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Young professionals


Twas the night before Live8, a First Friday in Old City, and the streets were pretty much deserted, everywhere except at Nexus, where you might think they were giving away ice cream cones or cold beer. Well, the beer really was a draw, but the main draw was “Nexus Selects,” a juried exhibition of recently graduated art school seniors and MFAs (left, crowd in front of Nexus).

What’s exciting about this from the point of view of the city growing its young artists is it’s Nexus’ first attempt to build something coherent from the flurry of MFA and BFA shows that overwhelm May and June. Part of the paring down process, according to Nexus director Nick Cassway, is the professionalism of the artists selected. All of them in the show already have some kind of track record that shows they get the business/promotion side of making art as well as the quality.

More good news–Nexus plans for this event to repeat annually.

Be forewarned, however, that this show is only up with regular hours until July 10, after which you must call for an appointment.

My personal highlights (in other words, my picks from among Nexus’ picks)were work by Nick Lenker and Alex da Corte, which is not to sniffle at the other artists’ works (image top, da Corte’s ketchup and fries).

You can see previous posts on work by da Corte here–see image of stuffed pink horse that he draped in butterflies in the Window on Broad–and by Lenker here –see image of the Easter bunny’s evil twin.

Lenker has switched from out-of-control, threatening holiday spirits to not-so-secure security blankets–two enormous stuffed critters, one a six-breasted mom/beast with three-mile arms, one a toy bear/beast that suggests impish alter-ego at the same time as it suggests crazy teddy bear. Both creatures cross the line from comforters to invidious pranksters. I asked Lenker what he had in mind and he said, “I was making something to replace my parents.” The search for protection is only half the story (right above, “Childhood Conglomerate #1/My Stuffed Mother” and “Childhood Conglomerate #2/Bad Luck Bear”).

As for da Corte, while his installation as a whole is a little fragmented, the individual items have loads of presence and content–a drooping ketchup squirter drapes over a life-sized drawing of himself squirting, intestinal red blood from his belly on a huge white canvas; mustard-color french fries with some intestinal droop lounge in a corner; a pink frame defines the edges of a wall painting of a white-on-white flower and a pink rosary frames a white, bloodless, radiant heart, sort of sweet pink girls turning Our Lady of the Little Flower and Sacred Heart into wall decorations (left, da Corte’s squiggly ketchup and fries).
For these pieces, it might be helpful to know that da Corte had health problems and that he has a dicy relationship with food, which he needs for nutrition but which has been the cause of so many of his severe health problems. Other relevant facts: he was brought up Catholic; and he has some interest in the subculture of diners and Catholic waitresses (right, da Corte’s heart and flower painted directly on the wall).
The installation has other parts–a grid of golden butterfly sculptures, some waxy, some glitter-coated, challenge Minimalism and Agnes Martin (who claims not to be a Minimalist). The symbolic fragility of life and ascending souls in multiples are such a different take on spirituality and mass production. The Catholic soul of da Corte wallows in decoration (left, da Corte in front of his butterfly grid).

Another piece–sod-lined book shelves pillowing flowers that are imprinted on stuffed, pillowy sticks, a portrait of a frog hung above– again plays with decoration and nature and symbols of life and fragility arranged for admiration and domestication.

A photographic installation by Jeffrey Stockbridge (from Drexel University), see previous post (here) , has been expanded for this show. Since I had just seen the previous version (I did admire it), I just breezed by, I confess, but if you missed the Drexel photography show at Nexus, here you have another chance to check out this promising work (right, “Occupied” installation at previous show).
A series of clay pots named “Road Kill” by Marie Perrin-McGraw (from University of the Arts) plays on funeral urns and the tradition of plants and birds and other animals on pottery. Another grouping, “Farm,” is a series of cups each representing the farm animal painted on them. I thought the ideas were smart and hilarious, but the objects as things didn’t quite achieve the same level as the ideas (left, Perrin-McGraw’s “Road Kill” urns).

Others in the show were Joy Holland (Tyler School of Art), with layered, glued paper that made me think of a less expansive version of the paper layers of Tam Van Tran and Tessa Kennedy (University of the Arts) with brooches and pendants on dark themes , and Maggie Casey with an elaborate contraption of shivering feathers and weights on strings (right, by Holland).