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We will see giants

barrioacanceladecarneThe lineup of Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative grants for this year (totaling $824,460!)has a mix of international vision for our town along with local crowd pleasers. It’s also exciting to get a glimpse of political art that promises to go beyond mere hectoring didacticism. Here’s my picture-based summary of who’s coming to town, sooner or later, thanks to PEI’s dime.
barrio, artur

Moore College is bringing Brazilian political and installation/intervention artist Artur Barrio. Barrio, who doesn’t have much name-recognition in the United States, is a big artist internationally, and showed in Documenta 11 in 2002. One of his pieces involved distributing 500 plastic bags filled with blood, pieces of nails, saliva, shit, catarrh, bones, etc. around Rio de Janeiro–a political protest that allowed passersby to intervene, move, and touch the bundles. Here’s an image of a blood-coated gate (top left, “A Cancela de Carne). It’s good to see the Goldey Paley Gallery at Moore will continue bringing in important international work.

Photography commissions
morell, abelardo
morelllightbulb19911) Photography has taken over the art world and it’s still trying to figure out how to deal with it. Cuban-born Abelardo Morell, now a professor at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, is a pinhole photographer extraordinaire, and he is one of three outstanding artists commissioned by the Print Center to create new work. Here’s one of his images (right)— “Lightbulb,” showing a camera obscura and its ghostly inversion of the bulb.
lutter, vera
lutterclevelandtheflats2) As part of the same project, German-born Vera Lutter, who has shown at Dia, will create a new piece. Her camera obscura images with long exposures are about time. The objects take on a glow from her method, and often the subjects are architectural and historical. Sometimes an entire room overlooking a site becomes her camera obscura (left, “Cleveland, The Flats, 1997”).
hamilton, ann
hamiltontropos3) Also in the Print Center trio is Ann Hamilton, whose work I’m always thrilled to see. Hamilton, who often obscures words and language as part of her work. The entire project will involve camera obscura images created at locations around the city (we just can’t get enough of ourselves, I guess). Here’s an image from “Tropos,” in which an attendant singes the text of a book, line by line. The installation was at Dia.

It’s great to see the Print Center take on an ambitious project like this one, “Taken With Time,” which has enough power and energy to spill over.

ruscha, ed
ruschadues4) Text is hot, and so is Pop artist Ed Ruscha again. He’s 2005 U.S. representative to the Venice Biennale and he’s coming to the Fabric Workshop and Museum to create a new artist’s book. The Fab also will organize the first major exhibition of Ruscha’s work in Philadelphia. I’ve included an early Ruscha image in response to the press release, which mentioned his use of non-standard printing materials. Here’s “Dues,” part of a series printed with homemade potions made from food and other organic products.

If I hadn’t seen Ruscha a couple of Carnegie Internationals ago with great new work, and if he hadn’t been in the Biennale, I guess I’d be questioning this choice. But he’s still at it and looking good.
bos, caroline
van berkel, ben
unstudiosgalleriahallkoreaThe Institute of Contemporary Art is continuing its exploration of architecture, no doubt related to PennDesign being a school headed by an urban planner. Of the architects who will get the full hip treatment, the hippest of the hip is the partnership of award-winning Dutch architects Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos (UN Studio) (right, their Galleria Hall in Seoul, Korea in quadruplicate).
un studioeisenman, peter

eisenmanberlinsholocaustmemorialLess surprising are work by Peter Eisenman, whose Berlin Holocaust Memorial in collaboration with sculptor Richard Serra earned raves, and renowned Philadelphia landscape-architect Laurie Olin (image, the holocaust memorial).
olin, laurie
Back to the future

Those are the biggy awards, but looking further into the future, the planning awards also look promising.
lou, liza
loubackyarddetThe topper in the planning department is for artist and MacArthur “genius” Liza Lou to explore creating a site-specific installation of glass beads and crystals at Eastern State Penitentiary. I’m trying to picture a glass beads installation at the prison, but then again, if you had asked me to picture “Kitchen” before I had seen it, I might have had a hard time (image, detail from “Backyard”). Lou, who mixes up post-Modernism with outsider obsession, is a big plus.
jackson, homer
jacksonwhymalcolmAnd speaking of ESP, local (Pew recipient) artist Homer Jackson, who had an installation there several years ago and (another) bead artist Joyce Scott (from Maryland) are part of a plan of The Village of Arts and Humanities for a multi-media exhibition Telling Our Stories, that will convey the stories and oral histories of neighborhood elders through historic and personal photographs, memorabilia, and original artwork created by local residents (Jackson’s prison installation detail, “Why Malcolm Had to Read”).
scott, joyce
Hmm. Sounds a little like social work. We’ll have to count on the energy and vision of these two artists with political edges to raise it up to art (right, a Joyce Scott beaded piece).