Weekly update – Escobar, Shervin, Space 1026

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My editor, Doree Shafrir wrote a sweet cover story on one of Artblog‘s favorite alternative venues, Space 1026. I highly recommend a read. The collective, priming itself for big time exposure in an exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco is still the same young, earnest, on the verge of chaos place it always has been, says Shafrir. Only now the group has committees to help get the work done! Lots of nice photos of group members and close-ups of people like Ben Woodward, Andrew Jeffrey Wright, Liz Rywelski and others. The article’s great exposure in Philadelphia for a group that continues to bring new life and excitement to the art scene. And who even remembers the last time the Weekly ran a cover story on art…six years ago maybe when Eils Lotozo, then a staff writer for the Weekly, now at the Inquirer, and Gerard Brown, then the art critic, co-authored a critique of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s New Landmarks program? The paper’s archives don’t go back that far or I’d link it. (top image is a silkscreen print by Woodward from the time he was wheatpasting them around Philadelphia in 1998.)
On the art page, my review of the Elizam Escobar exhibit at Taller Puertorriqueno. The surreal images made by the 20-year political prisoner, now released (in 1999) are haunting and evocative of mysteries, secrets, nightmares and fears for the future. The muted colors are a surprise for a Latino painter, but not for one with such a history. The guy can paint. And his prison drawings interwoven throughout the show are exceptional — magical images of child-like men (himself) in states of waking death. Poignant. (here’s one of the prison drawings, a self portrait with Jen, his lawyer and partner)

And last but not least, in the listings, my editor’s pick: Los Angeles artist underground artist Shervin at Ashley Gallery.
One of the great things about this show is that it’s happening. That is, the gallery, run by Diane Ashley, took a risk on a young artist who sent her some images, and now she’s running with it. It’s not a typical Philadelphia show — the imagery is figurative all right but with blood and gore and maybe a little bit of misogyny…I hope not but a thread of that runs through much work like this that’s in the Juxtapoz magazine school of illustrational painting.

I spoke with Shervin by phone when he was in town. Here’s some of what he told me. First off, the show’s a solo by Shervin (last name Iranshahr) but because he’s a posse kind of guy he’s included a painting by each one of his compadres, Sean Cheetham, John Paul Altamira, and others, and his mentor, Michael Hussar in the show. Shervin and his friends met Michael Hussar when the artist was teaching a class at the College of Design in Pasadena. “My group of friends befriended him and he became our mentor,” Shervin said. They used to go into Hussar’s studio and watch him paint. Then they found a model and did “a la prima” sessions together. (image is detail of Shervin’s “Death of Venus”)

“Mike had a perfect palette–his work is really colorful,” said Shervin. “We adapted his palette.”

I asked if the group did group critiques because I was having some trouble envisioning these darkling 20- and 30-somethings (chains and piercings, leather and mohawks perhaps?) practicing the delicate act that is critiquing someone elses art. Shervin, 27, said “We do critiques all the time. But it goes beyond that. We’re all like separate little thoughts…” but together they make a whole paragraph or something.

Several of the group are members of the band Del Toro and recently in the hot, new Los Angeles gallery district (Gallery Row) Shervin and his buds have been invited to take over this or that new space before it’s opened and have a one-night exhibit with music. “We’re in the underground movement. We’re well known,” he explained. “They give us a room for the night and no rent. We’ve done five or six of them. No, we don’t have a name [for the group]. We’re our own little tribe. Phone calls go out to the usual suspects and we’ve been selling stuff.” (image is Cheetham‘s a la prima painting “Steph Crying” — it’s not in the show but from the artist’s website which has a group of his a la prima paintings.)

I have to say I love Shervin’s energy and enterprise. He’s a go-getter and I predict this is a no-name group to watch.

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