Remembrance of Fridays past


Libby and I met painter Matt Green nine months ago on a balmy First Friday in September. Green had some large urban landscape paintings for sale on the sidewalk on 2nd St., and we were taken with the seriousness of the work, its vision and painterliness, and the artist’s enterprise in sidewalk selling. (see posts here and here and my feature at PW)

After a number of indoor cafe exhibits, the young artist now has a large body of work at PII Gallery on Race, including some of the paintings we saw on the sidewalk and two new oil paintings, “Noble Street” and “Tacony Waterfront,” shown top and below.


In the new pieces, Green continues his themes of urban decay and the resiliance of nature. His focus on abandoned warehouses, depicted down to the last brick, in sites of lush, weedy overgrowth, are quiet elegies whose stillness invites contemplation. Less didactic than documentary, the artist’s mining a vein of personal response to the environment and combining it with a felt need to archive the old sites before they’re torn down.

Many local artists paint the Philadelphia streets but nobody’s doing it with the same emotional charge.


2 Street shuffle


After spending some time with Green’s paintings at PII, we headed around the corner to 2nd St. and, as Libby told you in her post, ran into a crowd of walkers and lookers — and artists selling their paintings, prints, jewelry and crafts right there near Church St. The ambiance was New Orleans French Quarter — hip and hippie.


Thumbs up to Mark Price, new Space 1026er and Hussian School of Art grad, whose blanket on the sidewalk held gems (four-color screenprints and drawings) all priced by a self-invented uniform pricing scheme (everything $5 dollars). Price, whose work has something of the 1026 signature (forlorn, comic book influenced and advertising aware) said he learned the printing technique by observing and by helping out on other artists’ projects at the collective. Price has work for sale at the 1026 online shop, Market East. I notice the uniform pricing ($5) applies there as well.

Inside at Artjaz


Artjaz was hopping as usual, the crowd an enthusiastic group of munchers (good cheese and crudites) who also were excited about what was on the walls — Will Downing’s backstage and studio photographs of musicians like Al Jarreau. Downing, himself a Grammy-nominated vocalist, was expected later and many folks were waiting to see him. Read more about Downing at artjaz‘ website.

Interspersed with the photographs were paintings by Bernard which seem large-scale blow-ups of the photos.


Outside Artjaz, Wendy Nicholas tapped me on the shoulder and said we should come see her mom’s work at Big Jar Books next door. I’m a sucker for kids shilling for their mothers so in we went. Dee Nicholas’s collage paintings (shown) some of them framed, others unframed and in a big group on the wall, felt earnest and the wall space at Big Jar is pretty generous, so I recommend checking it out.


Midwest voodoo at Spartaco


Libby told you about Jason Urban’s print-influenced paintings at Spartaco. I loved them too and will weigh in at PW next week.

Meanwhile, I found out that Urban has a midwest connection (something I’m always looking for, being a cheerleader for that undersung and often derided part of the country).

Urban went to University of Iowa for grad school and he was very enthusiastic. Not only that but a friend of his who was at the opening, Kip Deeds, said he too had midwest connections. Deeds, who teaches printmaking at Tyler and Princeton, went to University of Illinois and said he spends his summers teaching at Interlocken in the Michigan upper peninsula.

While I was digesting all the rust-belt love, another person — a young woman — chimed in saying she was from somewhere outside Chicago.

Then, Deeds reminded me of another displaced midwesterner — recently-retired Tyler painting teacher Richard Cramer — a Wisconsin boy. All those corn-fed connections in one place made me giddy.

Anyway, Deeds said he’s making a book right now, using himself as a character in the narrative. (image above is sample from Deeds’website) I’m not sure whether the book’s fiction or memoir or a little of both but I love artist’s books and can’t wait to see it.

I’ll get to Nancy Lewis’s Big Nothing show, “Mixmaster Universe” at Temple Gallery later today. Stay tuned.