reviews, features & interviews

First Saturday roundup — Tiger, Napoleon, Vox and more


September 14, 2011   ·   14 Comments

Carolee Schneemann at Tiger Strikes Asteroid

Cate and I went to the Vox building the Saturday after First Friday (which is usually a great day to go — mostly, the audio-video-robo works will be functioning; and often artists are lurking who will talk with you about what they’re up to).  We found a bunch of good stuff at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Napoleon and Vox Populi.


Tim Belknap at Tiger Strikes Asteroid

moving on is a spare little show. With works by three artists, one local, one in London and one in upstate New York, the exhibit covers a lot of geography — and a lot about the human condition,  in sexy, manic, or bare-bones fashion.

Carolee Schneemann at Tiger Strikes Asteroid

The surprise here is Carolee Schneemann, the powerhouse 60’s-era feminist artist — her presence is highly unexpected in an alternative gallery show.  “Fuses,” her scratchy film-to-video, (1966) is a melange of moving images of bodies (herself and her boyfriend making love), sometimes so up-close they are completely abstract. The work slips from one image to another with a liquid fluidity, and the mournful piece talks beautifully with both Tim Belknap’s skeleton piece and William Blackhurst’s two videos. All the work in the show is moody, a little forlorn and human-focused.

Belknap’s motorized skeleton somehow conjures the ambiance of a post-life The Dude with his loose-limbed, sandal-footed amble. Alexis Granwell, who was gallery sitting, said that the piece had been and was supposed to step more lively. But to me, the slow, almost-drunken movement more closely suggests the elasticity of time and its unstoppability. The digital read-out reinforces the idea of time and speed as well. Belknap has a solo show at Rebekah Templeton, and Dennis will tell you about that soon.

William Blackhurst at tiger Strikes Asteroid

William Blackhurst’s animations merge video footage of what might be home movies with animation to create a psychedelic and fractured narrative — a take on human interaction that suggests we all have real and unreal characters within. The artist lives in London and the press release says this is his first gallery exhibit.


Max Seckel in Commonplacing at Napoleon. Pencil on wall

The tiny gallery looks great with a big group show in it! Commonplacing is the debut curating show by members of Napoleon; the members each selected one of the eleven artists in the show. Pay attention in particular to the wall drawing by Max Seckel, a marvel of control over a difficult surface (stucco). Described by Leslie Friedman — there when Cate and I visited — as a landscape with a Where’s Waldo aspect, the cartoon landscape is dotted with tiny references from the artist’s life. Seckel is a Space 1026 member.

Loo Bain, Fixed Strays, at Napoleon

Perhaps because it is a large hanging object, Loo Bain’s “Fixed Strays” made of yarn, thread and string, has a big presence in the show.  Backlit by the window and swaying in the breeze, it’s the piece you gravitate to first in the show. The colors are totally upbeat, but the hanging animal harkens back to the dark work of Berlinde De Bruyckere (featured in ICA’s Springtide show in 2005) who also suspends animals or animal-like creatures in the air (or on plinths) to suggest commodification. (See also, Maurizio Cattelan’s suspended horse.) I’m not sure that’s what’s on Bain’s mind (commodification) but it’s a reference for sure. Apparently the artist was going to use this structure an an armature for another piece but decided the armature is the finished work.

Edward Marshall Shenk at Napoleon

Edward Marshall Shenk’s mystery pills on a plinth are optical magic (due to an optical illusion). (Remind me somebody where I’ve seen this piece before…)

Dana McElroy at Napoleon

Also a kind of magic, Dana McElroy’s photo of a room with a spooky luminescent window, and a door that appears to be coming up out of the floor. We were told the image is of a miniature environment. Whatever the source, there’s some Magritte-like wizardry in the work.

Joe Boruchow in Commonplacing at Napoleon

And it’s great to see Joe Boruchow’s cut paper works here. The virtuoso pieces are the basis for some of the artist’s recent street posters–you’ve seen them on mail boxes and elsewhere around town. Also in the show Shelby Donnelly, Hannah Rose Dumes Nelson Figueroa, Anna Gray, Ryan Wilson Paulsen and Ryan Parker.

Napoleon has a website now,  designed by Matt Kalasky. The full complement of Napoleon members includes: Matthew Brett, Daryl Bergman, Dustin Campbell, Leslie Friedman, Christopher Hartshorne, Jose Ortiz, Jordan Rockford, H. John Thompson, Tamsen Wojtanowski and Jacob Yeager.

