Within spitting distance of the new Barnes Foundation on the Parkway the new CSA Gallery on Callowhill Street is displaying a range of mixed-media art works by eight young artistic voices responding to the Barnes’ infusion of artistic energy into Philadelphia. In Celebration of the Barnes ranges from pieces incorporating rust and woven fabric to geometric and organic paintings. Throughout, the exuberant, fresh patterns contrast with unruly splatters and strokes of color.
The passionate brush strokes and rich colors in many pieces here feel like they spring from a tradition that follows in the footsteps of artists like Goya, Seurat, and Modigliani, who are on display at the Barnes. The works are an affirmation that the masterpieces collected in the Barnes Foundation aren’t withered and old, but still worthy of emulation and response.
Curator Amanda J. Rombach, who also has art in the show, wrote that she felt collecting “a range of narratives” was the only way she could adequately respond to the Barnes.
“The idea behind the show was to include painters and draftsmen committed to the notion of image making with work demonstrating a spectrum from the highly figurative to the highly abstract.”
A centerpiece of the show is Sarah Pater’s “Teenage Dream,” a painting of an intimidating grey, cloud-like shape, cornered in a white room. Pater recently exhibited work in a “provisional” art show at FJORD Gallery. This piece may articulate a key duality of provisional art — the presentation of a “flat” image that seems resistant to description, but simultaneously carries a narrative or conceptual heft of considerable complexity, or at least enough complexity to occupy a willing viewer as far down the rabbit hole as they’re willing to go.
Other works like “Twins” by Sean Robert Fitzgerald and “Untitled” by Leah Morris (above) have composition built around a central human face or figure. In the case of Morris’s “Untitled,” the figure acts like a center of gravity for whirling colors and oil paints. Concepts of abstraction and direct representation somehow coexist here, instead of feeling like warring aesthetic impulses.
With 42 pieces on display, there’s a lot to take in. Curious inversions and play are present in many of the works along with patterns, splatters and colors. In “Where the Skyline Meets Sky,” by A.J. Rombach, for example, the title doesn’t clearly fit the work, until a viewer tilts their head 90 degrees to the right.
The CSA Gallery’s owner is usually present during regular business hours and will gladly allow viewers in to see the work. I advise calling the gallery in advance at (215) 569-8638 to make an appointment or ensure that someone is there to see the show.
In Celebration of the Barnes will be up at CSA Gallery, at 1818 Callowhill Street, through July 31.