I don’t know if you remember my last post on Ida Weygandt’s gorgeous photos of the horsey set in Chester County at SchmidtDean Gallery, but this work combines an eye for beauty and sharp social observations that’s rare (top, “Todd and Trevor McKenna”).

These are nothing like traditional fawning portraits of the wealthy as they’d like to see themselves.

Weygandt tips the scales of gravitas with claustrophobic spaces, telling multiple details of shabbiness mixed with spare-no-expense riding and hunting gear, and implied comparisons of the animal vitality of hunting dogs, horses and riders.

The victims of hunting are represented with matter-of-factness by a few mementos of kills past–trophy antlers, animal skins, a dead pheasant (image left, “Tackroom With Pheasant”).

The portraits and portraits-by-proxy show the absolute confidence and certainty about their entitlement of people who haven’t faced a challenge to their inheritance or their values. The photos, on the other hand, imply a suggestion of a society that is resting on its laurels and is due for a challenge. There’s a whiff of mustiness and decay beneath the veneer here.

The bits of straw, the cracks in the barn floor, the gnawed old wooden planks of a barn evoke the fuggy horse odors and filth of animal tending at the same time as they show care and order. A room filled with a man’s things, a bedroom overflowing with a girl’s things, a boy with a horse–these are personal, filled with the telling choices made by a specific human being from a particular milieu (right, “Dr. Jenny’s Barn”).

I noticed in the gallery guest book the signature of one of Weygandt’s subjects. In spite of the implication of the photos, even baronets must occasionally leave the estate, but it makes a better story to imagine them forever in horse country, riding the ridges, offing the foxes and collecting horse-show tickets and trophies (left, “Field at Check”).

Each photo, approximately 30″ x 40″ archival inkjet prints, is a world of its own; pay a visit.

Also at Schmidt/Dean, Robert Straight’s 17 small gouaches (8″ x 10″ -ish)offer fluid backdrops that seem inspired by curtains, maps, quilts, wood, and buildings on top of which skitter spirograph flowers, lyrically triangulated architectural motifs, bursts of fur or hair, zygotes, bubbles and grids.

There’s a loose kind of doodle quality to these layered pieces, an almost outsider intentness that opposes the formal intentness of his previous work. Straight’s control of the gouache gives him power over the foregrounds and backgrounds and provides zingy form- and color-based contrast. They work is nice to look at and think about, and I found the names reminiscent of the numbers my computer gives my photo files. There’s “D275” (left) and “D298” (right above), for example. D-lovely.

Fulvio Testa’s 23 watercolor landscapes (here’s one on the right) and 2 oils fill the walls of the main gallery, but the four notebooks in the vitrine interested me most–for the straightforward simplicity of the paintings, the writing that gives the books a diary flavor, and of course the mystery of what is on the pages that were hidden.


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