First Friday : two galleries percolate

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A smaller than usual number of artists peddling their wares on the sidewalk huddled together on this First Friday. Winter was taking its toll. Even Gallery Joe was closed (top, LiQin Tan’s installation at Union 237).

But inside, there was plenty of hot stuff, and hottest of the hot in Old City was hip-hop gallery Union 237, which skews to a young crowd. But Friday, oldsters were there with youngsters, thanks to a show by an artist who’s far from young. The proof? Some Disney cells of Snow White that he did plus a long track record of shows from China to Canada and here in the U.S.A.

The artist is Li-Qin Tan, whose animation these days runs to digital. So do his non-animated pieces. Tan has created a number of computer prints on stretched skins. The display method is grand and imposing, with a multiplicity of claps and ropes stretching the skins to wooden frames made of 4x4s (image right).

The images melded elemental and pictographic sorts of imagery with the kinds of dark imagery we see all around us, and Tan’s statement said he was interested in the merger of primitive art (hence the animal skins) with digital art, which, at some point in the distant future will seem primitive, too.

Tan, who teaches art and computer animation and graphics at Rutgers Camden, also showed some of the images that he had printed on the skins in tandem with animations of the same images, screened on monitors above (shown left).

I am so amused at this unlikely-seeming merger of hip-hop gallery and long-time artist, but ultimately, I think it’s a really great fit.

The final hip hop touch was the screen that Union 237 has hanging from the ceiling, showing a video of Tan’s process.

Stunned by how slick this all was, I finally thought to myself that this place is really getting its act together and being the kind of gallery those running it had hoped. Another proof of organization was the effort to build a mailing list by giving out drink tickets at a booth in the front, in exchange for people putting their names on the mailing list. I have tried to get on their mailing list several times. I bet this time I’ll make it. This bodes well.

Ultimately, though, I didn’t think that Tan’s imagery on the skins stood up to the elaborate, bold presentation, partly because of the digital print-out flatness. I can’t really say if the images were in more tactile media, they would have held up. But the animated versions did hold their own and then some. I have to recommend this show for its mix of media, it’s bold presentations and seriousness of purpose, and the video animations.

While I’m mentioning galleries on the upswing, I thought I’d mention that I also stopped at Qbix Gallery, a hole-in-the-wall size space which had some nice Paul Santoleris up, along with drawings and sculptures from two more traditional artists. QBix, which started out well–with Shelly Dinkins, who had a Fleisher Challenge a really long time ago which got killed by Ed Sozanski for what I thought was pretty interesting work–and then hit a slough of not-to-interesting work. But more recently the gallery showed the excellent Henry Bermudez and last month, the rather interesting Rah Crawford. I will add the names and something about the other two artists who are up at Qbix as soon as I find my notes or am able to reach the gallery owner Sharon (image, a Paul Santoleri painting with hand-painted frame).

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