Big and bigger–Adams and Monnier on First Friday

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Topical art rises above mere politics and goes for broke–Obama and City Hall  swamp the competition in my First Friday sweepstakes!

SPRING BREAK 2009

Phillip Adams, detail, Spring Break 2009, charcoal on sheetrock at Tiger Strikes Asteroid
Phillip Adams, detail, Spring Break 2009, charcoal on sheetrock at Tiger Strikes Asteroid

Phillip Adams’ giant wave, Spring Break 2009, is a room installation–a four-wall immersion experience. It’s a drawing of a breaking wave that brings to mind the overwhelming charcoal waves of Robert Longo. Adams’ wave, also of charcoal,is drawn directly on the walls of Tiger Strikes Asteroid gallery, a space that is maybe 10 feet x 10 feet. The wave circles the room, its crest towering above peoples’ heads, its monumental tube suggesting how temporary is the space in which the viewer stands, anticipating and fearing what’s about to happen.

Phillip Adams, detail of Obama body surfing in Hawaii
Phillip Adams, detail of Obama body surfing in Hawaii

Body surfing in the powerful tube of the wave is a small Barack Obama, on his Hawaii vacation. The visceral metaphor for the abstract financial and political tsunami swept everyone who saw it right off their moorings.

Adams, wearing a t-shirt he found that says Spring Break 2009, posing in front of one wall of his own Spring Break 2009
Adams, wearing a t-shirt he found that says Spring Break 2009, posing in front of one wall of his own Spring Break 2009

Adams, who has been making pristine, controlled trompe l’oeil portraits since he turned up in an Arcadia Works on Paper show in 2006 had to work quickly to complete this piece. It took him a week, and the scale, the vision and the speed all stretched him to the next level!

Phillip Adams, detail of crest of wave with erasures adding energy to the drawing, Spring Break 2009
Phillip Adams, detail of crest of wave with erasures adding energy to the drawing, Spring Break 2009

The foaming crests contain freely erased streaks of energy. The tube suggests the arc of the artist’s arm as he drew. The direct use of the wall–and the necessity of the work being destroyed at the end of the month–emphasizes the transience of the wave and this moment in time and the trajectory of all our lives!

If you see one gallery exhibit this month, this is the one. If you can afford to take down the walls of the gallery and prop them up in your museum or home gallery, go for it! Save this art before it disappears!!! Save this economy and this nation and our president before they disappear!!!

Spring Break 2009 is only the second exhibit at TSA, a group-run space dominated by Penn MFAs, including Alex Paik, Adams, and Caroline Santa, who has a solo show scheduled there next month. This is an exciting beginning!

LOCAL POLITICS AND POT HOLES

Annette Monnier poses as Wonder Woman (or as Mary Martin playing Peter Pan?) in front of her pen on paper drawing of City Hall, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen
Annette Monnier poses as Wonder Woman (or as Mary Martin playing Peter Pan?) in front of her pen on paper drawing of City Hall, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen

There’s another exhibit right downstairs from Adams that also deserves your attention.

Spring bursts forth in front of Philadelphia’s Empire-style City Hall in an enormous drawing (made with a very fine-line pen on an oversized piece of paper), hanging now at Copy Gallery.  The drawing, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen, by Annette Monnier, teems with people she knows and people she has seen on the street. Bicycles fly by, hit pot holes, and crash into one another in a frenzy of activity. A leaky pipe geysers up into the air, carrying more wild life on its crest. Animals and people cavort and picnic. The Claymobile, which looms large in Annette’s day job at the Clay Studio, stops for its portrait. Balloons and planets fill the sky and create a cosmic frenzy.

Annette Monnier, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen (work was in progress when this picture was taken), image provided by the artist
Annette Monnier, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen (work was in progress when this picture was taken), image provided by the artist

City Hall, the drawing’s central icon, is a fantasy version, its unreality emphasized by the flat-as-a-pancake rendering, almost like a stage flat in front of which Monnier’s people provide the real action.

Annette Monnier, detail, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen
Annette Monnier, detail, Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen

The drawing’s press of humanity in an urban setting reminds me of Reginald Marsh drawings of the teeming urban scene, Marsh’s frenzied fluidity of line replaced by a deadpan, uninflected contemporary style.

Annette Monnier, Matthew Suib and Nadia Hironaka examining Monnier's Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen
Annette Monnier, Matthew Suib and Nadia Hironaka examining Monnier's Think Happy Thoughts and Good Things Will Happen

Dark scrubbed-in passages contrast with ghostly lines that invite close scrutiny. I watched Matthew Suib and Nadia Hironaka poring over the drawing, searching for what was in the details. This is a work that wins over not by transcendence but by its inclusive vision.

Annette Monnier, drawing Jamie Dillon installation at Copy, image from www.copygallery.org
Annette Monnier, drawing Jamie Dillon installation at Copy, image from www.copygallery.org

Annette, who used to be the artblog’s advertising coordinator, is one of Copy Gallery’s organizers. Her vision of Philadelphia, pot holes and all, is a sort of diary that even includes props to artblog! That diaristic theme is reiterated on the gallery’s other walls, in several small drawings of Copy Gallery’s past exhibits. Several of them sold; plus she gathered the smaller drawings together in a small xerox zine, “An Abridged History of Copy Gallery,” selling for $5. What a deal.

At the opening, Monnier said she was concerned that if someone didn’t buy the piece and frame it–whisk it off the wall–it wouldn’t survive the rough and tumble of her life (as depicted in the drawings, of course).

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