“Here Not There” in Rittenhouse Square

If you happen to be near Rittenhouse Square, you may notice a makeshift gallery in an unlikely home amid prime real estate on Locust Street. Inside the temporary space is an exhibition, Here Not There, curated by Philadelphia Salon creator and director Caryn Kunkle and featuring the work of three of its members: Caryn Kunkle, Pete Zebley, and Jordan Griska. The Philadelphia Salon is a collective of artists that meet weekly in the former Baird mansion on Broad Street. The Salon’s goal is “not to be exclusive” and to “connect the artist with the audience”. In addition, part of the salon’s philosophy is to blur the lines between artists, curators, buyers, and financial heavy-hitters, and gather them all for monthly public dinners at the salon’s headquarters. In that vein, Kunkle secured the space for the show, which was donated by Allan Domb Real Estate.

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Gallery entrance on Locust Street

Hanging in the door of the gallery is a life-size drawing of Arthur Kade, who could be read as the show’s mascot. Much like the mission statement of the salon to break down the barriers that connect artist and audience, wannabe celebrity Arthur Kade is also searching for an audience. Kade, a Philadelphia-based former businessman, has given himself three years to be a “celebrity” (of any kind) and invested $500,000 in the process. By asserting his presence on the door, Kunkle draws a parallel to the struggle that artists have to go through to “make it”. In addition to the Kade portrait, Kunkle has several other pieces in the show: a series of targets the artist shot herself at a shooting range and a large scale drawing she made in collaboration with her brother, who suffers from schizophrenia.

Caryn Kunkle, “The American Dream”, portrait of Arthur Kade, marker on paper, 2010

Once you get past the cautionary tale on the door, it becomes apparent that the show doesn’t have very strong conceptual threads. The exhibition instead showcases an assortment of work, all of which borrow from contemporary culture to very loosely create some form of social commentary. For instance, included in the exhibition are Pete Zebley’s large-scale paintings on aluminum. Zebley mines the Internet for images and creates layered pop/graffiti inspired canvases of images such as Bonnie Sweeten and pitbulls. Sadly, his paintings are a bit underwhelming and fall flat in both technique and content.

Pete Zebley, portrait of Bonnie Sweeten, acrylic on aluminum, 2010

Some of the stronger work in the show is from Jordan Griska. Griska’s sculptural work has been seen around Philadelphia quite a bit, most recently in the Vox VI show at Vox Populi and at the University Science Center’s Breadboard space. He has also been commissioned to create an upcoming large scale work for Jolie Laide Gallery. Griska retrofits iconic objects, such as gas pumps and newspaper boxes, to create metaphors for apocalyptic collapse. His gas pump has been reconstructed in an origami fold and fashioned on a scissor lift to literally rise and fall.  In the piece Honor Box Reflection, Griska fused newspaper boxes, one on the bottom mirroring the top in a slightly darker shade. The fused pairs are suspended in the space all at the same height as though the boxes are floating. The bottom box becomes like a reflection in water. Inside the boxes Griska placed newspapers with Katrina-era tales of flooding; this may be overkill, for the box, fused to and thereby mirrored with itself, already connotes flooding and floating objects.

Jordan Griska, “Honor Box Reflection”, newspaper boxes, 2010

However, the combination of the newspaper box, perhaps a soon-to-be obsolete object, with 5 year old newspapers makes one question the speed with which news and events are culturally digested. Griska makes Katrina seem like it was eons ago. The play of suspended time and events, through the trickery of the twinned boxes creates a lost netherworld that is alienating and unsettling.

Here Not There, work by the Philadelphia Salon members Kunkle, Griska, Zebley, will be open by appointment through August. Contact Caryn Kunkle at for more information.