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Obscure (in the best sense) and clear


Post by Meredith Weber

meincalvino“Back to the Front” at the Slought Foundation is a new show featuring the work of emerging artists from the Philadelphia area (see Colette’s post for more on this show). Many of the pieces are imaginative, and well worth the trip to University City.

Jessica Mein’s “Calvino-Senhor Palomar Series,” (detail above right) is the piece that offers the most visual and intellectual satisfaction. Mein’s piece consists of several small canvases arranged in a grid-like format. Text covers the canvases (which are presumably from writer Italo Calvino’s “Senhor Palomar”). Mein has obscured most of the print with a coat of cream-colored paint and haphazardly applied lines of white-out. The artist expands on her theme of cloaking, by carving small cut-outs of windows and doors into the layers of paper. Some of the windows open slightly towards us, allowing us to peek into the piece, but for the most part, the blinds are drawn and the text further obscured.

We are left dealing with multiple levels of obstruction. What words Mein has not covered with paint are in a language unfamiliar to most of us, so even the untouched is hard to interpret. She speaks of a world where we do not truly see much of what is in front of us. Mein’s piece blends into the white walls of the gallery, so that from afar, we do not even realize that there is an incomprehensible literal under-layer.


Another piece from the exhibit that is worth checking out is Jennifer Goettner’s playful “Signs of Life” (left).The work, drastically different from Mein’s (and most of the other pieces in the show), is a series of bright road-like signs showing line figures carrying out some of the mundane actions that form our daily activities. Goettner clearly enjoyed making the observations that she translated into her art. The work is not particularly insightful, but it displays a sense of fun that is lost in much of the art that we see nowadays.

–Meredith Weber is a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Colette Copeland’s class on writing about art.