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First Friday layer cake–pix galore

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October 8, 2009   ·   2 Comments

Robert Chambers, Ribbon Cutting, performance/ephemeral installation on Arch Street. The kids jumped right in.

What a delicious First Friday–a layer cake of delights. I’m putting up a bunch of pictures, hoping they might entice you to take a taste.

Bill Smith combo of projections and sculpture and mechanical wizardry

Bill Smith combo of projections and sculpture and mechanical wizardry

Our first stop (Andrea and me), the Fabric Workshop and Museum was filled with crowd-pleasers from five artists from across the country.

Smith autographing a happy FWM member's exhibition brochure.

Smith autographing a happy FWM member's exhibition brochure.

Bill Smith, from Illinois, merges an obsession with the natural world with delicate, lacy mechanisms that are next to impossible to photograph, but are easy to delve into in person. Each mechanism works differently, but each piece delights as its m.o. delivers a punch. The combo of hard mechanics with such delicate networks is a total crowd pleaser.

Tommy Joseph's prototype 3-piece suit, hand-painted w/ FWM artists, the imagery based on traditional Tlingit imagery, also on display along with masks that, with the suit, will be used in performance.

Tommy Joseph's prototype 3-piece suit, hand-painted w/ FWM artists, the imagery based on traditional Tlingit imagery, also on display along with masks that, with the suit, will be used in performance.

And Tlingit Alaskan Tommy Joseph has made a prototype of a performance costume–a three-piece suit hand painted with traditional Tlingit imagery. It’s a terrific merger of cultures. This is not your Mummer’s flash and dash. It has an elegance, a sense of serious intent and shamanistic power.

Robert Chambers, Ribbon Cutting, performance/ephemeral installation on Arch Street. The kids jumped right in.

Robert Chambers, Ribbon Cutting, performance/ephemeral installation on Arch Street. The kids jumped right in.

On the street in front of the FWM annex, Florida artist Robert Chambers let loose 9 rolls of broad ribbons from windows overhead, creating a gorgeous streetscape in his “Ribbon Cutting” installation. I asked for a swatch of the ribbon and an FWM employee cut it for me–the future color of my bedroom, I hope.

Andrea snapped this picture of Joe Rishel and me. The ribbons made everyone feel happy! photo by Andrea Kirsh

Andrea snapped this picture of Joe Rishel and me. The ribbons made everyone feel happy! photo by Andrea Kirsh

Here I am with PMA Curator Joe Rishel and my swatch. Chambers’ other work inside the FWM is also concerned with how things work. There’s a curiosity about the way things are made in the modern manufacturing society and an interest in what these manufactured items represent in our culture.

The exhibit included a video of Ruben Ortiz-Torres’ low-rider inspired artist-modifed scissor fork lift, Hi ‘n’ Lo. Ortiz, like Chambers, is modifying what’s already out there, and talking to cultural values. I loved the pairing of these two. Also there, Seneca nation member Marie Watt’s womb-like, ultra-soft felt structure, called Engine (hope you get a chance to go inside–check out the shaman video, which is one of the features that makes this not just another yurt) .  It’s yummy in there.

A girl tries out a Dennis McNett print/papier mache wolf mask, in front of two fabulous wall-size collaged prints.

A woman tries out a Dennis McNett print/papier mache wolf mask, in front of two fabulous wall-size collaged prints.

At Space 1026 and then at Vox, giant prints stole my heart. Dennis McNett takes over 1026 with Year of the Wolfbat, arguably a Halloween and Day of the Dead themed exhibit that includes two and 3-D work based on prints and collage. The 3 D is outstanding papier mache and sometimes wood–skull masks, birds and “wolfbats” covered with collaged prints. On the wall, enormous prints, smaller prints, and prints collaged to create wall-sized psychedelic explosions are all yummy and mesmerizizizng.

This Dennis McNett wolves-in-wolf print and paint collaged on panel includes carved-into mouth, nose and eyes.

This Dennis McNett wolves-in-wolf print and paint collaged on panel includes carved-into mouth, nose and eyes.

Doing your Xmas shopping or decorating now? Check out the prints, some as low as $5 and $10! The quality of this work is top notch.

Rob Swainston's two-wall print installation suggesting a personal journey as well as a landscape.

Rob Swainston's two-wall print installation suggesting a personal journey as well as a landscape.

