Constellation Closet – Southern Cross at Grizzly Grizzly

by Dennis D’Alesandro

Itʼs always nice to walk into a minimal, simply curated show. I hate walking into a show that looks jumbled with too many pieces, or pieces that are too big for the space, etc…Grizzly Grizzlyʼs current show, Southern Cross, is a great example of how to curate a well balanced, comfortable show without overwhelming the space, allowing you to engage with the work in an uncluttered and personal way.

Grizzly Gallery
Gallery View

No doubt Grizzly Grizzly could be easily overwhelmed, as itʼs perhaps the smallest gallery in Philly, maybe 150 square feet at best. Still, despite the limited space, when a show is hung correctly and its curation is sound, the art is allowed to breath and a successful show is given life.


Southern Cross, the theme and title of the show, is a distinctive five-star constellation, visible year-round in the southern hemisphere. The five stars hang in a cross-like pattern. The show consists of five artists, each given a position in the gallery that represents one of the five stars. (The irony wasnʼt lost on this writer that they decided to present a show that alludes to a major star constellation that is probably billions of light years wide in a gallery smaller than a McMansionʼs coat closet!)

Grizzly March Madness
Chris Moss – “March Madness,” 2011 – acrylic on masonite – 30 x 26 inches

Representing the star Mimosa is an excellent painting by Chris Moss. The picture depicts a loose pile of those cheap, plastic strings of multicolored flags youʼd see strung up in the parking lot of a car dealership, thrown into the hull of a dark wooden boat. The painting is really awesomely colored and painted flatly with a rich matte surface quality that would look great hanging over my couch – a proud addition of my art collection.

Grizzly Below the Salt
Matthew Fisher – “Below the Salt,” 2011 – acrylic on canvas – 23 x 19 inches

Matthew Fisher’s cleanly painted “Below the Salt,” which hangs in for the star Gacrux, is an obsessively tight, well-crafted painting that seems to toy with a super-realist aesthetic. A lonely grass-like blade rises out of the sand on an eerie sunrise beach. The painting has a clean, well-balanced eggshell surface and radiates a lazy, calming, but strange light. The sand at the bottom of the picture is trippy and complex. I think much of its detail was applied with paint flicked with a toothbrush.

Grizzly Memorial
Rob Matthews – “Memorial,” 2011 – Color pencil over ink wash – 8 x 6 inches

In for the star called Delta Cru is “Memorial,” a dark, smallish drawing by Rob Matthews. Based on a makeshift street memorial that the artist would pass on his way to work, the drawing depicts a crucifix leaning against a tree, with empty cans of Budweiser strewn around its base. The dark, somber scene brings pause, making you think of innocent youth snuffed out prematurely, like a best friend who has suddenly been lost.

Grizzly Vampires
Patrick Brennanm – “Montauk Discussion,” (2009 – 2011) – Acrylic, Hand dyed silk, mylar, Paper, spray paint and popsicle sticks on Linen – 24″ x 18″

The other two stars in the show include a sculpture by Stacy Fisher and a mixed media painting by Patrick Brennan. Fisher’s shiny black “Vampires from Mars” has a nice spatial presence and resembles some cylindrical core samples of oil or tar, bringing to mind the Mercury Rev lyrics, “Iʼm a vampire baby, suckin blood from the earth…” Brennan’s medium sized painting “Montauk Discussion” is aggressively textured with multiple mediums, including popsicle sticks.

Grizzly Vampires from Mars
Stacy Fisher (free standing sculpture) – “Vampires From Mars,” 2011 – Hydrocal, spray paint, wood – 58″ x 7 1/4″ x 8 1/4″

All in all itʼs another enjoyable show at Grizzly Grizzly. The gaze-worthy show runs until Dec. 19.