reviews, features & interviews

Two faces of art on South Street


April 4, 2009   ·   13 Comments

Judy Gelles tells me that in addition to this large-size print, she is making 100 smaller prints.

From pristine beauty to trash-0-licious, two art shows opened Wednesday on the 700 block of South Street in what were vacant retail spaces. The hope is that art will attract a new renter.

Judy Gelles tells me that in addition to this large-size print, she is making 100 smaller prints.

Judy Gelles tells me that in addition to this large-size print, she is making 10 (not 100, as previously reported) smaller prints.

The show at 704, organized by Judy Gelles and friends, features some really great and polished work. The contributors to this are Gelles herself (her work in the window is not to be missed), as well as Susan Arthur Whitson (toys in improbable, often undefinable, glowing spaces), Ava Blitz (photos of trees and leaves transformed into abstracted maps), Linda Brenner (elegant, totemic carvings), Brigitte Rutenberg (woven paper drawings), Richard Ryan (collaged dollar bill scraps–the thumbprint is tops), and Keith Sharp (photos that catch the uncanny and weird).

We hear that Gelles herself had never painted an entire room, let alone a gallery space prior to this event! But she sure does know how to put together a show in just a few weeks! She promises the next exhibit next month will be different.

The Dumpster Divers have taken over a space with an outpouring of creativity that requires some digging to find the buried treasures, but honest they are there

The Dumpster Divers have taken over a space with an outpouring of creativity that requires some digging to find the buried treasures, but honest they are there

The hippy-scrappy show, at 734, is brought to us by the Dumpster Divers, Philadelphia’s famed band of artists who find their raw materials in dumpsters around town. The exhibit is more like a second-hand store jumble of ebullient and mostly process-driven work and objets. But some of it is solid gold.

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13 Responses to “Two faces of art on South Street”

  1. Butch says:

    I think this is awesome. It is nice to see some new creativity on South St.

  2. The best show in town is at 333 South at Sage Projects that opens tomorrow from 5-7. I saw the new Temple show at the Ice Box, it’s ok but not as good. The other shows on South are ok too. I was wondering how long it would take the local arts writers to notice there is a new arts district with 8 new spaces that have been up and running for a while now.

  3. roberta says:

    Hi Vince, I’ll try to see this show. And it’s always some time between when something opens and when the arts writers get over there. thanks for the tip!

  4. The point is, your piece is inaccurate. There are not just 2 spaces that your “friends” are showing in, there is an entire district that has been ignored by the art press. This is the biggest story in years and has been covered internationally from China to Italy and back to Kansas. It has even been covered by Channel 6 and Fox News. So the obvious question is, why hasn’t there not been a single art critic in sight? Didn’t know, too slow, or that art writers cover venues not art or artists maybe?

  5. Billy says:

    I’ve visited all of the new galleries on South St. in the past two weeks and without having a preconceived notion of any of them I found the the Saint March gallery at 406 South st. is hands down the best one. All others seem amature in comparison. Every time that I walk by there is a frenzy of activity and the show’s seem to be changing almost weekly. I visit their blog once or twice a week and this week there was quite a bit going on. Sunday was their show reception, Monday hosted Philly Comix Jam, Tuesday 3 bands, Wednesday movie night and I believer Thursday and Friday were music acts as well. All I’m saying is that other galleries on South st are leaps and bounds behind the Saint March Gallery. Other galleries seem to have party streamers and child’s paint in their windows. If any of these galleries are going to last Saint March is the one.

  6. roberta says:

    Hi Vince, I’d like to know more about this new arts district. I understand your frustration about arts writers not getting out and knowing everything new out there but really, I need information and I frankly don’t have it. If you (or someone) can send some links to venues and to all the coverage it’s been getting I can do the research. thanks!

  7. Go to and scroll down to Thank You. That has a number of links including the AP story, Channel 6, and The Weekly press that lists four of the spaces including Saint March that Billy mentioned here. You will see that there has been a flurry of activities similar to Saint March including music, award presentations, etc.

    I liked Saint March’s last show, but you must have missed at the exhibition at Sage Projects across from the TLA. If you did see it I would like to know what you thought looked juvenile about that exhibition. Come by and see the show this month.

    The Arts On South people put out a piece with at least 5 of the spaces last month and I don’t think it included 704. Julia Zagar at the Eyes Gallery is a good person to contact for the most up to date information. Another good way to stay up on things is to visit fellow bloggers and places like Funnels Pages that you have links to. Thanks.

  8. judy gelles says:

    Hi Libby
    We are the most recent space to open. We only had a week to transform the space into a gallery and put up the work. Other spaces on South Street have been open for a month or longer. Landlord Howard Lander is the man behind all of this…He got all of the landlords together to give the spaces to artists rent free until they are rented. Google Howard Lander, and you can read all of the articles about arts on south.
    All of the spaces are open from wed-sun 3-8pm.
    Also…I made an edition of ten small prints of the “Braces” image….not 100. Judy

  9. libby says:

    Hi, Vince and Billy, I’m delighted to hear about all this other art on South Street. I had no idea.

