Art by any other name

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A group of old friends once had a debate on titles. Should they be irrelevant to the artwork–just catalog numbers–leaving the object to stand on its own, or should they offer information, thereby becoming another entry point or enhancement for the work.

Of course we didn’t reach a conclusion. Because as we all know, in the art world, as soon as you make a rule, it’s best to break it.

One of my favorite titles of the year is at the “5 Into 1” student show in the lobby at Moore College.

“5 in 1” is an annual juried joint event of Philadelphia Sculptors and jurors Paul Hubbard and Lucartha Kohler. Hubbard heads the 3-D Fine Arts department at Moore and Kohler, a glass sculptor, teaches in the crafts department at the University of the Arts. The show, which showcases sculpture from graduates of the five biggest art schools in town–Moore, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the University of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts and Tyler–seems a little well-behaved, this year.

So back to titles. Peter Long’s “Cat Bed: He’ll do his best to keep you warm when the fire goes out, but that doesn’t mean he understands what love is” is the hands down winner in the titles department. The piece without the title suggests the cat as part lion and therefore a source of danger. The bed and quilt, all of wood, may not present danger, but they do suggest a certain lack of comfort. Although the piece communicated the false comfort, the title did add another dimension of humor. I for one was glad of the words.

Long also showed a cradle so tall and with such an exaggerated swing, it was in constant danger of tossing the baby. The title is “Sleep Hard Tonight, Baby.” Suddenly I’m not so sure, thanks to the title, that this piece isn’t about revenge, the baby being a girlfriend, not an infant. The more ideas that can get packed in, the better.

Titles aside, Robert Aiosa’s untitled video was notable for the plaster object that starred–a what-is-it tool that performs a function not quite definable, the mega-key turning out small bits of who-knows-what. I liked its giant scale as well as its rounded forms that suggested both industrial hand-made origins at the same time. It may have been untitled but it worked for me anyway.

Both Long and Aiosa are from UArts.

A piece that surprised was Jessica Slavin’s “Performative Garments.” I’m unclear if that’s a description or a title, but the zippers make them look like they’d be easy to try on. They cross the line beyond fashion by transforming body parts and their functions–limiting the use of some parts, suggestiong parts where there are none. There’s something a little Star Trekkie and uniform like about them, and they suggest a world where protective gear might be needed. I’m wondering if these garments reflect Slavin’s Penn experience, with the red and blue colors.

I’d have ignored Dan Carbone’s rocking love seat, but then I started thinking about how funny that was. Hey Dan. Good luck with that. Carbone is a Tyler grad. I don’t think Rachel Frank’s uneasy couple in “The Approach” have a shot at the kind of carefree love that Carbone must be dreaming of. Frank is from Penn.

Alas, I don’t have the names of most of the other artists in the show (that’s because I got there before the judging and therefore, before the labels went up. I hope to add awards when they are announced.

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