A very different double-wall-sized print installation dominates Rob Swainston’s exhibit at Vox–mountain landscapes made of, well, there’s a shaggy dog back story here–that boils down to Swainston going to the Rockies for an artist residency and not having the space to print with the wood he brought along from Philadelphia. He threw the wood into the snow in disgust, where it swelled and warped. He screwed it together to flatten it and headed home, only to have his truck break down. After abandoning the truck and the wood, he was able to recover the wood and get it shipped home.

Rob Swainston is a great storyteller, and I wish I could have recorded his tale of his struggles to make this print and put it up as a podcast.

Rob Swainston is a great storyteller, and I wish I could have recorded his tale of his struggles to make this print and put it up as a podcast.

The prints are of the wood grain itself, raised up by the snow and the rain, creating an abstract landscape, mountainous with winding trails or streams–a symbolic map of the wood’s journeys and the artist’s. The work reminded me of Yan Kai’s digital photomontage landscapes at the InkNotInk exhibit of Chinese art at Drexel last spring.

still from Hiraki Sawa's 8 Minutes, video, 2005, courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, NYC

still from Hiraki Sawa's 8 Minutes, video, 2005, courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, NYC, copied from http://www.screeningvideo.org/

There’s more about landscape at Screening Video, where Hiraki Sawa’s video shorts of animals and a landscape inserted into an ordinary bathroom are delightful meditations on fantasy and quotidian, real and not real, and the schism between modernity and nature. I want to once again give props to Screening for the most comfortable foam cube seating and egg-crate foam sound insulation on their walls.

Luren Jenison and a detail of her cactus installation at Copy.

Luren Jenison and a detail of her cactus installation at Copy.

Still another landscape fills Copy Gallery, where Luren Jenison’s “cactus” installation visits a lot of the same issues. Trash cans bristle with ratchet ties; pool noodles are topped with toothpicks and corn holders. A spot-lit giant white balloon is the moon or the sun, and the whole space manages to create a theatrical tongue-in-cheek faux nature.

The largest of Alexis Granwell's crumbling infrastructures at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Gallery

The largest of Alexis Granwell's crumbling infrastructures at Tiger Strikes Asteroid Gallery

Landscapes were clearly the dominant theme of the evening. Alexis Granwell’s decomposing structures at Tiger Strikes Asteroid form dark, urban landscapes of our failure to overcome entropy. As in Sarah Sze‘s work, the walls have a precarious infrastructure that tumbles out and threatens immediate collapse.

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Arden Bendler Browning's gouaches tumble across the paper, creating a world veering out of control.

At AHN/VHS, Arden Bendler Browning’s abstracts also have a sense of a landscape tumbling out of control, a sense of the precariousness of life, nature, and our own backyards.

I also want to give a shout-out to Caitlin Perkins’ collection of sea monster memorabilia in AHN/VHS’s The Cabinet–another meditation on human vulnerability fictionalized and projected onto a dangerous creature that doesn’t really exist.

At this point Andrea was wild with hunger, while I was worried that if I sat down to eat I’d never get up. Miraculously, we wandered into a real Chinese restaurant, a place with cow viscera, eel soup, and aromatic pig ears on the menu. We ordered the water spinach, and got an enormous plate of garlicky sauteed watercress. Fabulous. I’m not even gonna tell you the name of the place in hopes that it stays this way a while longer!

The amazing Beth, who curated Breaking News and was wise to resist her brother, who must have had groom-itis.

The amazing Beth, who curated Breaking News and was wise to resist her brother, who must have had groom-itis.

Our last stop? Little Berlin. We wandered in at 10:30 to the delightful show (not about landscape at all!) that Brandon already told you about. Our artblog gal friday Beth Heinly was the curator, too! Here she is at Little Berlin the night before her brother’s wedding, wondering if she was being a beast for refusing to have her hair and makeup done for the occasion. Just look at her! Are you kidding?

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2 Responses to “First Friday layer cake–pix galore”

  1. robert says:

    Libby!
    Thank you for the uplifting and well written comments on the Fabric Workshop and Museum American Voices show!
    I remember meeting you on the street with Kippy and Joe Rishel.
    Keep up the great work. I met a number of people that visited the show after viewing your informative art blog. Thank you.
    All the best (ribbons),
    Miami Robert Chambers

  2. libby says:

    Hi, Robert, thanks. I love that whole series! It’s a great way to find out about people who hadn’t crossed my personal radar, like you and like Jiha Moon (spelling?) in this latest iteration.

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