The people’s gallery

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People were actually standing in line to purchase printouts of Zoe Strauss’s photographs. That’s the line to your left, underneath I-95 at Mifflin Street in South Philadelphia, where Strauss set up her self-produced art gallery.

Strauss was selling her work at $5 a pop, which doesn’t mean her photos aren’t terrrific. (She was in Arcadia’s Works on Paper show this winter, in case you forgot). The price and quality help explain why people were lining up. Besides, everyone likes a bargain.

The photos are deadpan shots of the world as we fail to see it. All the stuff that we delete out as background becomes her subject.

The prints were posted on the I-95 support columns for a two-hour art show, today; miraculously, the space took on some of the aura of her photos. Each column had its own idiosyncratic pits, markings and cracks. Overhead, the hum of the autos on the interstate, also a background noise that we don’t pay attention to, was punctuated by tires hitting the seams in the roadway.

The printouts, posted a max of one per column side, are up with water-soluble paste, and after the show they will remain until people or the elements pull them down.

This democratic approach to art was a big hit. People of all ages showed up, and some looked like South Philly locals.

The logistics were carefully thought out–of professional gallery quality. To figure out what print you want or what it’s named, Strauss numbered each one in sidewalk chalk on the paving underfoot (there were 153 images!). On the reverse side of the list of prints, she also had a grid-like map showing which column had which print.

It took Strauss six months to prepare for the show, she said.

During the show, I heard that Strauss had recently gotten a commission from Peter Shaw for these pictures to hang at the St. James, a building going up at 8th and Walnut. She confirmed the news and said they’ll be framed and will hang in the hallways.

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