Jessica Doyle’s grids of childbirth and motherhood, which seem precious compared to her bold murals (see Roberta’s post here on her show at Project Room); Michael Barker‘s facsimiles of teenage-crush notes imply his life has gone downhill since then; and Marc Zajack brings us found footage of near-naked women sparring in a sauna, voyeuristic but shy about showing its point.

Also Maya Winters‘ liver painting (right) was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and was augmented by a facsimile liver on the floor. The white background and flat painted planes puts this work squarely in contemporary art–liver as Ralph Lauren model.

Arden Bendler Browning who recently showed in “Philadelphia Selections 5” at Moore College and had a solo show at the University City Arts League, showed more of what I’d seen before–agitated, stitched-together slices of painted canvas that join an outsider ugliness to nature content.

John Gillespie‘s plaster, monochrome pieces are idealized, macho and faux-diecast, reminding me of Michael Greathouse’s wonderful toy-like space models (see post on Greathouse’s exhibit at Vox).





Thomas Vance‘s cardboard cities bring me back to where I started–outside the mainstream.


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