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Nice view–Paris by Puma

pumasundayPaintings and drawings of Paris fresher than the Bois are hanging at Afif Gallery until Sept. 2 (top image, “Sunday,” oil on canvas).
pumagodsendsThe love affair with Paris are by Jessica Puma, one of the Philadelphia area artists included in this year’s issue of “New American Paintings,” and as in the book, she’s still using lit-up skin tones and textures for architecture, giving light and warmth to the usual grim grays. Shots of Mediterranean blues practically turn the place into the tropics. She must have had a hell of a trip (left, “Godsend,” oil on canvas).
pumakingdomofheavenThe other lovable quality in these paintings is the absolute rejection of right angles, a general lack of interest in long perspectival views down streets, or rigid reproduction of architectural balance. Puma digs right in and pulls out the juiciest visions of windows, walls, and rooftops that then become quirky still lifes breathing against the sky. She’s fearless with graphite and crayon and slams down jittery lines with force (right, “Kingdom of Heaven,” oil on canvas).

Afif is also showing a small group show, “Being and Self,” in the back that has some gems. In case you hadn’t been paying attention, Afif has been putting out national calls for small, juried shows in the back room on a regular basis, and they usually include several things I find interesting–sometimes from local artists I’ve never heard of, sometimes from somewhere in the hinterlands. You never know.

This show had several works that caught my eye.

posliturchildhoodmemoriesFrom Inga Poslitur, a Brooklynite who was born near the Black Sea, paints beautiful gouache and watercolor images with a storybook quality. The rich color infusions in the large fields, the details in the oriental rugs, the Russian-folk influence in the figures, the gentle sense of light, all add up to beauty (left, “Childhood Memories”).
thompsonsundaymorningFrom Heather Spriggs Thompson, an operatic “Sunday Morning” hits just the right notes of pink and blue in a C-print of a family melodrama. I especially loved the glee of conquest in little sister. Perfect (right, “Sunday Morning”).
hiltonameagerfishMemphis artist John Hilton drew a portrait of disappointment, a couple sharing “A Meager Fish.” The graphite picture, with its somewhat outsider technique, has a touch of wry humor and great sympathy with the couple, who form a unified block of drapy t-shirts at the top of the picture. Even though their irritation pushes their focus in opposite directions, the man is still comforting the woman whose eyes are madder than a hornet’s. They have a right to be irritated. Look at the size of the fish. Loved it (left, “A Meager Fish).

harmonvalleyoftheballsIn the front window (that’s why I’ve got such glare in the corner there) playful, curly bears catch streams of darts amidst beachballs and bubbles. “Valley of the Balls,” by Erin Harmon, is darned loopy. I loved it. Harmon is also from Memphis. Something good must be happening down there. The description says oil on canvas, but it looks like a resin-layered image (right, “Valley of the Balls”).

Others in the show include: Philadelphian Burnell Yow!, whose photo, “One Life no Encore” of a metronome assemblage, which is also on display, augurs life’s time passing. Pam Aloisa’s “Small Details” is a dense and intriguing monoprint with a baby on glowing sheets, surrounding by a suffocatingly gloomy space full of stuff; Aloisa is from Florida. Also in the show are Sarah Demas with a couple of academic paintings, Tami Crupi with a silverprint photograph in which the nude and the bathroom both have more texture and age than is traditionally desirable, Margot Herster with a digital C-print of coffee cups and love, and Pittsburgher Monique Luck’s large mixed media collage, “Butterfly Drowning.”