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Let’s Go Enjoy Nature at Seraphin


The title of the exhibit Let’s Go Enjoy Nature! is pretty funny. There’s nothing natural about standing in a gallery looking at art–an imitation of life. But art is the sincerest form of flattery. And speaking of the joys of what’s unnatural, air conditioning in this beastly weather is just the ticket.

Austin Lee, Rose, 2010, acrylic on wood, 40 x 40 inches

The small group show, at Seraphin Gallery, has a number of delightful works from the six artists (3 from Philly). And it’s the Philly work that delights with surprises.

Thomas Vance, Niwaki Series No. 2, 2010, acrylic, ink on paper, 59 x 60 inches

Surprise one–Sculptor Thomas Vance goes 2-D with a pair of wonderful 60-inch drawings. Vance’s drawings suggest airplane fly-overs as well as abstracted architectural garden plans, with tree canopies and paths. But the trees are cartoon spaceballs, floating in otherwise super-flat space. The flat space is defined by paths of woven lattice or lumber, and by miniature doodles (ground cover?) in the interstices that remind me of Jonathan Lasker.

The wood theme is carried over into paintings on 3-D wood-collages by Austin Lee and by Marina Borker. Does two people working this way in one city equal a trendlet? And maybe we should up it to three, since Vance himself has used similar techniques in straddling the second and third dimensions.

Marina Borker, Tulips, 2007, acrylic on luan, 16.5 x 21 inches

Borker is surprise number two–just to see her making gallery art again is the surprise. (She’s now in the stained glass window business). In these two pieces, one older, one recent, she captures the faded ambiance of a grandmother’s summer home, including deck and decorative objects. One piece evokes granny’s seashore house; the other piece, a leafy wreath, evokes August at granny’s country house. These works, without being beautiful, call up old-fashioned ideas of beauty, suggesting how transformative time and culture can be.

Austin Lee, Ohhh! 2009, paper on wood, 10.5 x 39.5 inches

Pop artist Austin Lee, also working on layered wood, captures a splashy dive into a swimming pool in Ohhh! Very David Hockney! Lee’s abstracted rosebush is proud and flouncy. And if you want to see Onwards, his animated gif of himself on horseback, click on over. Or maybe I should say you really really should click on over. Pop influences in Lee’s work make it deceptively digestible, but he’s always gnawing at ideas as he deconstructs the iconography of the world around us. He’s playful and thoughtful, without resorting to kitsch.

Eric Zimmerman’s 2008 drawing of the historic Iron Bridge, Graphite on paper, 9 ¾” x 11 ½ inches

Of the more traditional work in this show, an uber-representational graphite drawing by Eric Zimmerman (Austin, TX) evokes a panting, Wuthering Heights romanticism. I emailed Zimmerman to ask about the title of this piece, The Historian & the Astronomer, The Iron Bridge, Shropshire, England , 1781, and he wrote back that the Iron Bridge was the very first cast iron arch bridge. He also wrote that he is interested in how differently historians and astronomers think about time, distance, place, and velocity–thoughts inspired by George Kubler’s The Shape of Time. I am not sure the drawing communicates all this, but it does suggest via its extreme representational romanticism some sort of hiccup in values over time and space. His companion drawing Places (Where), is an austere, no-nonsense drawing of the word “where” floating on otherwise blank paper. Although this offers a bit of language, it succeeds at being less communicative.

Also in the show, most of the sketchy drawings of threatening, grassy growth by Emmy Mikelson (New York), look incomplete, but they do seem to explore something that’s worrying her. Paintings uniting architecture and nature by Timothy Callahan (Cleveland) are too familiar.

The show was curated by Seraphin regular, artist Robert Goodman, and The Smart Set editor Jesse Smith.