Weekly Update – Pentimenti pleases

This week’s Weekly has my review of Pentimenti’s summer show. Below is the copy with some added pictures. More photos at flickr.

Breezy Does It
Pentimenti’s group show offers loveliness and edge.

“In Summer the Song Sings Itself”
Through Sept. 15 (gallery closed July 24-Aug. 28). Pentimenti Gallery, 145 N. Second St. 215.625.9990.

Thomas Doyle
Thomas Doyle’s miniature environments at Pentimenti escape the trap of precious and instead intrigue with their mystery narrative content.

Pentimenti’s summer group show is like one of those eight-countries-in-eight-days European tours. The whirlwind of color, texture, mountains, cities, beaches and woods leaves you panting. And when you’re home, you’ll have delicious memories—even if you don’t remember half of the specifics.

Eight emerging artists work in a variety of media, and whether abstract or representational, the works exude a smiling, breezy confidence that while life’s not always a beach, it’s not a total black hole either.

Matthew Fisher
Matthew Fisher, oil on canvas, at Pentimenti. Fisher had a solo show at Spector Gallery a few years back. The paintings here are complex, beautifully painted and full of romantic landscapes and forlorn militarists.

There are edgy dark sentiments (Matthew Fisher) and madcap moments (Thomas Doyle, Deborah Hamon, Scot Wittman), all tempered by spots of sheer elegance and beauty (Cara Enteles, Kirk McCarthy, Sarah Daub, Gabe Brown).

Matthew Fisher
Matthew Fisher, painting showing soldiers and a little bird. Birds are often minor albeit important characters in Fisher’s works.

What tickles me most in this solid group show is to see Brooklyn’s Matthew Fisher join Pentimenti’s ranks. Fisher’s paintings of forlorn Prussian soldiers (seen at Spector Gallery in 2005) are embodiments of both state and masculinity gone awry. They’re also the epitome of deadpan cool. The toy soldiers (they’d make great bobblehead dolls) are emblems of war and empire that provoke feelings of introspection and emotional fragility.

Deborah Hamon
Deborah Hammon’s digital prints merge photo background and a painted figure. Their ambiance is whimsical and playful.

Beset by repeat encounters with ogre-like song birds, and overpowered by romantic landscapes, Fisher’s soldiers all but fall apart and weep. Whether they’re AWOL or just on R&R (there are no battlefields), these soldiers need a little tenderness. You can’t help but read today’s military men (and women) into these guys, which makes them all the more dear.

Scot Wittman's cut paper maps translate into heraldic and iconic images. Here a map of Paris becomes a lady with a blue skirt.
Scot Wittman’s cut paper maps translate into heraldic and iconic images. Here a map of Paris becomes a lady with a blue skirt.

New to me is New Jersey’s Scot Wittman, whose cut-paper silhouettes made from city maps are a tour de force. In Wittman’s 50 works the streets of Paris, London and Berlin translate with an uncanny charm into animals, knights, ladies and loving couples.

Sarah Daub
Sarah Daub’s cut paper pieces involve delicate outlines of objects layered together in non-narrative arrangements. The meaning eludes but the delicate shapes please.

Philadelphian Sarah Daub’s delicate lacy cut-paper pieces achieve lift-off as never before. New Yorker Thomas Doyle’s miniature sculptures under glass are excellent make-your-own-adventure stories. California’s Deborah Hamon creates a new paradigm for revisionist history with great faux snapshots that merge painted figures and photographic landscapes.

Cara Enteles
Cara Enteles, uses pink glass as a foil for her silhouette-tree-scape. Look at it big to see the little bird. This is a detail of a larger work.

Elsewhere Cara Enteles, Gabe Brown and Kirk McCarthy use citrus colors and undulating shapes in beautiful works that reference summer trees, sky, waves, magical twilights and the cosmos. It’s great to be reminded of these transcendental wonders, and they add to the show’s easy, breezy summer feel.

Over time Pentimenti has tweaked its stable of artists to present a show that’s edgy, playful and ridiculously pretty. It’s clear Christine Pfister has hit her stride as a gallerist. The program is sure-footed, and the gallery’s participation in national art fairs has broadened its reach in both selling and scouting new talent—something that certainly benefits Philadelphia’s art scene.