Meeting of the tribes

Three openings on Friday night brought people out in spite of the drizzle and gloom. I ran around with the rest of the tribes dipping in and out of the shows and taking a few photos.

I’ll run the pix without much commentary — but with some gossip (oh, yes).
houser, jim

pal and contributor Colette Copeland‘s “Abortion Dialogues” installation at Carbon 14 was my first stop. (installation shot at top) The big gallery is nicely installed with ghostly photographs floating at about eye level, a projection on the back wall and some reading and listening stations on a side wall. Two young women were making a serious study of the reading and listening material when I was there.


Copeland, who received a Leeway grant for the show was beaming. (image right) People tumbled in from Copeland’s affinity group — photography and video types and teaching types. Harris Fogel, head of the UArts Media Arts Department, was there. I had just met Fogel last week when I interviewed him for a review of a photography show he curated for the Equality Forum. The work’s by Arthur Tress and I’ll tell you more on Wednesday when my review is published in PW.

John Woodin, who’s a Penn faculty member was there as was John Phillips, also a media artist. (image is Woodin, Fogel and Phillips, l-r)


Woodin told me about a project I was not familiar with — the Artist’s Guide to Philadelphia — a paper publication that this year will have an online presence. The Guide, which compiles information about galleries (amount of floor space, height of walls; type of work they prefer to show, etc) grew out of a thesis project his wife, Amy Orr did while at PCA (now UArts). They published the guide for several years in the 1980s then stopped in the early 1990s when family life and children took over as the big project.

Saving the world south of South St.
By the time I got to the Fleisher Challenge 4 opening it was almost packed like a sardine can. Daniel Heyman‘s wonderful oil, ink and gouache on mylar paintings*, a bunch with red dots decorating the wall, take the big front room and — what I could see peeking through the bodies — are as rich and lush and layered as tapestries — only more colorful. Heyman, (pictured right) a well-loved teacher (at Philadelphia University) whose show at 55 Mercer Gallery closed recently was mobbed by well-wishers, some of whom appeared to be students. Heyman’s beautiful prints about the terrible Abu Graib prisoner torture scandal were a hit at the Philadelphia Selections exhibit at the Moore Galleries last fall. This work carries on Heyman’s war theme. [*ed. note: This post previously called Heyman’s work prints, but the artist wrote to correct me saying the majority of the works are paintings.]

Rounding the corner I ran into 23 Michael Jordans. (Number 23 was Jordan’s number, you may remember if you watched him play. I didn’t remember that detail but artist Norm Paris, who made the 23 MJ’s reminded me). The 23 small sculptures, hanging mid-air in a kind of Matrix-like 3-D freeze-frame are chasing 24 bombs. It’s an unwinnable game for poor Michael.


Paris (pictured left with one MJ and one bomb) had a lovely drawing in the last Arcadia Works on Paper show that compared his torso with that of Arnold Schwartzenegger and the artist told me he likes pop culture and high culture mixing it up and he likes comparisons. Paris’s affinity group, many of whom are artblog favorites — Rob Matthews, Mark Shetabi, Randall Sellers, Matt Fisher — were there.


Paris, a Cleveland native and Yale MFA who hung out in Philly with his girlfriend Jackie Hoving, a painter, while she attended Tyler and decided he liked the vibe here enough to move to Philadelphia, told me the work grew as the Iraq was was raging. I asked him if he felt embattled because that’s the definite vibe here. And he admitted that he did. The small Jordans, cast in forten MG (a plaster-resin hybrid) and hung from the ceiling with Spectra 1000 kite string were made in the artist’s 915 Spring Garden studio. Jackie’s studio is there as well. She and several other artists, like Sabrina Lessard, a mold-maker, helped with the big task and Paris, a charming guy was most thankful for all the help he got. (above are some of Paris’s posse — Sarah Roche, Janna Gregonis, Matt Fisher and in the background Rob Matthews. Fisher told me he had been studying drawings of soldiers at the PMA and he was surprised at how bloody they were. So far no blood in Fisher’s soldier paintings.)

Paris teaches some courses at Yale and has appeared in several shows at Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn. He and Shetabi both had work in JP’s “Squint” last September.


One other conflation Paris mentioned is too funny, yet somehow apt in the context of his work — ESPN Sports Center and the Last Judgment, both of which include men coming together and talking about life lessons. There’ one guy in charge and well, everyone knows that sports are religion for a lot of people. (image is Mark Shetabi, Rob Matthews and Tracy Matthews all looking skeptical. Below is Randall Sellers with a new look and artist Chie Fueki.)


BTW, Paris told me that the 915 Spring Gardens studios are participating in POST this year. That makes a lot of sense for the city-wide open studio event. Artists can still sign up to participate until April 30. The two-weekend event is in October.

The other artist in the Fleisher Challenge is Lindsay Feuer, a ceramic artist whose porcelain objects riff on biological fantasies.

Babelonia on Bainbridge

Jim Houser‘s fifth solo exhibit at Spector had a line out front when I arrived post-Fleisher. People were waiting to squeeze into the jammed gallery to see Houser’s new work and to show support for the artist in his first exhibit after the tragic death of his wife, Rebecca Westcott, last October. The exhibit which includes a bower-cum-coat tree in the middle of the space is full of references to plants and other domestic objects, all of them beloved by Westcott.


In addition to new paintings, sculpture and installation, Houser has a new book, “Babel.” He was sitting in the back room under a portrait of himself painted by his late wife and signing books when I arrived.

Nadine Westcott, Rebecca’s mother, was there and told me she had flown in from Nantucket and was leaving the next morning. Gallerist Shelley Spector (pictured below with Randall Sellers who hopped over post-Fleisher) told me Houser was very close to his mother in law. And indeed when I opened my book and looked at it at home I saw that “Babel” is dedicated to Nadine Westcott.

Houser had 85 books to sign (Fed-x’ed from China where they were printed), Spector told me. When i got mine there were a half-dozen left.


More will be coming in rest assured. And the book’s a beauty — a generous spread of Houser’s art, writings and photographs from his life.

Ben Woodward, Space 1026er and Spector artist (below) was there with his partner Chi and their baby daughter, Atari.


Woodward told me he’s working on some paintings for a group show at Jonathan Levine‘s new gallery in New York — in June, I believe. Max Lawrence will have work in that show, too. Woodward has a solo exhibit at Spector in October.

Other Space 1026 artists Thom Lessner, Andrew Jeffrey Wright, Liz Rywelski and Max Lawrence were there for their friend Jim. Rywelski, who handles some of the gallery scheduling at 1026 confirmed for me that Cory Arcangel, included in the last Whitney Biennial, was doing a show at 1026 in November. Rywelski doesn’t know what exactly the artist will be doing but she said he’d be working with his collaborative, BEIGE.


Anabelle Rodriguez, Gallery Director at Taller Puertorriqueno, was there with her young son. She said she had just returned from a day trip to New York to PS 1 and MOMA. I’m exhausted just thinking about a one-day trip that involved all that art. (image is Rodriguez with Spector)


Rebecca Rutstein and Mike Stifel, (pictured above) husband and wife artists who show work at Bridgette Mayer gallery were there getting a book and showing support.


And finally, here’s a shot of the alleyway beside the gallery where “Sweatheart,” a band that includes Lessner was setting up to play. They looked committed to play on under the tarp despite the drizzle. Catch all the color in this alleyway.