Weekly Update – Whisper and Challenge 3

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This week’s Weekly includes my review of “Whisper Down the Lane” at Klein Gallery and a sketch of the Fleisher Challenge 3. Here’s the link to the art page and below is the copy with some images. For more pictures see my Whisper set and Fleisher set at flickr. And here’s Libby’s Fleisher post

Working on the Chain Gang
An unconventional method of curation has excellent results.

“Whisper Down the Lane” at Klein Gallery is a show with a curious premise: Grow an exhibit by chain reaction, asking one artist to select another, who will select the next and so on. Thirteen artists and some months later, curator Amy Adams had her exhibit. Adams set the chain in motion by asking Stefan Abrams to participate. Abrams selected Jeff McMahon, who selected Joe Begonia, who selected Buy Shaver, who selected Jeremiah Misfeldt. The genealogy skewed the gender mix, with guys mostly choosing guys. That’s not a complaint-just a comment on friendship. The resulting show is heavy with photography and photo-based imagery, and pregnant with longing for a better world.


(image is photo by Abrams, the alpha piece in the show. blue light reflected in glass is from Shaver‘s piece which sits across the gallery. Top image is Sabrina Lessard‘s nest egg and Aaron Igler‘s oil drum)

Two works stand out for their linkage as an art pair: Sabrina Lessard‘s Untitled wall sculpture and Aaron Igler‘s Untitled conceptual assemblage. Igler invited Lessard to participate, and whether they talked about what they’d put in the show, their works-which sit side by side in the sequentially installed show-are like a one-two punch that describes an ecologically endangered planet and proposes redress.

Lessard’s cast resin and silicon rubber piece is an oversized bird’s nest sitting on a tree branch. The branch is white and dead. The nest is translucent blue and holds several enormous waxy eggs that are deformed–round as globes. The piece, made with unnatural materials, is an icon of death.

Igler’s assemblage is a large metal barrel propped on a wooden armature accompanied by two plastic jugs containing a dark liquid. The artist’s description takes the piece from ordinary to conceptual. It’s a “drum to hold the estimated amount of WVO (waste vegetable oil) needed to drive from the artist’s home (Philadelphia, Pa.) to the residence of George W. Bush (Crawford, Texas) in a fuel-system-converted ’83 Mercedes-Benz 240D. Action upon arrival yet undetermined.”


The veiled threat of action is at first laughable (this is conceptual art after all), and yet its hint of terrorism and DIY-ism speaks to a level of frustration with the world that makes sane people commit rash acts.

Serendipity doesn’t always produce a happy outcome, but here, when friend chose friend, it did. Other artists in the show are Norm Paris, Jackie Hoving, Dominique Rey, Chris Curreri, Balint Zsako and Natalie Matutschovsky. (image is Matutschovsky‘s photo, the last piece, the omega of the show)

“Whisper Down the Lane”
Through Feb. 25. Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, 3701 Market St. 215.966.6188.

Island Records

Focusing on the human, the artists of Fleisher’s “Challenge 3” discover we’re old as Moses and new as tomorrow’s tabloid superstar. Susan Bank‘s black-and-white photographs of tobacco farmers in Cuba are beautiful and compassionate. Unstudied shots of people who live in thatched cottages and till their fields with ox-drawn plows, the photos portray small moments with dignity and grace. (image is one of Bank‘s photos. The artist told me at the opening that she stayed with this woman while she was in the village)

Phyllis Gellmin Laver
‘s monumental charcoal portraits evoke Leonardo and Eakins and the age-old dialogue between artist and model. (image is detail of one of Laver‘s drawings)

Performance and installation artist Roxana Pérez-Méndez inserts politics. Filling the gallery with an array of video clips, interactive props and a shrine, the artist fabricates a myth about a glamorous woman astronaut in the Puerto Rican space program PASA.

(image above and below are from Perez-Mendez‘s installation. Above is a detail of a table-top piece that is a model of a radio-telescope that sits atop some mountain in Puerto Rico. The artist substituted music for the static sounds of space waves usually coming in. What you hear is something like those boom box beats you might hear from someone’s car stereo when they’ve got the bass cranked up. I hope I got this explanation — told me by Fleisher’s Warren Angle — right. Someone correct me if I mashed the details. Below is the artist’s video showing the artist/astronaut tumbling through space and right out of the picture. Perez-Mendez’s videos are what make the installation for me. They are lyrical, well done, adventurous and sweetly loopy.)


There’s critique here of Puerto Rico’s second-class status in the world, and some finger-pointing at Americans who may have visited the island for vacation but presumably don’t understand much Spanish. (The installation is in Spanish with no English subtitles). The artist asks the viewer to crawl inside her Puerto Rican skin, and that’s a great exercise in exploring human identity.

Through Feb. 11. Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St. 215.922.3456.