Until recently, buying a print or drawing meant also buying a frame that might cost as much as or more than the artwork. Today, thanks to a confluence of technology, taste and economics, frames are out.
Nowadays galleries, museums and collectors—seeking the authentic experience of living with art up close and personal—are pinning works to walls or taping them up with acid-free archival tape. To hell with conserving the art for future generations—let’s enjoy the drawing now. And let’s enjoy it the way the artists do in their studios: no glass, just raw on the wall.
“Naked Paper” at Tower Gallery is a great immersion into the tape-and-pin phenomenon. The naked look shocks at first. The works look vulnerable, their edges limp. And an entire gallery full of unframed works feels a little unfinished. But walking among the show’s 47 works by 22 mostly Philadelphian artists, you understand why creators love this approach.
Whether the work is cartoony or abstract—made of cut paper or created with pencil, ink or paint—unframed works are deliciously intimate, and their surfaces are tactile and seductive. It’s art untamed and wild.
The show is full of outstanding works by young artists, many of whom are recent graduates of local M.F.A. programs.
Hunter Stabler’s cut-paper icons (rams’ heads, a star in a circle, a snake eating its tail) are marvels of technique and a little scary for being so perfect. Christopher Davison’s ink and gouache drawings are positively Boschian. In one, a jaunty striped egg with legs and arms holds a severed head. Davison has also made a book packed with such imagery, an accumulation of fierce Technicolor dreams about trolls and giants.
Caroline Santa’s large gouache and acrylic on paper adds humor to the tale of a relationship (two fighters in a ring with a surveillance control booth nearby). Randall Sellers’ delicate pencil drawing of a young woman’s face almost melts away before your eyes. Keary Rosen’s repeat line drawings are blurry-eyed and Etch A Sketch perfect. Jina Valentine’s distressed black-and-white photos on abaca paper evoke KKK cross burnings. Kip Deeds’ 50-foot scroll—much of it on the floor—proves paper’s power off the wall, as do Tasja Keetman’s 14 hanging panels (with lights embedded) that create a wall of ghosts running down the middle of the room.
With great shows like this, the fledgling Tower Gallery is off to a terrific start.
Through Aug. 24. Tower Gallery, 969 Second St. 215.253.9874.