Art populates a chilly expanse at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

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Some terrific enormous sculptures have populated the otherwise cool and swank enormous lobby and atrium of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Donald Lipski, Spilt Milk #99, glass, liquid, metal, from the series Spilt Milk, 2007-2008
Donald Lipski, Spilt Milk #99, glass, liquid, metal, from the series Spilt Milk, 2007-2008

The space is intimidating, big enough to swallow up everyone and everything. So the art work is welcome company for the incoming patient or family. (The bright airiness and overwhelming architecture might encourage confidence in the doctors, or at least aggrandize them, not that they need any more aggrandizement. But I immediately began to worry about the cost of climate control.)

The exhibit, Interplay: Art, Audience, Architecture, which features nine large works of art, was curated by independent curator Marsha Moss.

The first big visual surprise on walking into the building is Donald Lipski’s Spilt Milk, which magically merges crown of thorns imagery, the Virgin Mary as a nursing mother,  and needles and intravenous drips. Its presence and subject matter are equally startling, the scale of the concentric rings of bottles strong enough to establish a toe hold in the monster space.

Fritz Dietel, Cradle, Spanish cedar, white oak, copper and epoxy
Fritz Dietel, Cradle, Spanish cedar, white oak, copper and epoxy, courtesy Schmidt/Dean Gallery

Up on the atrium level, two pieces made of natural materials also seem especially felicitous among the bright, reflective glass and marble bright surfacess. Fritz Dietel’s enormous Cradle has a warmth of color and wood; the woven shape, a sort of pod that is pregnant with volume is beautifully sited to frame the portal several yards beyond.

Linda Brenner, Composition of 4 poles, wood
Linda Brenner, Composition of 4 poles, wood, on patterned plinth Brenner created, with its kente cloth patterning holding the space for them.

The other warm piece is Linda Brenner’s Composition of 4 Poles, the slender carved poles passing for people and architectural columns. Each of the four is vulnerable, just like the materials of which they are made–felled trees that Brenner collected from around the city.  The sticks almost disappear from afar except for the patterned plinth Brenner created, with its kente cloth patterning holding the space.  The sticks’ tribal-looking stylish signatures remind me of Laylah Ali’s Typology drawings at PAFA. (These are the same poles that Brenner had displayed, sans plinth, in one of the South Street galleries that sprang up for a couple of months in an empty store front).

patterned plinth Brenner created, with its kente cloth patterning holding the space for them.
Warren Muller, Orange Crush, mixed media

Another piece I recently saw about town–in Bambi– is Warren Muller’s Orange Crush, an off-balance chandelier of orange-bristled push-brooms. The humor, color and materials help to tame the chilliness of the first floor space. Muller’s piece, which at Bambi had looked enormous, looks less massive here, somewhat dwarfed by the surroundings, but it’s still a warming presence, accessible enough for Jane Q. Public.

bronze, brass, aluminum, stainless steel , courtesy Snyderman Gallery
Lanny Bergner, Aerial, bronze, brass, aluminum, stainless steel , courtesy Snyderman Gallery

Other work in the show are Lanny Bergner’s hanging woven vessels, Nancy Graves tilted bedsprings on brightly colored legs, Jun Kaneko’s ceramic striped and plaid human-sized weebles (he’s everywhere in Philly it seems right now), Wendy Lehman’s standing pinafore, and Robert Roesch’s metal column.

The works will remain up until Feb. 26, 2010
Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
3400 Civic Center Blvd.

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