First Friday perfection

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On the street

Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. And so the streets of Old City were packed with prints and paintings (here’s a $5 computer print I bought from a very young man named Mark Price, who prints at Space 1026), crafty jewelry, African masks–all for sale. And the buyers were out in force. At some point, Roberta and I moved off the sidewalk, which was chock-a-block, elbowing-room only, and walked with the cars.

We arrived before the serious crowds took over, but even at 5, the hustle had begun. Not too much later, on the steps of the Temple Gallery, a flautist performed, wearing a red-and-white shirt–a perfect match to the Temple Gallery banner.

And by time we left Old City, we had heard on the street two blue-grass fiddlers fiddling, one of them accompanied by a guitarist and a third person whose contribution was unclear at the moment we passed by. We also heard a percussion duo, one on a wooden xylophone, the other on an upside down bucket, a piece of metal and who knows what else.

Pocket murals

The gallery shows were hopping, people spilling out on the sidewalk. Roberta will take our first and third stop, which I guess puts me in the second gallery, Artists House, with mural painter David McShane in the back room with pocket murals, playful little 6″ square panels that were selling well.

McShane, if you don’t remember, is the muralist with the penchant for blurry edges who brought us Jackie Robinson and the boxers, both on North Broad Street. He brings to some of his little panels those same out-of-focus edges, be they umbras and penumbras or back-lighting or sometimes just challenges for the eye.

His subjects ranged from heroes like Albert Einstein and Frank Zappa to self-portraits and family (my favorites) to toys to flower patterns–all sweet homages to the joys of life and love. (shown, self-portrait of the artist as a young boy “Baluch-a-ma-luch”)

Artists House gallerist Lorraine showed us that the pictures could be mixed and matched, the combos somewhat arbitrary, and pointed out how nice to buy several and make your own combo. Here’s one combo as hung at the gallery–“King Violet,” “Yellow Plaid” and “Mom.”

More heroes

We also found some heroes on the wall at Spartaco Gallery at 52 N. 2nd St. (I mention the address because they don’t have a Web site and they’re relatively new). Like McShane, Jason Urban also paints pop culture heroes–ballplayers, tv and movie cowboys and superheroes(shown, “The Goerge Reeves Memorial Painting”)–but he also paints villains and politicians. And there’s a post-modern questioning of our society’s values here.

Urban’s black-and-white, dot-patterned wooden panels (about 24″ high) are nearly 4 inches thick, the sides sporting words that don’t quite coalesce into sentences, deliberately frustrating the viewer’s ability to come up with a formulaic meaning. The dots also deliberately frustate.

Urban also offered some of the work that led into the dot work–for example a large print portrait of the Lone Ranger portrait, with a quote from Clayton Moore’s autobiography in which he says that a hero’s language is precise and grammatical. Urban, an affable young man who just moved here from Baltimore, said the piece was a commentary on “our president not being able to get out a decent sentence.” Because Bush fashions himself as a cowboy/hero, he invites the comparison (shown, “Surrender!”).

Urban, whose heroes and villains paintings use a printmaker’s layering approach, has also started a new series (shown, “Breakfast of Champions”). The Pop look is undercut by the stripes and the words circling the sides (NB: the stripes are not a moire pattern, despite the appearance on the computer, unlike in the above left “Surrender,” which is an artist-created pattern).

We also stopped in Union 237, which attracts a young, multi-racial crowd, but this time the show was less than interesting. Downstairs, a couple of photos of some amazing grafitti murals caught my eye. Here’s a shot of one of them. The wall is by the Wallnuts, a sort of grafitti collaborative. The photo, “Angel,” is by Been 3.

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