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New kid on the block – I Speak American at Gallery at DCCC


I Speak American, the group show curated by Jaime Treadwell at the Gallery at Delaware County Community College is loaded with works of conceptual quirkiness and visual sophistication. It’s a great way to announce yourself as a new voice in the region’s hot art scene.

Kikuko Tanaka, Proudly decorating your home, mixed media including the artist’s urine and pastries, according to the fancy wall card underneath which is also part of the piece

From Kikuko Tanaka’s iconoclastic trophy deer head sticking its tongue out to Terry Adkins’ Shroud of Turin-Jimi Hendrix flag, the ten artists or artist groups in the show pose questions about contemporary style, mores and visual culture.

Terry Adkins’ banner, flanked by Sarah Knouse’s melting flamingoes (r) and Caleb Weintraub’s dangerous Candyland painting

It’s a humanist show of disparate individuals whose chorus sings of the danger of false values and the need to find new heroes, values and icons.  Some of the work is familiar, having appeared in other Philadelphia-area spaces. But it’s great to see them all together.

The Gallery at DCCC, two separate rooms separated by a glass enclosed atrium

The Gallery at DCCC includes two large spaces separated across a glass-walled atrium. This show uses every bit of the space, including the walkway connecting the two rooms, to create groupings that make sense thematically. (Video turns out to be a great choice for the walkway.) Leah Bailis’ little housing models made of cardboard and suggesting houses that are not homes, populate the center of one room surrounded by Jamie Diamond’s photos of the faux family groups named after the hotels in which the picture was taken.

Leah Bailis, houses, and Jamie Diamond, faux family portraits on the wall

The Raddisons, a sweet looking family, is a group of strangers brought together for the photo shoot who agree to pose as a family.

Julie Weitz, rear wall, Red White, gouache on paper, image of an individual hidden under a head scarf

Julie Weitz’s gouache on paper portraits of shrouded individuals completes the room.  We speak American — watch the same football games, go to the malls, eat at fast food restaurants, watch tv, send our kids to school — but what are we saying and who are we really?  It’s complicated — we are clearly no longer Norman Rockwell’s America.

Sarah Knouse’s flamingoes, Celeste Rapone’s painting Chin Up, Dollface, and Kikuko Tanaka’s sculptual works

The other gallery space throws open a discussion about decoration, consumption and beauty. If Tanaka’s sculptural fountain with pornography-derived elements is in-your-face bad girl, Caleb Weintraub’s candy-colored paintings offer a treacly sweet alternative — a world of violence and mayhem with something rotten at its core. Sarah Knouse takes the familiar yard ornament, the pink flamingo, and bathes it in melting, drippy pink ooze/  The work calls to mind both the Gulf (and other) oil spills and their effect on wildlife, but also suggests that the once-happy emblem of normality (the yard ornament) hides some horror beneath its pleasant exterior.  Any one of these works could be the new Grant Wood American Gothic — a long-established icon of Americana.  If this is the new Americana, we’ve lost our stern backbone and are now wallowing in a zone of self-hatred akin to despair.

carballo-farman, all that is air, video of Mexican workers blowing up beach balls.

Videos by Caraballo-Farman and Hamdi Attia and painting by Celeste Rapone round out the show.

Network played a part in curating this show.  Tanaka was in the 2009 Vox Populi emerging artist show, which curator Treadwell was in as well. Weintraub, Diamond, Attia (and Treadwell) went to University of Pennsylvania where Terry Adkins is on the faculty. Julie Weitz’ works were finalists for the West Prize at the nearby West Collection.

Treadwell told me that the Gallery at DCCC is ramping up its programming. In 2011, look for a show dealing with humor in art curated by Stamatina Gregory, previously at the ICA and now an independent curator in New York.  And opening Dec. 14 is independent curator Cheryl Harper’s show Outside the Clamshell Box: Diary of a Print Portfolio, with work by 28 artists.  I should mention that it took me about 25 minutes to drive to the gallery from my home in Bala Cynwyd.  Treadwell says it takes about 35 minutes when coming from the city.  Not a bad ride and the campus is lovely when you do get there.  Definitely check it out.

I Speak American at the Gallery at DCCC to Dec. 1.