First Friday sizzles with new stuff

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First Friday was busier–and way more interesting than I expected, given it was August, the streets were hot, and a number of galleries were dark for the month. For starters, there were two new galleries, a mix of art I’d never seen the likes of before, and lots of art for sale on the sidewalks. I talked to so many people and looked at so much work, I missed a couple of galleries on my Old City list and never made it further west.

God was on the mind of the design group GH avisualagency, at 222 Gallery, which created a faux public relations campaign for God. Not nearly as transcendant as Mark Brodzik’s bold GODCO billboard campaign, it still managed to get a few laughs out of me for its social observations, especially the cheesy church movable-letter marqee with the quote from Job and a few of the logos for God, each tailored to a different social set. I am especially fond of the Goth three-spikes logo.

The exhibit included Dewar’s Profile-style interviews with people and their relationship to religion and God (not so funny) and some swell twisted slogans in several “strategic partnership” announcements included one with Disney World for a new area called “The Heavenly Kingdom,” and another partnership with McDonald’s–“I’m lovin’ Him.” My God would have taken this farther.

Our neighbors

At PII Gallery, 242 Race St., which specializes in international art, Venezuela-born Salvador Di Quinzio, who has been traveling with his wife to places like Hungary, Surinam and Holland, said he finds himself in love with Philadelphia–a very different place from his last visit here several years ago. His show, “Hot Summer in the City,” is an expression of that love, showing off some swell Latin surrealist images of neighborly city life (image, “Neighbors).

His wife Marion, who was born in America, said the two had been traveling on business for Alcoa. Alcoa? Does this company still exist? I guess they’re just not doing the kind of consumer advertising they used to. Marion was showing her own paintings in the back room of PII…energetic abstracts, including one inspired by the Liberty Bell. This painting was inspired by Surinam (left, “Tropical Kaleidoscope”).

Across from Salvador’s paintings in the front room were a series of scroll paintings by Cathleen Hughes, an outlier in this show otherwise dedicated to Philadelphia, and in the back, some Philadelphia people-and-place photos by Laura Jean Zito, whose very personal pictures of Bedouin nomads at Photo West caught some attention in the spring (left, Zito’s “Mayor Street Focus”).

New gallery in the nick of time

Just down the street at 212 Race, I came upon a gallery that literally had just opened its doors. The 212 Gallery is a temporary use of an otherwise vacant space. Michael Veneziale said the 212 Gallery is his–a temporary use of vacant first-floor space in his friend Tom Goldman’s building (here’s Veneziali out front, taking a break).
Veneziale, who just drove up from Kentucky on Friday and who hails from Doylestown, threw up some of his own photo-based, jazzy large paintings of New York City. He’s got a background in set design and webby stuff, and that design experience comes through in the work, which is easy to approach. I especially liked his use of a pencil on the bare walls to label and comment (“Boogie Down Bronx”).

He also put up his friend Chris Blasucci’s minimalist and conceptual paintings. Blasucci is also from Doylestown and that’s the sum of what I know about him. His “Unpowered Pennsylvania” has the handwritten title words hiding under the bushel of more assertive letters (left, “Unpowered Pennsylvania).

Newish gallery


I also stopped in an unfamiliar place–Sol Gallery. Owner Larry Solitrin was presiding over a “Naked: photographs by Whitney Thomas” up for the second month in a row, the gallery’s inaugural exhibit. Solitrin’s son (I failed to write down his last name) was passing around the refreshments, and the whole place had a nice friendly atmosphere. The work has the fashion-shoot slickness and shouts its Robert Mapplethorpe roots a little loudly. The bodies are dark and light, male and female and without warts (left, one of Thomas’ photos).

Good group

Artjaz Gallery was popping with a group show of new artists. Here’s a shot of Cynthelia Cephas with one of a number of beautifully made quilts with musical and African-American themes(left, Cephas and “The Gathering”).

I liked a fair amount of the work in this show, including this mixed-media piece (I think my notes say it’s mixed media and patina) by Michael Ziegler that reminded me of dragon scales. The scales were collaged like shingles (left, “Salt Pond”)>

In a more traditional vein were paintings, some of which looked photo-based, from Charley Palmer. In this one, the family is pressed together and elongated to create an elegant composition of family strength (left, “Mother’s Hat”).

Others in the show included Oleg Kufayev, Onyeka Ibe, Katherine Kisa, and Dianne Smith.

