November’s First Friday


Well! November’s First Friday was an exciting time to visit the galleries down in Old City (certainly better than the rainy First Friday of October) – lots of people out, lots of live music, and lots of awesome art. I went to some seven or eight galleries in total, and here will highlight six artists featured in four of these galleries whose art I found to be especially interesting.

To start, it seemed that 2nd Street was the place to be on First Friday – and more specifically at Artist’s House. Viewers spilled out onto the street and waited in line to enter the gallery, which exhibited the work of seven artists, and thus I was curious to see what was inside.

“Self-portrait” by Anthony Palumbo

The first artist I encountered was Anthony Palumbo – whose art you can see from the window, should you stroll by. I was immediately taken by how evocative of a mood Palumbo created with each image – an urban, underground metro feeling, as dirty as the scene in which each subject is placed. The subjects wear leather jackets, scruffy beards and winter coats, and are featured in such areas as the subway (I’m assuming in Manhattan), a bathroom with graffiti, the street, and Chinatown. In his bio on the Artist’s House website, Palumbo states that “Every figure I’ve painted is a hero.”

Anthony Palumbo’s “Red Hood”

I liked this description of his work and how each painting seems to glorify the downtrodden and the individual of America’s cities. Each subject stares out at the viewer with a look that is half-challenge, half-misery, but never disinterest. Palumbo captures the spirit of a chance locking of the eyes in a busy metropolis. Libby has written about him before; here is a link to her post in May 2005, here in December 2004, and here is Roberta’s post about him in December 2003 here. Whew. I hadn’t realized he was so widely covered in Artblog ’till now. Good stuff.

“Evening Gown” by Arcenio Martin Campos.

Another artist featured in the Artist’s House who captured the fragility of a moment was Arcenio Martin Campos. Campos claims that his art represents a search for the subject’s underlying meaning and the answer as to why he creates art in the first place. His figure drawings manifest this quest with an intensity that is a gesture of both violence and beauty. The artist often works in bold primary colors and blacks and paints the figures’ skin in cold hues. Also, many of his figures are headless and tearing at their clothes, their appendages blurred in a gesture of movement. Perhaps the source of the paintings’ energetic beauty lies in the artist’s internal struggle within himself for meaning. To see more images from both artists go to my flickr site.

Melissa Grosjean and her painting, “Splash: Blue/Orange.” Latex house paint on canvas.

The Knapp Gallery on 3rd St, a new gallery that opened in October, again drew a crowd this First Friday. Dedicated to exhibiting only undergraduate art, the Knapp gallery featured the work of eleven students, focusing on two or three of them, whom the gallery selected as having “potential in tomorrow’s art world.” Last month’s featured artist was Melissa Grosjean, a senior at Moore College and Design. This month, Grosjean continues to exhibit a series of experimental paintings, each bearing the title of “Splash,” as well as numerous figure drawings. Although some of the work in the Knapp Gallery seems too primitive to be on display, much of it is quite interesting. To see more photos from the Knapp Gallery visit my flickr site here.

FirstFriday FreeJade
The collaborative efforts of Jay Scarborough and Wes Pickell: “Bloody Hand.” Screenprint and Photograph.

Speaking of expanding shows, FreeJade’s exhibit “Dream Like Reality” also attracted with its funky band and mixed media works, (much of which were from the curator, Wes Pickell‘s private collection). The show featured such artists as the Design Bureau of Amerika (See Roberta’s post from last summer here part I and here part II) and others from Philadelphia and beyond.

Christine Jones “Sex Sounds.” Mixed Media on Cardboard.

The art represented a wide array of styles and medium, from a small sculpture to a large painting bearing the words “We Wake Neighbors With Our Sex Sounds,” by Christine Jones. I liked the cutesy pink colors and the kissing deer projected over such suggestive words as these and “69? Yes!” Overall, it was a very good show. See more images on my flickr site here.

Rodger LaPelle First Friday
Romi Sloboda’s “Sixty Black and White Vessels.” Acryllic, mixed media on canvas. 60″ x 108″ (her largest work in the exhibit).

Finally, I recommend stopping by Rodger LaPelle Galleries to see Romi Sloboda‘s “Works on Paper and Painting” exhibit. Sloboda’s work features the repeated images of Korean hangari jars, onggi and celadon cups – vessels that she, as a Korean-American, remembers from her childhood. In response to the question of why she repeatedly paints these images, Sloboda claims a sentimental attachment to them; jars which, although originally in every Korean household for utilitarian purposes, have been replaced by tupperware. Rodger LaPelle galleries is known to exhibit more traditional portrait artists; in response to this fact, Sloboda said, “I guess my jars are all little portraits in themselves.” Which is true – each painting has an individual quality to it. She has spent thirteen years painting the jars, yet the show is still interesting, despite its seemingly redundant subject matter.

Rodger LaPelle First Friday
Romi Sloboda’s “Blue Ghost Cups.” Collagraph print, acryllic and collage on paper. 41″ x 41″ (triptych). Her most recent work in the show.

Sloboda’s exhibit shows work dating from 2000 to the present, and perhaps even reflects the artist’s changing mood after moving from Philadelphia to Santa Fe, in her work’s gradual shift toward bolder colors. Sloboda’s newer pieces feature a cobalt blue, such as in “Blue Ghost Cups,” and a strong gold, as seen in “Sixty Black and White Vessels.” In this exhibit, Sloboda exemplifies her ability to work on all scales: from the very small to the very big. In short, the exhibit nods at the traditional, in terms of method and subject matter, while at the same time keeping the jars new and interesting with each piece (some have really neat yarns that she found at flea markets). Read what Roberta wrote about Sloboda in a post in November 2003 here. More photos on flickr here.

I would say that these were some of the shows that were most interesting to me. I have a few more images of some of the other galleries on flickr here and here and here. Other than that, I know that Roberta is going to cover the exhibits up at Painted Bride (Xiang Yang) and Temple Art Gallery (“Empathetic”), two more I would strongly recommend, so I’ll leave that to her. Happy November!

-Caitlin Gutekunst is the Artblog intern.


anthony palumbo, arcenio martin campos, caitlin, christine jones, freejade gallery, jay scarborough and wes pickell, knapp gallery, melissa grosjean, rodger lapelle gallery, romy sloboda



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