Vox members James Johnson and Anita Allyn create dueling environments that are oblique comments on human behavior.

James Johnson, Work, at Vox Populi

Johnson’s work is called Work and to read the press release it’s really about work — the work of the artist and what it means to be an artist. But honestly, when I saw Work I hadn’t read the release and so I didn’t think one thought about artists — I though about people.  And I think Johnson’s piece is applicable to more than just the idea of the artist today, although artists are included of course.

Johnson has been a maker of theatrical environments for a while now. Usually, the stage-set-like rooms are accessible only through peep holes or windows. But this time the artist has abjured the container to display a few tiny scenes on the floor without their housing units to protect and encase them. There’s a tiny window in one wall (in front of an actual window, and this doll-house sized window lets in a jewel-like burst of light. Other lighting elements in the otherwise dark room ratchet up the theatricality.

James Johnson

Like with an installation by Pepon Osorio or Ilya Kabakov, there is a story suggested, although Johnson is more a formalist and less a linear story-teller, and so the rudimentary installations (a table, a carpet, a light) suggest Waiting for Godot more than bodice-ripping page-turners. As you tower over the little environments, it’s hard not to feel your size and clumsiness — and how you are the outsider, the audience. No matter what your narrative here, the rooms are haunted, provoking thoughts about childhood hopes and expectations — with sadness, regret and anger all present.

James Johnson

There’s one life size element — a really great-looking object — a box inset in the wall holding what appears to be a stack of large denomination bills. The glass-enclosed case is lit up like a jewel display in Tiffany’s. Everyone’s holy grail is money, whether you’re an artist or work on Wall St or at MacDonalds.

Anita Allyn, I love postdemocracy

In the bright-lit gallery up front, Anita Allyn’s life-size installation, i heart postdemocracy, with balloons, reflective mylar-coated protest placards, mirrors and a low table, is another stage set. Allyn’s pre- or post-party installation (and the ironic title of her show) suggest the played-out actions of those who feel for/against a cause, policy, war, group, politician, but whose feelings are less articulable than the trappings of the protest. Hardly a call to arms, the work seems more a comment on and perhaps condemnation of civic engagement.

Bonnie Begusch, flying type at Vox Populi

Guest artist Bonnie Begusch’s Motion Pictures — animated bits of moving type flying and flashing and flitting across screens or projected onto walls — reminds me of  Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries‘ moveable type text-video in the Temple Gallery Philagrafika show.  Whereas the Heavy Industries’ piece is a story with music, Begusch’s silent works are abstractions of language — formalist designs using bits and pieces of keyboard type.  Some of the pieces are more captivating than others — the piece projected low on the wall that has actual words — but words that are so blurry and sped up you can’t read them — kept us hostage as we hoped for a sentence, or at least a word or two (not forthcoming while we were there).

Claudia Weber at Vox Populi

And guest artist Claudia Weber’s Something Something Panorama, a multi-panel photographic panorama, while formalist and chilly (it seems to show debris on a table or floor, has a cosmic night of the soul aspect that’s worth staring at for a bit (where’s the bench???!).


Hadassah Goldvicht's Sabbath door at Marginal Utility, made by David Carrow

We walked up to Marginal Utility and were stopped by the gated and grated entrance to the gallery. The sign said they were closed for the Sabbath.  According to MU’s David Dempewolf and Yuka Yokayama, this Sabbath closure is the wish of the artist Hadassa Goldvicht, a Brooklyn-based Israeli artist whose work is about ritual and voices and whose installation here is called Songs for the Peacemaker.  In the dark gallery space, visible behind the grate is a video projection of a woman speaking, and this image behind the grated door conjures lots of ideas about prison, war, police states, harsh economic conditions even.   The artist was in Italy at the time of the opening but would be back  later in the month to install some additional work.  Dempewolf met the artist at Skowhegan, he said. And another artist named David, David Carrow, created the door specially for the exhibit. David Carrow is a poet in metal and the door, while forbidding, is elegant and beautiful.

Grizzly Grizzly closes at 3pm on Saturday, something I always forget, so I am always there too late. But I enjoyed their new fancy gallery name printed on the wall. They’ve seriously claimed ownership now.  Chip will tell you about the exhibit soon.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Responses to “First Saturday roundup — Tiger, Napoleon, Vox and more”

  1. Hey Libby and Roberta,
    The Grizzly is open Sat and Sun from 2 pm to 6 pm, we were closed due to Labor Day weekend, but I see we should’ve been open for you. My apologies for not getting in touch about that, I know how much you like going on First Saturdays. We will definitely be open this weekend.
    Thanks so much for the kind words!

