In celebration of artblog’s 10-year anniversary, we are bringing you content from our inaugural year, 2003. In December, 2003, we were venturing forth from our Old City stomping grounds and trotting up to Northern Liberties and west to City Hall. Despite initial reservations, Roberta discovered some striking poetic narratives at 1 Penn Square. Portraits by a perceptive PAFA graduate were worth the visit to the now-closed Ashley Gallery, where paintings were rife with psychological complexity.
The Mystery of Case 13
I always have mixed feelings about the Art in City Hall shows. On the one hand, I’m completely sold on the idea of art in public spaces. On the other, City Hall’s tall, narrow glass vitrines, placed on two floors of the building, are a challenge for the art and a challenge for the viewer.
Put on your hiking boots because to see the exhibit requires pacing hundreds of feet of hallways and ascending two flights of stairs. Apart from those logistics, what’s in the exhibits is almost always worth the trip.
Right now you’ll find the cases full of drawings and paintings by local childrens’ book illustrators. The reason to go is to see how these folks handle narrative. Mostly the strategies are straightforward story-telling of classic tales. Interestingly, though, there’s lots of room for individuality and humor. Two cases in particular talked to me. Lee Wilkinson’s illustrations in Case 9 which seemed to combine vast, minimalist fields of color with figures and odd scale shifts to evoke something poetic. In fact, I found their affect quite like some of the work I’ve seen at Vox Populi over the last several years (I’m thinking Jen Macdonald and Kelley Roberts in particular).
But the mystery of the show came at the end of the line in Juliet Wayne’s Case 13. Instead of book illustrations, Wayne installed the case like a little dollhouse theatre with an upstairs and a downstairs and a red and pink game board path pulling it all together. With its kindergarten materials (construction paper and flannel cut-out) and earnest affect, it trumped the show. The piece was outsider-y and both creepy (a little) and charming.
Wayne’s artist’s statement, affixed to the case, told this story. The artist played the game of “LIFE” as a six year old and lost. She lost because she didn’t wind up with a career (doctor, lawyer etc), something she calls prophetic because she “still [doesn’t] have an occupation.”
I’m not sure what that all means. Maybe she considers book illustration less an occupation than a game? (image top is from a more recent show not in those glass cases on the second and fourth floors but in the Gallery in City Hall on the first floor; image bottom is detail from Case 13)
Palumbo’s in Northern Liberties
I want to recommend a show off the Old City path. Anthony Palumbo, painter and recent Pennsylvania Academy graduate, has a solo show notable for its portraits at Ashley Gallery on Third St. near Brown.
The work is nuanced and the paint handling is divine. This is a youngster to watch. (First image is “Concrete and Glass;” second image is “Self Portrait.”)
Although Palumbo’s work is less edgy and more academy, I want to compare it to paintings by Rebecca Westcott.
Westcott, another youngster who’s into portraits, paints in the Alice Neel tradition of chronicling her circle with portraits of psychological depth.
You may remember Westcott’s two solo shows at the now defunct “One Pixel” Gallery across from Nexus — or from the Space 1026 show at ICA in 2002 (she’s a 1026er or was). She will have her first solo show with Spector gallery some time next year (bottom image is painting by Westcott).