African Americans at Sherman Mills

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African American Students and Emerging Artists Group Exhibition at the Schuylkill Gallery in East Falls is a bit scattered as a show–a shame because there’s some good work in it.

Cullen Washington, 50 CENTS, etching and rhinestones on fabric
Cullen Washington, 50 CENTS, etching and rhinestones on fabric

The most surprising work in the show was by Cullen Washington, who is studying at Tufts University. While his old-fashioned looking etching of a black man on paper. “Poppa T,” a pun on the word “property,” was nicely done, it’s his portrait etched on a ragged, stained piece of fabric is extraordinary. The head of the subject, who I presume is rapper 50 Cent, is outlined in rhinestones, the torso bare like that of a slave up on the block. The fabric suggests both the ubiquitous t-shirt, emblazoned with advertising, and a slave’s shirt, soaked in blood. Whichever era you choose, you’re seeing another black male body in the realm of commerce.

Door #14 bycorey armpriester (3)
Corey Armpriester, Door #14, image supplied by the artist.

A nice contrast to Washington’s work is local photographer Corey Armpriester’s “Door” series, which the artist writes was triggered by burqas and their patriarchal implications. Again, the body and who is gazing at it are in question. Armpriester’s figures are cloaked and masked in several ways–metallic-looking face coverings, dread-lock curtains over faces, faces masked by deep shadow, etc. The cloaks, barely visible in dark light, suggest the person beneath and the cloak as skin–the public side of a human being, and the secret side beneath. And they also suggest something about any masked figure in any culture–a threat, an idea of sinister forces unloosed underneath the mask, and antithetically, hiding and shame.

Armpriester’s imagery goes well beyond its literal sources and its political points, and that’s a good thing. It also suggests fashion photography, and that seems just right, if we think of some of the ideas in any culture as a kind of fashion that is subject to questioning, change, and reinterpretation.

Gerold Mooney
Gerold Mooney, Too Late, 30 cm. x 30 cm., mixed on Plexi. If you’re wondering just how big 30 cm. is, it’s about a foot.

Of Gerold Mooney’s paintings, his Too Late, is a formalist take on a city scene made with paint atop Plexiglas atop fabrics. The fabrics peeking through lay down the basic shapes in the painting and turn it into a surprise. This painting has a fresh directness and simplicity. Mooney is at University of the Arts.

Also in the show, Ophelia Chambliss, whose bright paintings with masks and jazz references need more content, something she tried to give to the painting Sticks and Stones, but the idea and means of expression don’t quite fuse. Also in the show, nice suede leather pouches by Moore College grad Jessica Jackson.

Gallery owner Jocelyn Upshur-Greenberg said that she was open to showing a wide range of work. It’s a nice, semi-raw space, and if you’re comfortable in a gallery that mixes boutique goods along with the art and is a little off the beaten track, you might want to stop in and talk to Jocelyn.

Tags

corey armpriester, cullen washington, gerold mooney, schuylkill gallery

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