  2. stuart roberts says:

    hi roberta,
    thanks for providing the list of the members of the napoleon collective. i’ll make it a point to avoid their work whereever it might appear. i admit it surprised me that a group of artists would WANT to identify with a racist murderous dictator but , i guess, their being young white philadelphians they relate to him. too bad. my sympathies again to the classier galleries that have to share the floor with them.

  3. roberta says:

    Thanks for correcting my info Dennis–I’m glad you are open 2-6 Sat and Sun! I will have to stop by.

  4. roberta says:

    Hi Stuart, you are too harsh on this gallery of young, earnest artists. Your assumption that they are aligned in spirit with a racist murderous dictator (and truly he is known for other things) is somewhat ludicrous. The name choice had to do with the size of the gallery (tiny) and the size of the dictator (tiny). That’s it. Nobody is praising the guy. Nobody is saying hooray he was a murderous dictator. I am sorry you have chosen to fixate on this point. You have raised everyone’s consciousness of Napoleon’s horribleness vis a vis Haiti. Now it’s time to give it a rest.

  5. rachel dobkin says:

    “Moving On,” the current show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid was curated by artist and TSA member, Ryan McCartney.

  6. christopher davison says:

    I thought Mr. Ryan McCartney’s job curating the TSA show was a grand effort by an individual to generate the kind of juxtaposition of the established and emerging artist you typically only get at Fleisher Ollman or the ICA. I compliment him on his bold move.

  7. roberta says:

    Agreed, Chris and Rachel! Great curating by Ryan. Although I usually don’t shout out the curator this one deserves it.

  8. Grizzly bears “murder” countless people each year and due to the propagation of their species they have been “killing” for a long time and will continue to. They have not been known to be racist though.
    Dennis Matthews
    ps. Stuart feel free to google my full name and you’ll find out that I’m the namesake of a Civil War hero, a terrible boxer, a member of the Royal Air Force, a motivational speaker, a NASA scientist, and a sex offender in Georgia.

  9. stuart roberts says:

    dennis & roberta,
    i had previously considered grizzly an innocuous name but i stand corrected. nonetheless i am pleased the creatures are not racist , a key point in a city with a notoriously segregated art world & something the napoleons clearly didn’t consider.
    i see now another group of artists have taken the name thing even further. you will soon be joined in the vox bldg by the hitler gallery. apparently they are a collective of lousy , failed artists who are taking the name because hitler was also a lousy, failed artist. they’re not saying he was a great guy, just that their paintings suck & so did his. anything he did besides paint is beside the point…

  10. roberta says:

    Hi Stuart, I really think it’s time to drop this argument over naming. We all get your point.

  11. Brandon Dean says:

    Stuart is what the rest of the internet calls a TROLL. The only way to make them go away is to ignore them. The world is full of bitter nobody’s with internet connections, who try to make themselves feel better by trashing others anonymously.

    Maybe Stuart should show us a thing or two by making his own (expertly named) gallery and putting on a show that is nearly as good as the one put on by Napoleon… oh wait, he can’t and wont.

  12. stuart roberts says:

    as i appreciate the opportunity to comment on your blog about the philly art scene, i apologize for having to chime in one more time in response to mr. dean’s “biography of a bitter nobody.” he hits the nail on the head (or at least hits the nail with his head.) nonetheless ,it should be explained to him that it is literally impossible to ANONYMOUSLY criticize someone using YOUR OWN NAME. what do they teach these kids at tyler ? some people in the philly art world (the better artists, gallery directors,etc)know me. some don’t. more importantly ,in this case, the people at the napoleon gallery DO know me because we exchanged e-mails when i first heard of the name & i had a pretty civil conversation with leslie at the gallery the night they opened. this is not exactly trashing someone anonymously. i suspect if they had it to do over they would have chosen a less problematic name. finally ,being called “a bitter nobody” by a tyler student did indeed make my afternoon.

  13. […] The Artblog “First Saturday Roundup – Tiger, Napoleon, Vox and More.” […]

  14. […] the show! Gallery hours: SAT/SUN 2pm-6pm. And if you’re still not convinced, check us out on the artblog! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

Leave a Reply