Weekly Update – Mayer’s Sums and Seraphin’s Lines

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This week’s Weekly includes my review of “Sum of All Parts” at Bridgette Mayer Gallery and a sketch of “Out of Line” at Seraphin. Here’s the link to the art page and here’s Libby’s post on the Seraphin show.

New Mayer in Town

Just when you think you’ve got a gallery’s aesthetic down, along comes a show that proves you’ve got it only half right. “Sum of All Parts” at Bridgette Mayer is a group show with much new work by 16 gallery artists. Many of the works cleave to the gallery’s signature aesthetic-layered abstract paintings with spiritual leanings and pattern and decoration chops. But a few works range beyond, a reminder that truly good galleries aren’t monolithic, but rather elastic enough to risk a little quirkiness.

Take Jean Gaudaire Thor‘s paint-on-paper collages with their appropriated Greek or Roman imagery (from books) that the artist has “enhanced.” (image above) The brut painted interventions (a stick tree here, stocky legs there, a horse given a tail) pull the ancients off their pedestal and ask you to think of them as what they really might have been: primitive people. Iconoclasm like this isn’t new (Monty Python did it oh so well in animations), but the treatment here is subtle and lovable.

Kate Davis Caldwell‘s small acrylic paintings of mundane matter (a house, the night sky) look like bad Polaroid snapshots. (image above) Based on thrift shop finds, the paintings are odd little pretenders, dispassionate yet dark and questioning. This is work in a new direction for the young artist who’s got a solo show in the gallery in 2007.

Tim McFarlane’s new acrylic painting on the theme of ladders is a tour de force that continues themes from his recent solo show. Paintings by Neil Anderson, Clark Gibson, Elyce Abrams and Deirdre Murphy are edgy, elegant and familiar. Brooke Steytler‘s trippy antinuclear animated video Factory Man in the vault is a treat. (image is one of many swirling motifs that keep the video animation moving along.)

The most surprising and edgy piece of all is the postcard image by Dana Hargrove, a digital montage of the faces of the 16 artists reduced to outlines and cloned in Photoshop to make a blizzard of people-snowflakes whose individual beauty might be lost in a storm.

Since opening four years ago, Mayer Gallery has grown into a place where good taste, beauty, serious content and a little fun come together. Each year Mayer’s programming gets a little bolder, and I look forward to the upcoming year’s shows.

“Sum of All Parts”
Through Jan. 14. Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., first fl. 215.413.8893.

sketches


With works on paper ranging in date from the 1960s to yesterday, “Out of Line” at Seraphin Gallery is a great show. The gallery’s forte is figurative works, and that’s the glue that cements, for example, a brooding 1975 Sidney Goodman ballpoint pen landscape of a basketball court in the woods to a brooding 2002 Edgar Jerins charcoal-on-paper interior with dad and his disaffected boys.

Phoebe Adams‘ three Field and Motion pieces are the most complex and intriguing works in the show. (image is detail of one of Adams’ works) The artist starts with digital prints of microscopic images of a rock fragment (mica schist), adds a second layer of woodblock and stencil prints, and tops it off with abstract lines and shapes in pen and ink. The pieces are the primordial soup of the cosmos-and the cyber cosmos-and they’re lovely. Also not to be missed is Walter Benjamin Smith II’s virtuoso bird/man myth-maker. (image at the top of the sketch is detail of Smith’s diptych piece, which had some Max Ernst chops.)

Through Jan. 11. Seraphin Gallery, 1108 Pine St. 215.923.7000.

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