The super hip 2100 block of Frankford Avenue was hopping on First Friday. With people spilling out onto the sidewalk, the biggest crowd was at Rocket Cat Café, on the corner of Frankford and East Norris. They were hosting ‘Give Pizza Chance:’ a pizza party at the opening of their pizza-themed art show. As someone who is allergic to pizza, I didn’t exactly go into this show with much hope of liking it, but its whimsy won me over.
Joshua Camerote’s video art ‘The Sun Never Sets on the Za Empire’ played in the corner, with pizza worked into borrowed footage, replacing things like turntables and the two suns that Luke Skywalker gazes at in Star Wars. Alexandra Jones has knitted a very appealing, giant ‘Yarn Pizza’ that I wanted to take off the wall and wear as a blanket.
As I stood next to it, almost everyone who approached Mike Metzner’s ‘Amateur Pizza Collector,’ – several jars of pizza suspended in what looked like formaldehyde – called it “creepy.” With slices weirdly magnified and distorted by the liquid, the pizza-meets-Mutter Museum installation definitely merited a closer look. On the whole though, the pizza party was kitschier than it was thought-provoking.
ExtraExtra was the place to get your contemplative kicks. Their new show, Soft Focus, is a grouping of objects spread sparsely across the gallery floor. Installed by Derek Frech, Joseph Lacina, Bob Myaing, and Daniel Wallace, ExEx’s founders, they range from single objects (a studded-belt) to more complicated pieces (meticulously-arranged rainbow of PMA buttons). By placing the objects on one plane, the four hope to decontextualize, and therefore, recontextualize them. Rather than look at the array of PMA buttons as a piece unto itself, we are meant to see it in the context of the objects that surround it. The four artists challenge us to make fresh connections, and there is a lot to be said for this idea, but the simplicity of some of the objects (a tower of beer cans) don’t seem to lend them well to this endeavor.
The most visually interesting of what Frankford Ave. has to offer this month is Jeff Waring’s Becoming and Unbecoming show at Highwire Gallery. Waring’s method is something like lather, rinse, and repeat. He combines natural and man-made materials on a canvas, leaves them to weather in the sun and rain, and keeps layering, layering, layering.
You might expect works that include acorns and dried leaves to be stale and brown, but thanks to paint, acrylic and ink, these are beautifully color-soaked. And Waring keeps the show interesting by varying textures; the canvases alternate between chunky, smooth, and somewhere in between.
Waring’s weathering process also does interesting things to canvas shape, especially the show’s pièce-de-résistance, Rising Up, which undulates pleasantly. Up close, it’s studded with acorns and scrabble tiles, and from a few feet back, it’s a beautiful tapestry, nicely highlighting Waring’s play between nature and art.