Vox Populi’s sixth annual emerging-artist roundup is a musclebound, unruly show. With 33 artists (almost half from the Philadelphia region) and close to 70 works, jurors William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton chose a noisy exhibit, literally and figuratively. It’s great, don’t miss it.
Vox VI is organized, by rooms, into more or less related groups of work: There’s a chamber of figures and masks, a Jeff Koons/pop-culture room, a memento mori room and a noir road-movie room. Only the lobby space approaches the usual juried-show hodgepodge, but even here there’s a unifying out-of-control party feel.
The show’s humanist focus, fractured narratives and “damn the torpedoes” ambiance aren’t new. What is novel is the embrace of craftsmanship—well-painted paintings, beautifully made sculpture, great clay pieces and accomplished video and photography.
There’s a surprising amount of clay in the show, and the artists handle it like clay has always belonged in the big leagues—the content here is not the usual kitsch, but conceptual, unexpected and beautiful.
Nicole De Brabandere’s small objects in a glass vitrine are nonfunctional, but look like Baroque sex toys. Katelyn Greth’s soulful “Dog Boy” and “Sheep Boy” ride a sad “Animals R Us” edge. Janet Macpherson’s altered cast clay figurines play with our love of collectibles. Lauren Dombrowiak’s Brancusi-esque cityscape of stacked plates and cups is perfect domestic machismo—I wonder why I haven’t seen anything like it before.
Video, computers and media are a big presence—no surprise. Lindsay Foster’s “Father Lover Friend” feels like a reality-TV road movie in which a young woman talks with a grizzled, old homeless man. The man is intransigent; the girl cries. It’s poignant and, as a metaphor for the run-down world and the youth who will inherit it, father’s self-destruction is terrifying.
Joshua Bienko’s colorful and insistent rap/rant videos “Lewitt, Sol” and “TehChing Hsieh” spit out references to contemporary art stars, culture and commerce, capturing the anger many artists feel toward the art-industrial complex. Kelli Miller’s “The True Believer” video, about self-help gurus, needs a larger dose of anger.
Diedra Krieger’s faux-commercials in her “Plastic Fantastic” video series are just about perfect, short and seductive in a quirky, passive-aggressive way.
There are some outstanding 3-D pieces in the show. Nora Salzman’s painted papier-mache bust “Replica Reuben” for example, is a chilling lost soul. Sanford Mirling’s “Nothing Could Drag Me Away From…” a set of Marilyn-esque legs, skirt billowing, is another miracle of craft. The woodworked oak legs balance on tiptoe with great drama and engineering, and the content feels Lohan-perfect.
Piper Brett’s “Large Bow,” a nod to Koons’ many million-dollar bow sculptures, is clunky and scary, yet it, too, is perfect corporate lobby décor, a steal at $10,000. As for home décor, Aidan Rumack’s inset shadow boxes behind a row of fluorescent tubes suggest new home uses for the old tubes. Jordan Griska’s “Gas Pump” (a real gas pump shortened to kids’ playroom size) is a perfect degraded object.
Finally, while the entire show is full of deadpan works, Sally Dennison’s portrait photos of gender-ambiguous youth, Dustin Metz’s oil paintings “Still Life” and “self(seeing) portrait” and Erin Murray’s oil paintings from the “Ugly and Ordinary” series take the prize for smoldering without smirking, giving nothing away.
Through Aug. 1 Vox Populi 319 N. 11th St. 215.238.1236 voxpopuligallery.org