Department of international affairs–the Swiss connection

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When I stopped in at Pentimenti last week, I learned that gallery owner Christine Pfister was working on a number of international projects, some quite real and coming up soon, some just in the thinking phase (right, a photo by Joseph Hu of a twig poking out of the snow, a product of his residency in Switzerland).

One of the projects is an outgrowth of being next to Art Forum Ute Barth gallery at the Art Chicago art fair a few years ago. The resulting project is “Criss Cross,” an exchange of artists in two simultaneous shows, with American artists getting a chance to show in Zurich while Swiss artists get a chance to show in Philadelphia. We benefit too, getting a chance to see what’s going on abroad. So coming up June 3 to July 10, look for Swiss artists Maria Eitle-Vozar, Susanne Keller, Vera Rothamel, Judith Trepp and Karina Wisniewska–all artists from Art Forum Ute Barth, Zurich–at Pentimenti. And if you’re in Zurich, you will be able to see Pentimenti artists Steven Baris, Richard Bottwin, Kevin Finklea, Kathryn Frund and Franco Muller at Art Forum Ute Barth (left, work by Eitle-Vozar, that reminds me of work by local artist Ava Blitz).

(For posts on all the local artists, you can check in our artists index, left, for where to look in our archives.)

Pfister, who is a native of Switzerland, is also thinking about trying to set up a second artist residency in Switzerland similar to the one that Joseph Hu had experienced a couple of years ago.

Hu, when he came back from Switzerland, poured out the soul of his experience in a show at Vox Populi that caught our attention (see post here). He has stayed on our radar screen ever since, producing art that is progressively more confident and interesting(cup sculpture right, and wall of a photograph repeated on 528 color postcards, left, were part of the show at Vox, a take on Swiss tourism and kitsch).

Here’s Hu’s statement from that show:

To live in Switzerland is to love it. During the winter and spring of 2003, I spent 3 months in the small cantonal capital of Solothurn, at the foot of the Jura Mountains. The experience was one that deeply affected me. I was suddenly in an alien environment where I didn’t know the language or customs, and I seemed alone. I spent my time traveling, observing, and absorbing new sights and sounds. I kept a journal describing in detail, my daily activities and kept a photo journal that I contributed to everyday. I took classes to learn the language. I made new friends. I fell in love.

In an attempt to define my experiences, I’ve made work with the intention of recreating bits and pieces of memory, and that jumbles together the visual and emotional souvenirs that I have of Switzerland. In stereoscopic photos, cardboard models, and postcards, my memories surrender and become anew.

Pfister said she worked with people in the Swiss town of Solothurn to create the residency. Five jurors entertained 50 proposals, some from around the country, and chose Hu for the project, called SoPhilArt (Solothurn-Philadelphia-Art). Hu got a studio and an apartment, 3000 Swiss francs, and a guide, with whom he shared to studio. At the end, he exhibited his work in a commercial gallery there (right, a recent, photo-based painting of Hu’s, “Friday Night Up All Night,” typical of his more recent work).

The SoPhilArt project, which took a year and a half to put together–“It’s an after-work project in the evening,” said Pfister–was successful enough to make her think about starting all over again to raise the funds and plan for another residency.

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