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Big Parties & Bright Colors at the first First Friday of 2007


In my First Friday wanderings down in Old City this January I noticed that a lot of the artwork seemed to be of a similar breed: large and colorful. I am talking neon, and wall-sized. This trend leads me to believe that, together, all of the artwork had the power to ward off the low temperatures and winter snows that should probably be plaguing the fair city at this time of year. Although it was a bit rainy, I was not the only person who was holding their coat, instead of wearing it.

Timothy Bower "Homeland"
Timothy Bowen’s “Homeland” at Carbon14. The black and white contour in the background seems to be of a winter scene, and it is covered by the neon brush strokes… warming up First Friday.

The first gallery I stopped into was Carbon14, which featured a group show of four painters. Libby already identified her favorite works here in her post, so I will only add that I loved Timothy Bowen’s neon-colored paintings, which juxtaposed war-related images (camouflage and guns) with cute animals (kitties and bunnies). I couldn’t help but think that he was poking fun at the seriousness of the world around us, though the effect was comical. He is the owner of Falling Cow Gallery, and one of the pieces that was in this exhibit at Carbon14 was also in an exhibit of his there last summer. Read more about it here.

Kelly Catenacci "Italian Summer (Triptych)"
Kelly Catenacci’s “Italian Summer (Triptych)” at Knapp

Next, I jumped next door to the Knapp Gallery to check out how the new(er) space was doing. Inside the gallery, which is dedicated to showing student artwork, I found a group show comprised of three ladies who are juniors at Moore College. The exhibit, “Controlled Chaos,” featured an impressive number of the artists’ abstract works, mixed in together over the walls. When I asked why the exhibit had been hung this way, rather than having been separated by artist, the manager, Alex, replied that it was the girls’ wish to do so, because they often work on their paintings together in the same studio. Their choice made sense in this context, but I believe the overall effect was somewhat overwhelming. However, I was able to pull one painting that I loved out of the many: Kelly Catenacci’s “Italian Summer (Triptych),” which, though abstract, had a very real depth to it, seeming to portray a landscape a la Venice. See pictures of more that I liked from this exhibit here.

The scene at F.U.E.L. on First Friday

Certainly, the most impressive party on First Friday could be found at F.U.E.L. Upon approaching the door, I was given two drink tickets before I moved inside, more by the massive crowd pushing into the gallery behind me than my own momentum. Inside, I found an impressive spread of food, wine and beer; a DJ; and, at one point, a great band, which encouraged dancing. The new Philadelphia insider blog, uwishunu, seemed to be the sponsor of this event, and the back of the gallery had laptops so that visitors could log on to the site during the course of the night. See more pix of the scene here.

View from 2nd Floor Balcony, FUEL
View from the 2nd Floor Balcony at F.U.E.L.

Although the art on the first level of F.U.E.L. was definitely overshadowed by the crowds and entertainment, (and I found myself at some times wondering if the gallery was intending to have a party rather than an exhibit), on the second floor there was a bit more space to contemplate what I had really come there for: the art. The first artist that I enjoyed was the China-born and NYC-raised Gigi Chen, whose very simple artist statement read, “All work and no play makes Gigi sleep less. And so there is coffee.”

Gigi Chen
Gigi Chen

And coffee there was to be found in her paintings, which were cartoonish, bright and fun. Each painting in the exhibit shared similar colors, characters and brown splashes of “coffee,” as well as the familiar “We are Happy to Serve You” coffee cups from Chinese restaurants. I also enjoyed the disturbingly-cute animals that were interacting with the real people (Are those chains?).

Megan Skill - "Tell the King the Sky Has Fallen"
Megan Skill’s “Tell the King the Sky Has Fallen” at F.U.E.L.

The other work I enjoyed was Megan Skill’s large triptych of mixed media, “Tell the King the Sky Has Fallen.” Its massive size and strong, red color was attractive without overwhelming you to the point of seeming overdone. I felt a sense of peace when standing before it, probably derived from the symmetry and the gentle curving of the red fleur-de-lis. It seemed very organic and fresh.

Work by Nose on 2nd St
Artwork by Nose, as displayed on 2nd St.

I was also happy to find that there was much art out on the streets, despite the dampness of the night. Outside of Freejade on 2nd St., which didn’t have an exhibit this month, was artwork by one of the artists that is a frequent contributor to that gallery, a man who goes by the name of Nose. Again, his work was fresh and colorful, in keeping with the apparent theme of the night. I have more pictures from the other galleries that I visited on my flickr site here.

And thusly did I pass the first First Friday of 2007. Now, I would like to wish everyone at artblog a Happy New Year, as I have not already done so, and say that I am looking forward to the upcoming First Fridays. Signing off!

-Caitlin Gutekunst, the artblog intern.