Sit up straight, stop frowning

Birch Bark Ass, by Matt Fisher

A show of paintings and drawings of modest size at UArts Gallery 817 (upstairs from Rosenwald-Wolf) is definitely worth attention. The show called “Posture and Expression” was curated by artist Rob Matthews.

The title lets you know right off the bat that the show has some lessons to teach; it also lets you know that this show reflects some of Matthews’ own art-making concerns. It’s old-fashioned didacticism made me think of all the injunctions from my mother to sit up straight and stop frowning. I still slouch and I still frown. Can’t help it. But the artists in the show, all of whose names have appeared here numerous times, have learned their lesson well, and then reshaped the lesson to their own lights. In Matthews’ press notice, he wrote:


The exhibition was assembled to highlight Philadelphia artists that work with the figure but not necessarily in a traditional Philadelphia/Academy approach.

House Arrest, by Mark Shetabi

I liked almost every piece in the show, so picking a couple of pictures is hard; I put the whole suite of my photos of the show on Flickr.


Even though it’s not a human figure, I sure did like the fine figure cut by an ass in Matt Fisher’s Birch Bark Ass–a somewhat lost creature out of his own element in an endless expanse. I took the beast as a symbol for a human being.

House Arrest, by Mark Shetabi, brings the big world of international affairs and politics into the little gallery in a poignant image of a man whose life is on hold–but not his mind.

Healer #1, by Rob Matthews

Also in the exhibit are interesting works by Jane Irish (from the Operation RAW suite), Rebecca Westcott (also something you may have seen before), Susan Moore (she’s painting on acrylic gel medium in which beads are suspended, giving her a smaller, slicker version of the chunky oil stick marks she used in her enormous portraits), Norm Paris (continuing his Michael Jordan obsession with great drawing style), Sarah Roche (with a couple of oddly lit, eerie pieces), and Matthews himself (with a noir self-portrait with his wife in the midst of some questionable goings on that the title and her upturned hand put in the realm of religion).

The show has only 13 works, most pretty small, but they serve as a strong argument for how traditional technique can serve contemporary visions.