Me, myself, my house

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It’s an old cliche that we are what we eat, what we wear and what we live in. So an exhibit that riffs on housing or buildings like “Building References” at Rosenwald Wolf Gallery is, of course, about human beings as much as it is about architecture.

So for example, Richard Barnes‘s two large black and white photographs of an almost windowless shed, one a side view; the other a front view, seem like anthropological specimens…or those police mug shots from the front and side. The ambiance is spooky — the shed floats in an inky void and evokes something utilitarian like a smoke house or place where the sun’s not supposed to shine. It also evokes a kind of perverse, window-less twist on a one-room schoolhouse. The captions show that the shed is indeed a forensic specimen: “Unabomber Cabin, Exhibits A and B.” Instantly, the photos become a portrait of a mad man, the rough lumber is skin, the whole thing an apparition of, if not evil, then mania, isolation, sadness in the extreme. (image is installation shot of one of Barnes‘s Unabomber cabin photographs, next to Oliver Boberg‘s “Rohbau,” a photograph of a faux (i.e., mini-constructed model) building. In the foreground are three Bruce Pollock “Blocks” based on real Philadelphia housing.)
campbell, mark

In addition to Barnes’s chilling photos, “Building References” is chock full of works playing with big ideas about humanity, reality and symbolism. The show’s a wonderful mix of Philadelphia artists (Mark Campbell, Ruth Thorne-Thomson, Bruce Pollock, Jesse Gillespie, Nick Kripal) — and non-Philly folks like Oliver Boberg, Ira Joel Haber and Julian Opie. And everybody’s on the same wavelength and once again, it’s a global conversation right here in river city.

I’m not going to give you the full court press about the show which is great. But I do want to mention that Campbell, one of my favorite Philadelphia artists, will give a talk about his work tomorrow night, Mar. 23, 7 pm at Uarts — [Ed. note. Room correction: the talk has been moved. It will be in CBS Auditorium, not the Hunt Room as previously stated here.] CBS Auditorium, Hamilton Hall, 320 S. Broad St., across the street from Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery. There’s a pre-talk reception in the gallery starting at 6 pm if you want to come check out the show.

I’ve long admired Campbell’s tabletop arrays of mini houses which are cast in resin and made from real mini-versions of housing stock. This piece in this show (shown above) is a gut-churning visual essay on overdevelopment and greed (think copulating insects). Wow.

Building References is up to April 3.

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