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Weekly Update – Emerging artist shows highlight sculpture


This week’s Weekly has my review of two emerging artist showsStreet Button and Isskustvo Transmagica Provinces Animamina. Below is the copy with some pictures. More photos at flicker (street button, isskustvo ). And here are Libby’s street button post and Libby’s Isskustvo post.

Happy Happy Joy Toy
New sculpture emphasizes friendliness.

Jesse Greenberg, Kate Norton, Pageant
Jesse Greenberg’s installation at Pageant sprawls across the gallery. That’s Kate Norton’s piece
to the right of the doorway.

Two great sculptural installations push the emerging artist shows at Pageant and Fleisher-Ollman into the desirable (but often unachievable) zone of art as serious fun. It’s too soon to tell whether new, fresh and accessible sculpture like this will save art from its self-imposed isolation in formalist concerns and hermetically sealed abstraction, but it might well point the way.

Jesse Greenberg’s wall-to-wall installation at Pageant is the epitome of a new kind of friendly object-making, one that grows from whatever materials and methods are at hand into an installation that looks different each time it’s shown. The end is more important than the materials, and the goal is almost theatrical­: to create a kind of stage on which the viewer prowls like an actor in a play.

Jesse Greenberg, binxes
Jesse Greenberg’s Binxes, sprinkled around the room like a toy trail.

Greenberg annoints Pageant’s space with a hundred or more big and small objects. With his crazy mix of plastics, cast resins, found wood and other scavenged material, the local artist is one of the finest makers of this new kind of sculpture. His particular invention is what he calls binxe­s—small handheld objects cast and glued together. These are meant to be picked up and touched (they’re for sale), and with their Jolly Rancher colors they look like toys.

Greenberg’s larger works are fantasy furniture and art made for an alternate universe. These works are riding a contemporary collective unconscious­—like Eva Hesse did in her day. Their longing for Candy Land as well as for a place for spiritual connection is palpable.

Jesse Greenberg
Detail from Greenberg’s installation–visually rich and emotionally open. Altars and offerings everywhere.

The work is like nothing else being made anywhere. You could compare it to what’s in “Unmonumental” at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, but Greenberg’s emphasis on the positive instead of the forlorn/abject puts his work in a class apart.

Jesse Greenberg, Kate Norton
Kate Norton’s work, right, is edgy and like a sex fetish toy.

If Greenberg is the boy-child visionary, Kate Norton’s sensibility is pinker, softer and more threatening (chains and feathers instead of resin), but she’s a shaman and a dreamer/anointer as well.

Nick Lenker's photo collage where tiny animal-headed warriors seem to be working for or against the big pig-headed giant. Weird and new.
Nick Lenker’s photo collage where tiny animal-headed warriors seem to be working for or against the big pig-headed giant. Weird and new.

Sarah Everton
Sarah Everton’s paintings of polar bears and a skier.

Rounding out Pageant’s show are Nick Lenker’s digital prints of nude warriors struggling against powerful animal-headed powers, and Sarah Everton’s bear, deer, bunny and horse paintings, which with their cute imagery are overshadowed by the extroverted works nearby.

Fleisher Ollman
Andrew Brehm
Andrew Brehm’s suitcase-furniture at Fleisher-Ollman. The piece appears in a video in which the artist assembles the furniture and sits down — gingerly — to read.

Jamie Dillon
Jamie Dillon’s circus-like stack at Fleisher Ollman lends some color to a show with little bright color in it.

At Fleisher-Ollman, Andrew Brehm’s sculptural installation of a desk, a bookshelf and a living room for a young nomad living out of suitcases is both goofy and poignant. The stagey piece is evocative of students living on nothing but pennies and their imaginations, and also adults who dwell in similar circumstances. Jamie Dillon’s sculpture Step Pyramid No. 2 with its circus colors and circus elephant ambience is a reminder of life’s comedies. Also in the show are Stephanie Beck, Gregory Brellochs, Andrew Gbur, Jennifer Levonian, Ryan McCartney, Eva Wylie and Yvonne Lung.

The user-friendly sculptures exhibited in these shows point to a time when art was a dinner conversation opener instead of a conversation killer—and that’s good for everyone.

“Isskustvo Transmagica Provinces Animamina”
Through Feb. 3. Pageant: Soloveev, 607 Bainbridge St. 215.733.0309.

“Street Button”
Through Jan. 26. Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut St., suite 100. 215.545.7562.