Cosmology and anthropology

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I stopped in to see the Fleisher Challenge I exhibit the other day. [The artist’s reception is tonight; the talkabout with Mary Murphy, which I highly recommend, is next Tuesday.]

The surprise was Joy Feasley’s installation. Fleisher’s Warren Angle says he believes it’s the artist’s first installation and he may be right although I know she was co-installationist with husband, Paul Swenback, in a Project Room show a while back.

Anyway, Feasley has adorned the large space with green sculptural star-crystals made out of acrylic which hang from the ceiling or sit on the floor. Not quite stalactites and stalagmites, the pointy stars are like outcroppings from her star and crystal-infused paintings. An aggressive presence, the green stars give the room a kind of otherworldly atmosphere.

Feasley’s trademark fantasy imagery — crystals, mountain tops, stars, animals, bare-chested girls — surround the sculptures in 20 paintings made of carved resin or vinyl paint on aluminum panels. Flocking material shows up under the resin and the resulting texture is subtle but interesting. “Golden Dawn,” a red skull image should win a prize for turning flocking spooky. [See image.]

Also notable, in a strong, three-person show, are Jennifer Levonian’s wee, whimsical collage drawings, whose mix of surrealism and cartoon irreverence is fresh and well-done. [Image from Levonian’s “The Last House.”

Sam Belkowitz provides the anthropological rest stop. His documentary photographs, diptychs of street scenes from Asia and elsewhere, are a blast of hot reality into the cool fantasies in the other rooms. [Image is Belkowitz C-print from the series.] Belkowitz is also showing a video piece, “Solea.” Screened on a monitor in a corner with what seemed like enormous speakers flanking, the short, looped piece (no more than 6 minutes) had a sad, flamenco soundtrack. The music becomes an insistent presence in the open, three-room gallery, claiming a little too much psychic space for itself.

The show’s strength is in demonstrating the wide range of materials at play and the high level of conceptual sophistication among young Philadelphia artists. This is all so far from art in Philadelphia of 20 years ago it might as well be from the moon.

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