Is that a video at Gallery Joe? Yes, and so much more

Rachel Perry Welty
Rachel Perry Welty, Friends & Family, video on DVD, 8 minutes, edition of 25

Not meaning to slight the various other wonderful work at Gallery Joe, I had to lead with the video! This has to be a first in the history of this jewel of a gallery that usually limits its shows to intense drawings.

The video, by Rachel Perry Welty, is excellent and hilarious–I stood for all 8 minutes, not wanting to miss a word. But you know how it is when you get a message on a phone machine, and some of the words come through a little garbled. Same here. That’s because this video, Friends & Family, uses as a voice over Welty’s phone machine messages, filled with a mix of drama, rambling, emotional shorthand–the daily traffic of life, which Welty herself lip syncs to hilarious effect.

Even while Welty apes her friends and family, the voices still have that disembodied, no-feedback quality that phone machine messages have. It’s hilarious.

Rachel Perry Welty
Rachel Perry Welty, Spam Series: take a look at your future (Antoine, April 2, 2006 11:02:15 AM EDT), 2008, one piece of aluminum foil, whole piece 5.5 x 90 x .5 inches

Speaking of no-feedback messages from beyond reality, Welty also is showing one of her Spam series pieces–all of the pieces based on text in bits of email spam she has received. The spam is spelled out in a continuous piece of aluminum foil shaped into the words. This one is “take a look at your future” from someone claiming to be Antoine. You can order pieces of other bits and bytes of spam, from “is it me you looking for?” to the evergreen “you may already be a winner.”

Rachel Perry Welty
Rachel Perry Welty, Brillo, 2008, color laser prints and adhesive, 8.5 x 15 x 8 inches, (200 boxes, each box 1 7/8 x 1 1/4 x 1/2 inches

While the bulk of the work Welty is showing is made from grocery store fruit stickers cut and used like pen marks, my favorite was a new take on the old Warhol gag–a pile of Brillo boxes–but these are updated to the newest Brillo packaging. The labels are shrunk laser prints applied to tiny boxes stacked to look like a (well scrubbed) landscape. I’m also thinking those little lunch-packs of Sunmaid raisins. For all the references to Warhol, this piece is less about the advertising brio of its surfaces and more about the invasion of its subliminal messages into our dirty little homes.

In all of these pieces, there’s a sense of the randomness of what comes pinging into our daily lives, unconsidered and inconsiderate. Welty makes us look.

Samantha Simpson
Samantha Simpson, March, 2008, ballpoint pen on paper, 30 x 22 inches

Also at Gallery Joe are a series of posters by Samantha Simpson. They imagery comes from a wide range of popular culture imagery and lettering from times past. The letters and styles reference everyone from Toulouse Lautrec‘s Folies Bergeres posters, old circus posters, Victoriana and book plates.

Samantha Simpson
detail, March, one of the side commentaries

Each one carries a message, some sort of motto about life. But interwoven or on the side are commentary–the equivilent of political cartoonist Pat Oliphant‘s belying little birdie. The contrariness of these asides lends not just humor, but successfully undercuts the portentiousness of the truisms that holds center stage. This way, Simpson gets to say the big stuff and to laugh at herself all at once!

Sebastian Rug
Sebastian Rug, untitled (ANo. 11), 2008, graphite on paper, 16.5 x 11.5 inches

In the vault, four artists’ obsessive systematic drawings reference things like maps, cityscapes, star charts, fabric and architecture, while being none of those things. My first love there is German artist Sebastian Rug, an obsessive micro-drawer of impossible maps.

Isabel Albrecht
Isabel Albrecht, Zeichnungen 7, 2008, ink on paper, 10 x 10 inches

But artist Isabel Albrecht, also from Germany, also swept me away with the variety of her repeated straight lines and the way they seemed to reference the sorts of infinity in patterns that Andreas Gursky sometimes captures.

Bruce Pollock
Bruce Pollock, (I think this one is Break up, 2006, ink and pencil on paper, 8 x 40 inches; if I have it wrong, someone will tell me and I’ll correct. Otherwise, that’s what it must be).

Bruce Pollock‘s wide pentagonal webs, mixed with irregular brick shapes, suggest at once the fragility and magical mystery of the universe. Pollock is the only American-born artist (Ohio) in this crowd and he is, as most of you know, a long-time Philadelphian who shows at Fleisher-Ollman Gallery.

Sharka Hyland, Ideal City 5, 2008, Silver leaf, zinc plate, ink, gesso & acrylic on Briston board, 29 x 36 inches
Sharka Hyland, Ideal City 5, 2008, Silver leaf, zinc plate, ink, gesso & acrylic on Briston board, 29 x 36 inches

Sharka Hyland‘s layered faux cityscapes, with their superimposed materials and colors and their intensive workmanship, for all their similarities to the other three, looks like they aren’t at home in this exhibit. Hyland, born in Czechoslovakia, has been teaching at PennDesign (UPenn) for 10 years.

You still have another month to catch this show.