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Blacklight Dinner at Smile Gallery


After savoring some of the best Thai food I have had in a long time in Smile’s downstairs café, I headed upstairs to their gallery.  The small but well utilized space is currently hosting Bangkok and Blacklight.  The show combines urban, graffiti style artists from the Trenton area with a well renowned contemporary artist from Bangkok, Vichoke Mukdamanee.  The gallery has been divided into two rooms, one with bright white walls and full lighting for Mukdamanee’s glistening works, while the back room has been drenched in blacklighting, showing off some color popping works.  Together, they flood the space with differing light, colors and textures, evoking a Postmodern/Pop vibe.

Orantes Splat UHMS
David Orantes “Splat – UHMS”

The blacklight show at Smile Gallery is actually a continuation of the recent UV Urban Blacklight Art Experiment in Trenton, presented by Albus Cavus and Sage Collective.  The participating artists are Leon Rainbow (co-curator with Dr. Debra Miller), Mike Ciccotello, Joe Iurato, Josl, Luv 1, Aja Washington, Jim Hancocks, Papermonster, David Orantes, Demer, Kortez, Jon Conner and Will Kasso.

“UV Urban Blacklight Art Experiment” in Trenton

Vichoke Mukdamanee was brought into this show due to the curators’ desire for “the reconfigured [UV Urban Blacklight] show to be global, to include as a counterpart the latest work from a popular Thai artist, who was the teacher and mentor of Smile’s owner, Ken Tutjamnong.”  Mukdamanee’s series focuses on depicting the human face.  More specifically, this collection seeks to record his memories and associations with his friends, family and acquaintances.

VM photo
Vichoke Mukdamanee, Photo Courtesy of Smile Gallery

All of the works are mixed media, except two that are etchings from the same impression.  Rather large sheets of aluminum (most at least 3 ft. high), holed and stamped with small circles, play the role of canvas for these works.  Layers of paint and glitter texturize and soften the work, giving personality to an otherwise cold surface.

VM Father and Child
Vichoke Mukdamanee “Father and Child”

In person, one can’t help but sense the emotion present in these works, as if you are being introduced to Mukdamanee’s loved ones first hand.  Photographs really do not do these works justice.  While here light is being reflected and magnified, the other side of the gallery feels as if it’s absorbing the light right out of the air.

Iurato Watering Can
Joe Iurato “Watering Can”

Joe Iurato’s two-piece work, Watering Can, sets the tone of the room with his use of a paint-dripped signage style graphic.  The use of neon oranges and greens seemed to be most prevalent.  Will Kasso beautifully commanded delicate, warm-orange highlights in his work, Chinese Democracy.




Kortez Mask

Smaller works included painted spray cans, a cartoon-ish raindrop work by Leon Rainbow, two squid and jellyfish themed works by Lank (Jon Conner), and two tribal inspired masks by Kortez.  The masks, one mostly pink and the other green, are one of the first objects to catch your attention when entering the blacklight space.  Their glow and detail are impressive.

Bangkok and Blacklight is perfect for Philadelphia with its strong graffiti community and the Mural Arts Program.  This is a rather rare chance to see visiting work from a great Thai artist and exciting blacklight works from some very talented urban painters.  Just to experience the viewing environment that Smile has created is reason enough to check out this show.

The show will be open until September 6th, and gallery hours are Monday-Friday noon-2:30 and 5-9 pm, Saturday 5-9 pm, and closed on Sundays.