Sand castles and the oops factor

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Friday night Stella and I went to Spector for the opening of Oliver Vernon and C.W.Wells’s shows. Vernon, who had been up all night building a sand castle in a sandbox (left) Spector had built for the occasion, didn’t look sleep deprived or even hot in the warm gallery.

Not even when a gallery-goer accidentally knocked into the castle and gave it a boo boo did the artist bat an eye.

It’s not as bad as it could have been, he said to the mortified guest who had bashed it.

Then, parlaying lemons into lemonade, Vernon suggested to the guest, a bookstore owner, that he had his eye on a certain book at the bookstore, and the bookstore owner, relieved of his guilt, said he’d be happy to oblige. (image is Vernon shoring up the castle)

Vernon’s a yoga-Zen guy, which may account for some of that unflappability. His works on the walls, in addition to the sand castle, included mandala-like hybrids that draw their inspiration from real mandalas as well as from the street. The artist told me he used to be a graffiti tagger — at age 12. But that he’d long since traded in his spray can for the paintbrush and the studio.

Nowadays he is still putting paint directly on walls in murals for interiors of clubs, restaurants and private residences.

He told me he loves to work huge scale. And one work in the show, on unstretched canvas, gives a glimpse of how well his stuff works large. With its big motifs and tiny, interlocking layers of detail, the works have a lot to offer.

One work with a top layer of creamy white in a baroque shape (image above) reminded me of white-out king,Phil Frost’s work.

Spector’s back gallery was full of local ceramic artist C.W. Wells’ new figures and paintings.

Wells’ small glazed stoneware figurines are like a tribe of naughty kids. Some of them have large almond-shaped eye sockets with no discernible eyeballs in them, giving them an alienish charm.

Stella liked her group of oil paintings on wood which had a kind of evil twin of Little Lulu thing going on. (image above right is of Wells’ paintings)

In the people department, the opening was not as crowded as some at Spector, but the gallerist told me many people said they would come by after the Manna auction across town.

While we were there, Tin Man Alley‘s Jonathan Levine was looking. (shown is Levine and gallerist Shelley Spector) I asked him how the Art Philadelphia expo at the Convention Center was and he pulled two thumbs down.

Apparently, there was not enough pre-show advertising and publicity and it was seriously under-attended. Exhibitors who came in from out of town at great expense were fomenting revolution, he said.

For Levine, it was a good opportunity to meet some Philadelphia gallery owners, and he was sanguine about the whole thing.

Levine was accompanied by Jeff Soto whose two-person show of new work opened at Tin Man on Saturday. (The other artist is Mitch O’Connell) Read my PW sketch last week for more on Soto’s show. (image is Soto and Levine)

Rebecca Westcott, (shown below) whose solo show of portrait paintings and other work opens at Spector next fall, also looked cool in the warm night air.

Like all painters these days, Westcott’s getting itchy for the Pew fellowships announcement, sometime in early June. Both Westcott and husband Jim Houser, who was a finalist last time, applied this year for the $50,000 grant.

Westcott told me she and Houser will be in Los Angeles in early June which should take their minds off their anxiety.

Houser, along with Andrew Jeffrey Wright and Ben Woodward, all Spector artists (and Space 1026ers), will be installing a show at Shephard Fairey’s gallery. The three used to work for Fairey (of Obey the Giant fame) when they lived in Providence and have kept up the connection.

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