    But what’s with the snark vis a vis reviewing our friends? We review things we know are out there. I don’t remember hearing from either of you previously about these venues–and I’m glad to hear it, but not in this form. If you want coverage, do the p.r. basics and send a press release. Facebook, if that’s what you used, may or may not get my attention. It’s still too new for me.

    If your press release piques my interest and if I have time, I’ll be there. That’s the standard.

    Both of you have written about venues you say you like. But it took a little sleuthing on my part to know that you are involved in those venues and have a personal stake. Our policy is to announce it out loud when we have a personal investment. That way a reader knows to factor that into our judgments.

    The comment about the superiority of the Sage show to the Victory for Tyler doesn’t even merit a response.

    It’s wonderful that so many media outlets picked up on this South Street effort to fill empty retail spaces with art. It’s good for the art; it’s good for the retail spaces. It is not however an art renaissance or a gallery district–at least the lessors hope it’s temporary.

    We don’t necessarily know what every news outlet has published or aired. We are just ordinary people who try to keep up as best we can. Sometimes it takes us numerous pokes to pay attention to someplace new. But there’s never anything judgmental in that. Just the turtles hiding from the information glut. What’s great is that there is an information glut–that there’s so much art going on in Philadelphia and that so much of it is good, so we can’t possibly keep up.

    So congratulations on what you are doing. And now, send us press releases when you have new exhibits; we don’t rely on Fox News for what’s happening in Philadelphia’s art scene.

  10. Roberta writes for one of the few publications in town that has art reviews, so it goes beyond being just regular folk writing a personal log. There is a certain amount of responsibilty that comes with that. When you leave out information, that makes a piece historically incorrect and I think it is fair to point that out. Doing research is part of the job.

    I also feel that a little friendly competition between artists can actually be a good thing if it doesn’t go too far. It is common in art school and even between artist friends and can help push artists to work harder and to do their best. In fact, you at artblog spent quite a bit of ink on the students at Temple and their publicity stunt with the Trojan horse.

    I didn’t comment on your blog to ask you to review our show, just to tell you there is much more going on on South Street than you reported and that it is astounding that all the media has shown up except for the art writers. I still stand by that. Your remarks and scolding on how to get press presumes I am asking you for something and that I need a lesson in how to get it, I don’t.

    If you need help in researching what is going on try the pages of PhillyWeekly, they printed a photo of work from the first show at Sage Projects along with the pertinent information and we appreciate that. Funnel Pages, a place you recommend people to go for listings mentioned the show, Philly Art Galleries, Philebrity, Street Talkin’ and a number of local bloggers, at least one you call a “friend” all mentioned what has been going on. The problem is that there is no critical discourse on the art itself which I stand by as being of a high calibre.

    And if you missed all that then it must be also be true that Ms. Gelles and The Dumpster Divers are neglecting to tell the whole story, since they must have sent you press releases to be mentioned on artblog. In our materials we talk about the situation in the plural, not that we are the only group on South Street. I wish all the artists success and believe that the best way to make Arts On South work is to have as much diversity as possible and be supportive of each other.

    Having a dialog instead of a lovefest can be be a good thing, we need more serious discussions, not less.

    BTW, our opening was a great success and a lot of fun. Sorry you couldn’t make it.

  11. Vince, we agree that critical discourse is important and that everything should get a look-see. There are many galleries and venues (coffee shops etc) that we still haven’t gotten to and they’re showing stuff of interest. We suggest someone coordinate the pr for all the galleries in this new South Street zone. We are a blog and not a newspaper and we are two people and we’re doing what we can in what is an incredible and wonderful art glut in Philly right now. Cut us some slack.

  12. Sorry, but with all the banner ads and your listing of “authors” that runs 16 long ,why do you expect a pass? Plus you now have the prestigious Top Blog Award. You have been cut slack for far too long. Step up like all the hard working artist and do the work and do it well. This piece is littered with misspellings and inaccuracies.

    You say you talked to Judy Gelles, talking press releases?

    Are trying to deflect away from the point that everybody else knows what is happening and could come out and write, and take pictures except the art press (and I am speaking of ALL the Philadelphia art writers). Is lumping what is happening on South Street with an isolated cafe space your way to diminish what we and others are doing, sure sounds like it. We are lucky and grateful to have a beautiful space as nice as or nicer than the “professional” galleries in town and the work is by all mature artists that have shown in many of the best spaces here, nationally and in some cases internationally.

    The situation on South Street may be temporary, so does that mean there should be no historical record of it on the quality of the work? If there is a case of urgency doesn’t that call for faster action? Property owners, realtors, insurance people, artists and others are working hard to make the best of our economic woes using a creative model. Show your support and write about what is happening.

  13. […] –┬áThe Artist, about 4 months before the first artblahg post […]

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