Friday comes on Saturday this month

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Seeing art on the first Saturday of the month is something I highly recommend. Often you run into an artist tweaking something in her exhibit or showing a collector around. There are no crowds, it goes without saying, so no obstructed views, noise and distractions.

I’m covering the Vox Populi and Nexus exhibits for PW so will be brief here, mentioning only that the guest-curated exhibit at Vox had soul-satisfying, project-based documentary work by Charles LaBelle, Grady Gerbracht and Kyungmi Shin that were great poetic responses to the urban environment.

“Discontent, Part 2,” at Nexus rounds up more works by the 23 gallery members on the theme of, well you know, discontent. Most of the work is new and triggered in response to the theme. Yet it seems to remain true to the spirit of the artists’ previous works.

Most notable in a very large exhibit are Nic Coviello‘s “work in progress,” a layered abstract mural in shades of green, gold, cream and black that I just adored. Coming so soon after Coviello’s solo exhibit at the gallery, it is a surprise and pleasure to see the artist working in a new scale and attempting to break through to a new way of working. (image above is Coviello’s mural, sorry the shot is a little dark)

Unfortunately, next to Coviello’s piece is Jody Sweitzer‘s noisy “Pushy Merkin,” (shown left) which is a space invader, aggressively coloring the psychic space in the gallery with its insistent soundtrack. Sweitzer’s multi-media piece resembles a bad wig enthroned on a Victorian end table — and sounds like a horror flick without the music and cathartic blood bath. It’s melange of heavy breathing, cat screeches, more heavy breathing, thumps and bumps looped without appreciable buildup, climax and release and made me edgy enough to abbreviate my stay in the gallery.

Noise is the age old problem with multi-media works. It’s not fair to require them to be silent and accessed solely via headphones. Some works, and this is undoubtedly true of “Pushy Merkin,” exist for the sake of provoking –and get an extra charge from their intrusive natures.

But the siting of these pieces is crucial and here, in the open gallery, it didn’t make much sense. This piece, which has a kind of Norman Bates aesthetic, would have benefitted from being sited in the gallery’s storage closet or in some other clandestine space. Not only would that have enhanced its ugh-y charms but it would not have leaked over onto the nearby neighbors.

Speaking of space invaders, I took SEPTA home from Old City and was brought up short at 30th St. Station by the profusion of Salvador Dali advertisements for the upcoming PMA blockbuster exhibit. They’re here, there and everywhere–banners, lightboxes, floor cloths, billboards along the tracks.

When I got on my train, I happened to sit in front of an Italian-speaking mother and her young bilingual son. My Italian is pretty rusty but I was focussed completely on deconstructing mom’s chatter in Italian (responded to mostly in English by the boy).

As the train pulled out, the boy’s words turned away from mom and focussed on what was passing by outside the window and I heard him say “Salvador Dali, Salvador Dali, Salvador Dali, Salvador Dali.”

How odd I thought until I realized that he wasn’t trying to hypnotize anyone as much as he was reading words he was seeing on the billboards as we passed each one. How clever they are, those PMA advertisers, to install the Dali message de trop which lets the musical words of the artist’s name sink in to a level of subconscious recognition and desire.

Surreal, mesmerizing and who knows, maybe even effective in pulling folks in to the show.

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