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Global Warming heats up the Ice Box


IMG_8034 Ben Pinder
Ben Pinder, detail, Return to Symzonia

The Ice Box at the Crane Art Center has warmed up since its days as a giant food freezer. Now it’s the venue for something warmer yet–a show about the planet’s impending meltdown. I suppose to Sarah Palin that’s still a gray area, but appropriately enough, the show also spills into the Gray Area next to the Ice Box!

Enough with the word games!

That the show, Global Warming, even happened is surely a sign that maybe we can work our way out of the disaster.

IMG_8047 Ben Pinder
Ben Pinder, detail, Return to Symzonia, real estate sales pitch video for your own little piece of Symzonia in Antarctica. It’s hilarious.

I say this because it’s the ambitious project of Philadelphia Sculptors, an organization of starving sculptors, mostly, who don’t have the kind of budget to hire a mess of staff to do their bidding. What an amazing volunteer effort this show turns out to be, bringing together 15 artists from countries near and far–farthest, Taiwan; and closest, besides U.S. and Philly, is Canada, which contributed four artists–two from Quebec and two from Prince Edward Island!

IMG_8040 Ben Pinder
Ben Pinder, Return to Symzonia, detail. Here’s one of the stamps from the Antarctic country

An exhibit with this kind of agenda could turn out to be a didactic, political snore. But that is hardly the case. What makes it remarkable to me is the range of excellent work using a variety of media and a variety of approaches–I myself have a short list, but I can see someone else making quite different choices.

Top on my list was Ben Pinder’s art equivalent of a shaggy dog (er, bear?) story, in which the artist tries to sell real estate in Antarctica. Besides the sales video, there’s a polar bear pulling a sled/Conestoga wagon with provisions, stamps for the new country, maps, an explorer’s journal/book about the place and more. I was in love with the whole shebang. It’s sane; it’s accessible; and it beats the story-telling of Matthew Ritchie.

IMG_7997 Miguel Luciano
Miguel Luciano, Platano Skates

Although we ran a video on this blog of Miguel Luciano‘s Pimp my Piragua Puerto Rican sno-cones cart that is a solar-powered pimp-mobile, with boom box audio, icy peaks video and fabulous detailing, I had not seen it before. You can bring sno-cones to Puerto Rico, but you can’t warm the climate with them. Luciano gets a lot of commentary in while providing stupendous visual entertainment.

IMG_8008 Miguel Luciano
A big kid enjoying the ride on Miguel Luciano’s The Last Coquil (a kiddy ride salute to endangered tree frog from Puerto Rico)

He also contributes a pair of hockey skates with plantain blades, and a kiddy ride in the form of an endangered tree frog. It works for a quarter. I know because I threw one in the slot just to check it out. And then I watched someone merrily ride it as it loses its habitat. Luciano just packs his pieces with thinking and with whiz bang techno finishes.

IMG_8011 Andrew Chartier
Andrew Chartier, Dioxigrapher/Dioxide-Action and anti-pollution worker suit. The machine is made from a golf cart, a bicycle wheel, etc.

I also loved Andrew Chartier’s video installation of his Rube-Goldbergian machine, the Dioxigrapher. In the video, Chartier, dressed in a biohazard suit (also on display), wheels his contraption up to an idling car’s exhaust pipe, where the machine inhales the emissions. When the car returns to the sidewalk, it suddenly spins like crazy as it draws chalk circles, apparently powered by the CO2.

Guy Laramee, The Wreck of Hope, detail of model landscape inside oil barrel
Guy Laramee, The Wreck of Hope, detail of model landscape inside oil barrel

Inside a deadpan oil barrel on an elegant scaffolding support, Guy Laramee has built a miniature sublime arctic landscape, an homage to Frederic Church’s Icebergs paintings [oops! this is not quite right. They reference Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wreck of the Hope,” and I owe Douglas Paschall a thank you for his comment below]. Laramee’s bergs, viewed through a large peephole in the side of the steel drum, looks like they are made from styrofoam, but they are of glass. The conceit seems pretty terrific to me, and the execution just right.

IMG_8006 Jason Lee
Jason Lee, Euthenic Landscape: Suburban Setting with Clouds

I also enjoyed Jason Lee’s installation of an OSHA-orange sterile-looking suburban landscape with white picket fences. Euthenic Landscape: Suburban Setting with Clouds includes video representations of clouds and grass taking the place of the real thing.

IMG_8021 James Hayes
James Hayes,a possible brutal solution to one of our ever increasing problems…!, bronze, audio equipment, 8 x 8 x 75 inches each

James Hayes’ installation of a grid of cast bronze fly swatters on pedestals, arranged in a grid, amused me with its audio of the monster flies buzzing in the super-heated climate. The piece is called, a possible brutal solution to one of our ever increasing problems…! I pick it for its fabulous title.

IMG_8031 Yi-Chuan Chen
Yi-Chuan Chen, Shower. A caution sign and a line of tape on the floor protect art lovers from getting hit in the head by the needles as they slowly drip from the cloud.

Yi-Chuan Chen’s Shower is a polyester cloud that rains sharp needles. This one gets kudos for its minimal approach to the physics of dropping the needles!!!

Here’s the who’s who from where of the participating artists:

Five artists well-known for their work on environmental issues–Michael Alstad (Canada), Stacy Levy (US), Miguel Luciano (Puerto Rico), Chicory Miles (US) and Shai Zakai (Israel)–were invited to contribute to the exhibit by project Co-Directors Cheryl Harper and Leslie Kaufman. Ten artists of 84 who responded to an open call were juried in by Philadelphia Museum of Art Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Adelina Vlas and Harper, who is an independent curator (and an artist in her own right, with a Fleisher Challenge exhibit right now). The 10 are Gerald Beaulieu (Canada), Andrew Chartier (Canada), Yi-Chuan Chen (Taiwan), James Hayes (Ireland), Michael Hernandez (Tennessee), Guy Laramee (Canada), Jason Lee (West Virginia), Elizabeth Mackie (New Jersey), Ben Pinder (New York), Ralf Sander (Germany).

Philly Sculptors pulled off a terrific exhibit on a subject on everyone’s minds. It deserves your time and energy (speaking of energy, try public transportation) to get up there.