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Because It’s Fun – Keith Greiman and Martha Rich at Space 1026


—Ali’s post introduces us to two artists whose quirky works will amuse you and make you think. — the artblog editors ——

When you were a child, why was art your favorite class? Was it the subtle artistic nuances with which your fellow peers captured the zenith of the fourth grade experience? Or was it because it was engaging and colorful and there were fewer rules in art than there were in the always-dreaded math class? In their two-person show “Nothing Is Rather Do,” artists Keith Greiman and Martha Rich seem to excavate the foundations of our fascination and force us to remember why we fell in love with art in the first place; we love art because it’s fun.

Claw Foot Tub
“Claw Foot Tub,” Keith and Rita Greiman
Image courtesy of artist

Memorializing the everyday

Keith Greiman’s work memorializes everyday events. There is nothing monumental about many of Greiman’s painted scenes, yet their vibrancy and humor resonate strongly with our basic art instincts. “Claw Foot Tub,” a collaboration between the artist and his wife Rita, is a painting of a very cheery and lived-in looking bathroom. Surrounded by the miscellany of a pre-bath ritual, the tub is optimistically full. Though we wonder about the bather and his toilette, we shouldn’t. During our chat, Greiman gave me strict instructions “not to overthink” the piece. The viewer is supposed to enjoy the quirkiness for what it is and how it makes her feel.

Missed Handshake
“Missed Handshake,” Keith Greiman
Image courtesy of artist

The artist considers this to be his most premeditated body of work, and yet, each piece is still infused with these spontaneous and good-natured vibes. New to his repertoire of work are 3-D wood cutouts of cartoonish characters. Created to utilize the amount of gallery space and to branch out from his usual medium, these vibrant and zany people are interesting to inspect. “Missed Handshake” captures a slightly awkward interaction between two men and the illustration techniques and unconventional use of color remind me of my favorite childhood cartoon, Ahh! Real Monsters. It is hard to figure out why Greiman’s work makes the viewer laugh, but then again, that is kind of the point.

Wall of Speech Bubbles
wall of speech bubbles, Martha Rich
Image courtesy of artist

The eavesdropper’s take on the world

Martha Rich is a self-proclaimed eavesdropper. Her largest installation covers half of a wall with large text bubbles that were cut from wood and painted with brilliant text. The display reads like the colorful conversations that you might “accidentally overhear” on your morning SEPTA commute or at the on-campus coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon — which is exactly where Rich gets her material.  My personal favorite says, “I don’t get it but I like it” and was presumably overheard at some art function. This casual but deliberate perspective is quite pleasant to witness and reminds us to take the work at face value. The artist claims that this fun and approachable style was a reaction to the harsh and serious attitudes she encountered while working towards her MFA.

Selection of Queen Series, