With our reviews, we lead the discussion about what is valuable and why.
Our writing team covers exhibitions and performances in Philadelphia and elsewhere. We also cover books and movies. We look, take notes, ask questions and listen. We take pictures, make video and audio recordings. We think about what we see and have opinions. And we write our hearts out, every day.
In mid-November, the medieval cathedral of Burgos in northern Spain was lit from within–not by any divine power, but by the miracle of technology. For her temporary light installation “Chromotopia Santa María,” (November 3-13, 2016) Vienna-based artist Victoria Coeln used projected rays of light in brilliant colors to fill the ample space of the cathedral, the white limestone walls intensifying the vivid colors. It’s as if the cathedral’s stained glass windows had turned themselves inside out, dissolving the solid stone structure into layers of light.Read More
The exhibit reveals the cubists in Paris were never far from the external specter of ruin, and evidently leery of the internal one. The war to end all wars was only a few hours away, and two of their own had been sent to fight. This is what artists wrestle with, have wrestled with, which is to say we’ve heard it all before: artists respond to their volatile world.Read More
I lost track of time as Cassils (who prefers the pronoun “they”) attacked the clay in a frenzy of finely choreographed violence. A single photographer circled the performer, the brilliant strobe lights of camera flashes sporadically illuminating Cassils, a small but impressively muscular figure.Read More
Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust” is a haunting story of a family torn apart by change. Set in 1902, the film unfolds at the sea island family Peazant’s reunion on the beach called Ibo Landing, where a younger generation talks of moving to the mainland and the older generation fights to stay. The beach is paradise but there’s trouble. A wife is pregnant with another man’s child, a sister returning from the North is a prostitute, another is a Christian religious fanatic. In a movie where characters play symbolic roles, these two returning sisters, shaped by their experience in the big cities, are cautionary examples of something pure having been tainted.Read More
The unusual combination of works appears to represent studies of the human condition–music stilled, broken bones, poverty, torture, a near-death experience, and more. The works are crammed together, much like the city, much like Temple University itself, as they present artists’ views of disparate problems facing us.Read More
In this broad survey of the 89-year old artist and educator’s oil paintings, the figurative works capture ordinary domestic things. In many but not all cases the images depict snapshot-like captures — a ladder leaning against a house; a window and the ice boulders seen through its glass; a red drape partly obscuring a pink window as it billows in the wind. All of these images are partial views, details of a larger whole — Instead of entire windows you see parts, instead of whole houses you see less than a whole. But the works don’t feel incomplete.Read More
This stunning, indeed mind-boggling, monograph is the ultimate resource on the art of Paul Laffoley, whose works function as charts and diagrams of the Boston artist’s highly individual understanding of the physical, psychic, and spiritual world. They could be illustrations to a cosmology textbook written by a multi-authored committee which included Plato, Dante Alighieri, Giordano Bruno, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, P.D. Ouspensky, H.P. Lovecraft, and the physicist who named “black holes,” John Wheeler.Read More
Walking the aisles I was soon drawn to the Fluxus-like work, Dé, Joue ou Perdes (2015) by French conceptualist Claude Closky. A limited edition box work by the art publisher We Do Not Work Alone, is simple and wonderfully insane. It is also a metaphor in so many ways for what was echoing in my mind: A single die, with five of its six sides commanding: JOUEZ (play) and one, signaling: PERDU (lost). A restless game without end.Read More
It’s not often that the whole of an exhibition overpowers its component parts. But with the sharp, brilliant shapes, vigorous diagonals, and eye-popping colors that come at you from practically every direction, Hues Muse at Mt. Airy Contemporary is a show that does just that. With eleven strong paintings by four local artists, Hues Muse feels almost like a grand celebration of color and shape arranged by those avowed colorists, Josef Albers or Ellsworth Kelly. Everywhere you turn, some bright, otherworldly being or design faces you, or provides a window through which to peer, or presents you with something you cannot resist mind-playing with. Bravo to curator Andrea Wohl Keefe.Read More
The organ is an instrument that is too massively impressive to be ignored. The Philadelphia Orchestra dedicated a concert on November 17-19 to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Verizon Hall’s Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ (an organ of nearly 7,000 pipes!). This concert showed off the very best of what the organ can do–specifically for organist extraordinaire Paul Jacobs, a Curtis Institute of Music graduate and the only organist to ever earn a Grammy Award.Read More
Most of the works focus on the results of gentrification that continues to take place in Philadelphia, where the the displacement of people and things have transformed them all into a kind of debris. While it’s not stated overtly, the emphasis on impoverished people and forgotten neighborhoods infuses the show with political meaning. Due to its political content and focus on urban decay, debris, and poverty, you won’t find pretty views of Philadelphia.Read More
Sheherzade, the storyteller from The 1001 Nights, is a master of survival, able to keep herself and her sister alive by entertaining the king (who wants to kill them) with nightly stories that always end on a cliffhanger at the break of day. Like Sheherzade’s tales, the works by thirteen Muslim-American women in Sheherzade’s Gift are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always clever.Read More
Nearly any contemporary art excursion around Philadelphia in 2016 is sure to yield a wide range of styles and spectacles, but one persistent–if scruffy–thread is certainly the DIY flavor of many Philly-based artists’ work. At Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery’s exhibit Circa 1995, this commonality is not merely present, it is represented in local art-historical context through objects crafted some twenty years ago. This juncture in Philadelphia’s visual culture would help give rise not only to the ongoing careers of the artists participating in this show, but to a distinctive artist-run flavor that persists in Philly to this day.Read More
Blake reminds us of the artist’s métier with his wide-ranging endeavors–that the work is lifelong, the endeavor is serious and results are surprising reflections of what we’ve buried in our lives, our homes and our collective unconscious.Read More