Weekly Update – Seidman and Hagen and newsy sketches

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My review of the Anne Seidman and Susan Hagen exhibits at Schmidt-Dean Gallery is in this week’s Weekly. Under the story are a couple of sketches with news bits in them. Here’s the link to the paper and below is the copy. And here are links to Libby’s reviews of Hagen and Seidman here on artblog.

Pair of Hearts


Schmidt-Dean Gallery’s knack for pairing one artist with another in a two-person show is something akin to magical. The gallery’s match-ups often seem improbable, as they do this month with abstract paintings by Anne Seidman and carved animals and figures by Susan Hagen. But what the two artists have in common-a delicacy of touch that conveys vulnerability, sensitivity and compassion-makes this pairing a kind of beautiful conversation about shared space and hope in a world of disarray.

In her second solo exhibit with Schmidt-Dean, Seidman has painted her way to abstract motifs that are so suggestive of the hubbub of humanity and the need for order and clarity that the abstract works seem to narrate more than many “narrative” paintings do.

The untitled works on paper mounted on wood use fields of color and texture to create, for example, canyons that bracket a light-infused central space, or a periscope searching over stormy water. Some of the works evoke patchwork quilts, stacks of books or steps of a house. The business of the city and the happy coexistence of buildings and people are consistently suggested.

Seidman works her paint hard, and her surfaces include everything from blood-red drips suggesting wounds to scrapings and bubbles that recall house painting. (Her materials include house paint, along with many other water-based media.) The horizontal and vertical scrapings evoke the watery flow of information that washes over us every day.

Seidman’s world is one in which there’s a tension between solidity and flow. There’s an uneasy peace here that could be altered if solid gives ground and flow takes over. In a world built up block by uneven block, it doesn’t take much to make those blocks tumble from their moorings and float away.

From stable blocks of linden wood, Susan Hagen carves figures that are emblems of a world of instability: animals that are endangered or extinct and American soldiers from the Iraq war. These mini monuments to the triumph of imbalance over balance are lovely-and hard to look at.

Hagen’s animals are beautifully depicted. Their carving and colors are subtle, and their surfaces are rubbed and oiled to a beautiful sheen. Quiet and dignified, these are sad animals portrayed as individuals.

Hagen’s “Lost Army” soldiers, charred to a hellish black-brown that’s almost like chocolate, are antiheroic. Feet squarely on the ground, shoulders relaxed, these men (and one woman) are as normal as a group of people waiting for an elevator. Childlike and vulnerable, these could be your neighbors in dress-up.

Both artists-who also appear in the “Operation RAW” exhibit-make works that express dismay. Hagen’s figures are like game pieces for Seidman’s gameboards of life. The time of expressionistic outpourings over politics and war is long gone. Picasso’s Guernica and the hot rage of expressionism won’t work at a time when cool and ironic are in vogue. But here, Hagen and Seidman show an alternate voice to express their dismay: passion clothed with beauty, restraint and dignity.

“Anne Seidman: Watching” and “Susan Hagen: The Lost Army/Animalia Rarissima”
Through Oct. 15. Schmidt-Dean Gallery, 1710 Sansom St. 215.569.9433.

sketches

Christina Vassallo and Matthew Fisher, whose curatorial projects come together under the catchy brand name MatCH-Art, are pulling together a museum-quality show with a big Philly presence for the nonprofit Shore Institute of Contemporary Art in Long Branch, N.J. The “O Show,” with work revolving around all things circular, opens Nov. 30 and runs through Jan. 8, with an opening Dec. 11. MatCH-Art’s Philadelphia connection? Fisher went to art school with our town’s Rob Matthews, represented by Gallery Joe. (Fisher’s paintings and drawings appear regularly at Spector Gallery, and he has a painting in “Operation RAW” at the Icebox Project Space.) Artists in the “O Show” include Matthews, Mark Shetabi, Randall Sellers, Nami Yamamoto and James Rosenthal. And Matthews emailed to say he’s loaning his recently acquired Jim Houser painting for the show as well.

Douglas Takeshi Wolfe, a photographer whose lovely black-and-white photographs of Philadelphia office buildings at night I remember fondly from CAN exhibits, emailed to say he’s self-produced a book of his works, 31. Wolfe’s photos from the book-which covers a 10-year period-are now on view at Gallery 339. The artist, who’s 31 now, has a great eye for the lyrical forlorn, delivering shots that are evocative of the here and now yet timeless as well.

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