Some of the best pieces on display at the Woodmere Art Museum’s 71st Annual Juried Exhibition are paintings using broad splashes of color to ignite the eye’s attention. This exhibition, juried by Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art instructor Alex Kanevsky, includes several sculptures and mixed-media works, but it’s the drawings and paintings that attempt new spins on realistic or traditional styles that stand out amongst this selection.
Arcenio Martin Campos has two oils on display, both of figures rolling into free splashes of exuberant paint. Sterling Shaw’s enjoyable acrylic “Congested” and “Grapes” both use engaging coloration and play with light to make his subjects come to life.
PJ Smalley made a portrait in the style of an internet self-portrait, painted over dozens of little square digital portraits. Seeing images that are ubiquitous in the digital world realized as acrylic works is a unique and enjoyable vision. The added touch of real voyeurs spying through the window in the piece’s background adds an eerie touch to this work.
For Kanevsky, himself a painter of a somewhat realistic school, some of his choices with portraiture and figure painting are excellent, as in the case of Adrian Aguirre, below, who portrays a personage ready to walk off the paper, and Jon Redmond, also below.
Colin Keefe’s remarkably detailed drawing “The Everything Machine” is a stand-out in the exhibition, belonging to no genre but its own. The weird way Keefe evokes biological life or bacteria in contrast to the patterns of an urban map is hypnotic, and his vision of geometric shapes contrasting and converting to organic ones is very visually nourishing.
Other mediums besides painting are well-represented by several works, such as Jordan Griska’s sinister double-newspaper box (below), perhaps one of the most attention-grabbing items at the show.
Of the 46 artists whose pieces were selected by Kanevsky, many seem to work in a traditional style and some are already well-known in Philadelphia, making it seem like this exhibition was targeted for audiences in Chestnut Hill and the Philadelphia suburbs, not the palate of a Philly art lover. For example, two sculptures of “found” wood and a plastic-gallon bottle igloo feel like tired, dutiful inclusions representative of an “out there” genre without being meaningful or in any way linked to the stronger works on show.
Furthermore, one piece in the show was askew in its frame, hanging down by a few inches, while another had an old piece of paper with penciled measurements peeking up from behind, which is just sloppy. It’s also very difficult at the Woodmere to properly appreciate large works installed on the upper level, because you can’t step back without nearly falling 15 feet from the balcony to the concrete floor. If anyone at the Woodmere is listening, let’s refrain from hanging works on the upper level larger than 24 inches squared, please – it is impossible to enjoy a three-foot wide panorama in such close quarters.
In any show with 46 artists represented, a viewer must bring a certain level of commitment and energy to seeking out new talent in the smorgasbord of work. One’s commitment to and enjoyment of such a show is certainly dampened by the inclusion of mediocre or forgettable works. Given just how much excellent work can be seen on any First Friday in Philadelphia, it’s hard to believe that virtually none of it is exhibited at this show.
Many paintings here incorporate some of the traditional elements that Kanevsky has successfully explores in his own work. Any artist gathering work for a juried exhibition will be influenced by his/her personal tastes, and the traditional styles shown here may appeal to some audiences. But few of the works match the level of painterly proficiency in Kanevsky’s own work, several excellent samples of which hang in the gallery just outside this exhibition. The juried show is fun for a visit, but you’ll have a more profitable time looking at the work down the hall.
The Woodmere Art Museum’s 71st Annual Juried Exhibition will be on display through September 30.