Weekly Update (1) – Et in Arcadia, excellence

This week’s Weekly has my review of Arcadia’s Works on Paper exhibit. Here’s the art page and below is the copy with more pictures. As usual, there’s more pix at flickr and here’s Libby’s post on the show.

Arcadia Fire
The tiny out-of-the-way gallery hosts the “it” show of the season.

Installation shot. As usual the pairings are great, as here, with Judith Schaechter’s print “Child Bride” who is vomiting flowers, echoed with the pile of black bird confetti on the floor by Gabriel Martinez. Nils Orth’s untitled magical alien photo portraits stare like visitors from another dimension.

Arcadia University‘s Biennial “Works on Paper” show is the “it” show for regional artists and art lovers. Known as a career springboard, this biennial show in the tiny gallery in the out-of-the-way suburb has helped raise the profiles of a number of local artists who’ve gone on to local and national prominence (Zoe Strauss, Liz Rywelski, Rob Matthews). Juried by a nonlocal curator with a national profile, the big show, now in its 24th iteration, gives a snapshot of what’s exciting and new in the region.

Installation with Linda Yun paper stack on pedestal (cosmetics used to give the paper the pink blush); Stephan Abrams Auto Show 8 on the wall and Matt Broach’s game-like memory grid.

Cornelia Butler, the chief curator of drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, juried this year’s show. She chose 48 works by 40 artists from an astonishing 883 entries. What’s notable is the richness of hand-drawn imagery as well as the overall sense of forlorn rootlessness that pervades the works. It’s a giant case of nomadism at work here. Apparently artists are feeling as if the world is an alien place and they’d like to escape into another realm. So dreams, cinema, meditation and comic books substitute and become vehicles to portray thoughts-mostly sad ones-about the world. The escapism is cinematic and dreamy, and yet there’s no comfort here.

Richard Ryan’s Spruce St. like you’ll never see it. I love the placement of this piece up high near the pipes on the wall.

Fantasy portraits by Nils Orth (see top image) show humans who don’t look human. These works-a series of three pigment-printed photographs of young, ambiguously gendered people who look bruised and dazed-are a seamless blend of photography and drawing brought together by computer tools that were themselves fantasies 10 years ago.

Bryan Warner’s Mosquito Bee, detail. Like a dress pattern, the work is taped together, with numbers and color choices penciled in.

Bryan Warner‘s hand-drawn insect fantasy depicts a hybrid mosquito-bee that’s part “what if?” and part “oh, horrors!” Stefan Abrams‘ Auto Show No. 8 shows every man’s (or woman’s) desire for something better. Caught in a moment of lust for the shiny new vehicle, this person behind the wheel looks not happy and hopeful, but trapped and hopeless. [Ed. note: Abrams showed more from the Auto Show series at Vox Populi in March. See lots more pictures here at flickr.]

Norm Paris’ Michael Jordans escape in rapture moment.

Norm Paris
‘ etching The Escape, which looks like The Rapture with Michael Jordan figures ascending to heaven, continues that artist’s theme of a human hero incapable of saving the world.

Kip Deeds, Harpers Ferry.

Kip Deeds transmogrifies history with his own telling of John Brown and Harper’s Ferry.

James Johnson’s piece which you see through the handles of the Dell computer box.

Landscapes are presented as gamelike fantasies (Richard Ryan‘s Spruce Street, Randall Sellers‘ Tomorrow) or as objects too dangerous to show (James Johnson‘s Package, a peephole landscape). In either case, the land is mediated and mostly unavailable.

Johnson’s hidden scene in a box. The comfort of home and real landscape is unattainable.

Artists with inward-focused eyes present shamanistic expressions that are like rabbit holes to another dimension.

Astrid Bowlby’s drawing, detail. Bowlby is working on a mural with the Mural Arts Program. More soon on that.

Astrid Bowlby, Michelle Oosterbaan and Janet Towbin draw beautiful repeat marks that are quiet meditations. And Thomas Vance with his cardboard and sculptamold Springsprung creates a mini cosmos that casts a big shadow even though it’s more air than substance.

Thomas Vance’s cardboard and sculptamold cosmos, foreground. Anda Dubinska’s hammering women on the wall left and Phillip Adams’ banjo man, right.

Works on paper convey the intimacy of the artist’s hand and mind at work in the studio. Something about the urgency of their making conveys an authenticity that transcends the commercial. The best drawings and works on paper are charged with personal electricity. This show-full of excellent work-is super-charged.

“Biennial Works on Paper Exhibition”
Lecture by juror Cornelia Butler Tues., April 18, 6:30pm. Free.
Stiteler Auditorium. Through April 25. Arcadia University Art Gallery, 450 S. Easton Rd., Glenside. 215.572.2133.