T-shirt stories


Walking up Second Street, I saw a bunch of interesting and enterprising artists hawking their wares. First I found Joshua Rickenbaugh, with a pile of his book “Horror Series” in front of him filled with quirky cartoon abstractions in black and white and highlighter yellow. Rickenbaugh, a Kutztown graduate, had self-published the collection. Even better, he was wearing a t-shirt to which he had taped with great swatches of cellophane tape a computer-printed-out logo from a band he liked (I can’t believe I didn’t write down the name of the band, which meant nothing to me), also in black and highlighter yellow. He said it was a lot cheaper to decorate his shirts that way than to buy them pre-printed. Gotta love him (left, Rickenbaugh, his taped-on logo cleverly covered with an copy of his book “Horror Series”).

A little further down the street, some great t-shirts and cartoon drawings (in micron pen) from John Hopkins caught my eye. Hopkins, who works at Christ Church, said he drew inspiration from Ben Franklin’s grave, where he gave tours (left, Hopkins with his t-shirts).

A giveaway artist gives me art

While I chatted with Hopkins, two young women at the next table twinkled at the mention of artblog. One was selling jewelry, but I didn’t get her name or her photo. Sorry. The other, Amy Ignatow, presented me with a little self-published comic book she was giving away to publicize her work. We bonded over giveaways, but I also loved her website and want to promote her female comic sensibility. Somehow funnies still remain a mostly men’s club. But there are plenty of funny women, too, and Ignatow is one of them (left, Ignatow and “The Good Book?”).

Sink–or swim–a new art magazine makes noise

At this point, I bumped into Brook Midgley from “Sink Magazine,” self-dubbed “the official magazine of first friday.” They haven’t started publishing yet. Yo, I said. We should talk. (I thought we were the official magazine of first friday). Midgley agreed and sent me over to talk to Cullen Factor, Sink’s publicist, and Tom Murphy, Sink’s publisher/creative director.

The two were along side the “Real World” building (left), soon to house a new gallery called F.U.E.L. Sink and F.U.E.L. (god, i hate typing all those periods) are planning to launch together at the October First Friday.

After listening to Factor, say things like, “The art revolution in Philadelphia has begun” (we at artblog and our readers already knew this), and “What Andy Warhol and The Factory were to New York City’s art movement, Sink Magazine will be to Philadelphia’s art scene,” I finally figured out what he is hoping to do–create a sort of People Magazine for the arts in Philadelphia, with a focus on young artists, especially art students. The hope is to create a culture and buzz and commerce that will keep young artists in town when they graduate. Well, we here at artblog also think young artists are a lot better to look at than old artists, so if it’s a face magazine, that’s the way to go.

Factor, a native New Yorker who has switched allegiance to Philadelphia as so many of us have, has an aggressive delivery style that reminds me of Penn Jillette, the talker in Penn & Teller who just produced the movie “The Aristocrats.”

If Sink succeeds in grabbing that youthful audience, which is large in number, they should do better than, say, Seven Arts, that went down the tubes for lack of a broad enough readership. By the way, I asked about Sink’s funding source and got a terse “No comment” from Factor.

F.U.E.L., according to proprietors Jen Yaron and Marguerite McDonald, plans to show undergraduate art work, and will be “reaching out” to the schools and art department chairs. Unless the two succeed in weeding out the immature work that usually comes out of art school, I do believe they will have a tougher row to hoe than “Sink.” Immature art and immature audience means not enough sales, but these two are businesswomen rather than curators, so perhaps I’m wrong.

I met all these people at the gallery and the magazine’s first publicity stunt (see image above), for which they announced a “live” painting show, featuring artists Perry Milou and Thomas Dellapenna. I only saw Milou, looking cute, which is what he does best (check out his website to see what I mean). I take this as a taste of things to come (if you look really closely at that picture above, perhaps you can see Milou sitting on the window ledge on 3rd Street).

Wax, chapter and verse

My last stop was at Siano, which is hosting “Oil + Wax, chapter & verse,” wholly organized by artist Alan Soffer, who is an energizer bunny kind of guy. The show runs until Aug. 20. It began at Wallingford in conjunction with the Wax conference there, also organized by Soffer, and is also going to travel to Maine and California. Then part of the show will appear in Scottsdale, AZ. Here’s a shot of Soffer with one of his paintings. Although many of the artists were local in this show, it drew work from across the country.

As you might imagine, the show was largely more traditional than my usual tastes, but there were a number of things to look at and enjoy, including two small abstractions with jewel-like colors (and no label at all) by Moe Brooker. Artists include Elise Freda, Frank Hyder, Michelle Marcuse, Valentina Dubasky, Nancy Markezin, Philip Zuchman, Sande Miot, Jeff Schaller, Jacqueline Cornette, Leslie Giuliani, Howard Hersh, Kim Bernard, Libbie Soffer (Alan’s wife), Dale Roberts, and Dan Addington.

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