Posts By libby

The Goldfinch, a novel by Donna Tartt

Book review — The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

[Libby wrestles with the length of celebrated novel The Goldfinch, but ultimately concludes it’s worth the read. — the artblog editors] Forget about the eponymous Fabritius painting. The reason I tore through Donna Tartt’s bestselling, mega-sized novel The Goldfinch is the almost Dickensian tale of a boy unmoored from his family and drifting through households and locales in a surreal state of drug-and-alcohol-induced stupefaction, all the while holding on to that invaluable painting, “The Goldfinch,” packed in a pillowcase. The painting of the bird is real–a small, rare 17th-century Dutch masterpiece housed in the Mauritshuis in the Hague. In the fictional world of the book, ... More » »

Hand-painted street-style signs and utopian dreaminess give the show visual and emotional punch.

Philly murals at PAFA exhibit Beyond the Paint.

In a departure from the Pennsylvania Academy of Art’s usual M.O., the new exhibit Beyond the Paint: Philadelphia’s Mural Arts is a surprise. It’s a show of documentation–photographs of murals, videos, artifacts–the first-of-its-kind exhibit for PAFA, said Museum Director Harry Philbrick. Beyond the Paint is exuberant, populist, and interactive. It’s even a little gritty, with hand-painted signage and wheat pastes reminiscent of graffiti and the cityscape. Generally, my experience of documentary shows is they are torture–dusty and pompous. During installation, I got a chance to walk through the show, along with other members of the Outreach Committee for the show. ... More » »

William Rhodes, HipHop Junkie, mirrors and wood, the tag a replica of that of a San Francisco tagger who seems to have stopped making his mark

Studio visit–San Francisco artist William Rhodes art of the spirits

A friendly email invitation for a studio visit brought me to a peeling red door in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, the home and studio of artist William Rhodes. The trip was a little harrowing. In a rental car I had never driven, I felt like I was zooming through hyperspace. I missed the entrance to I-580 not once but twice, crossed the Bay Bridge which is always a little dicy, and then resigned myself to creep along behind a junk-man’s pickup truck so I wouldn’t miss my exit. Then I tried to park. Up a steep San Francisco stoop, the ... More » »


Hank Willis Thomas and Natasha Logan deliver White Boys at Haverford

The show White Boys, curated by artist Hank Willis Thomas and co-curator Natasha L. Logan at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is a lively reminder that a wide range of art is social and that arguably all art is social. The show of work by 17 artists serves as an addendum to the previous show at the gallery of work by Thomas, whose own conceptual photography explores images of African-American men in popular culture. The current show’s name is a bit of a red herring. Fortunately the art is strong enough to push well beyond stereotypes. And it’s worth noting ... More » »

Fran Gallun, Multiple Walls, 2009, monoprint with cut painted paper collage, india ink, gouache, 28x35 inches

You don’t have to be Jewish–Fran Gallun at PMJA

Fran Gallun’s shimmering landscapes are showing at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art. What’s that? you ask. It’s the art museum in Rodeph Shalom, which has put on some swell shows in the past. This show, Imagining Israel, is another reason to revisit (or visit) the place. You may have seen some of this work in her recent solo show at Rosenfeld Gallery, and some in a 2009 solo show (reviewed on artblog) at Fleisher Art Memorial, where she has been teaching for 25 years. Gallun’s landscape abstractions, spiritual quests for connection to ancestors and the land, have a Turner-like ability ... More » »

Istoria, by Jay Walker, tape, laser-cut vinyl and mixed media applied directly to the wall in the Crane Big Hall

Jay Walker at the Crane

The main hallway at the Crane Arts building is a hallway with a lot of presence–so much so that it’s often a place where good art goes to die. Not so Jay Walker’s Istoria installation, presented by InLiquid. The stalking figures–made mostly of tape and laser-cut vinyl applied directly to the wall–can be anything from Medieval knights to Middle Eastern potentates of the desert to the Virgin Mary. Whatever reference you bring to their towering menace and decorative emanations, they are up to the challenge of holding the space and delivering an emotional frisson and visual thrill. Walker also has ... More » »

Theaster Gates doing a Jack Palance

Theaster Gates talks at the Fabric Workshop and Museum

The Martin Luther King Day of Service at the Fabric Workshop and Museum featured a talk by uber-international hot-ticket-artist Theaster Gates (pronounced with “aster” at the end). Gates, whose work includes making utopian spaces in cities, where people can meet and work, also does performance, clay and so much more. He is a guy who is hoping his art can rebuild how the world works, one brick at a time. He is installing a workspace at the FWM that goes by the stop-you-in-your-tracks moniker Soul Manufacturing Corporation–To Make the Thing that Makes the Things. By time he was done speaking, ... More » »

Liza Lou, [Yellow panties with tiny light blue polka dots], 1995, beads, papier-mache

The Female Gaze at PAFA

I enjoyed a tsunami of memories at the newly opened Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts exhibit The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World. The memories were of work by so many of the artists represented in the show, work that had made me fall in love with art in the first place. The exhibit includes 200-plus works selected from nearly 500 works of art by women donated to PAFA by Philadelphia collector Linda Lee Alter in 2010. Alter collected the works with the express ambition of donating them to an institution to make women’s art more visible. PAFA’s ... More » »

Rafael Ferrer, Untitled, 1974

Rafael Ferrer in Lancaster

Measuring an artist’s life–Rafael Ferrer Rafael Ferrer was Philadelphia-based for many years, teaching at University of the Arts and University of Pennsylvania and creating what he created. The traces of his sojourn here have left traces–with a beloved public sculpture El Gran Teatro de la Luna restored earlier this year to North Philadelphia’s Fairhill Square Park, and also in the memories of his students and friends. A survey of 150 of his works on paper to date, curated by Edith Newhall who writes about Contemporary Art for the Inquirer, is currently at the Lancaster Museum of Art until Nov. 11, 2012. ... More » »

Elizabeth Grajales, Watching 1989 Color offset lithograph, 50/100, 21 5/8 x 30 inches, Printers: James Hughes and Robert W. Franklin

Full Spectrum–Brandywine Workshop prints at PMA

Full Spectrum, the exhibit of prints from the Brandywine Workshop that opened this month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, shows off one of those little-sung organizations that quietly do amazing work here in Philadelphia. Here’s a bit of history–The Brandywine Workshop, founded in Philadelphia in 1972 to encourage and support racial and cultural diversity in printmaking, gifted 100 of its prints representing 89 artists to the PMA three years ago in memory of Anne d’Harnoncourt. The workshop, founded by African-American Tyler-trained artist Alan Edmunds, has stayed true to that mission, working with artists from around the world and from ... More » »

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