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Old masters vs. olde peculiar

lawrence goldsteinoldepeculiarI nearly didn’t write about some work I saw at Vox Populi a couple of weeks ago. I had gone there to check out the Surveillance Camera Players video clips (see two previous posts, Nov. 4)–most enjoyable and funny, but only one note, afterall–and took a quick look at the other work, took a couple of photos, just in case, and then took my leave and my thoughts in another direction.

But the work of Max Lawrence and Jesse Goldstein had struck a quiet chord that I got louder in recollection. What had seemed thin at first blush suddenly seemed just incomplete.

What made me revisit and rethink was this month’s packet of Old City shows of conservative paintings and drawings, all treading ground pounded by earnest artistic feet since the 16th century. Very Philadelphia–beautiful, likable, well-done and unoriginal.

Lawrence and Goldstein’s installation, “Olde Peculiar,” on the other hand, was totally original. In their vision of rowhouse neighborhoods replete with past incidents remembered by long-term residents, the brick patterns give way to patterns from Persian minitures, each home a mogul palace, the old residents peering out from their windows as men in black prepare to invade.

The rowhouse paradise, with its little trees and Crayola colors, is under seige, the bad memories a permanent threat.

The silkscreened cutouts whomped on the wall to create a little neighborhood feel to me a little flimsy. But that chord is resonating and I hope there’s more to come.

The sign at Vox said the show was Lawrence’s (in collaboration with Goldstein)–Vox supplied the parentheses. As I long-time collaborator, I always want to know how other people operate. Lawrence said the work was pretty equal with both of them bringing in the patterns and cranking out the work. But because he was the Vox member and not Goldstein, Goldstein got parentheses. That gives the wrong impression. (Lawrence took exception to this comment about attribution. A follow-up post, “Sorta wrong,” appears Tuesday, Dec. 2.)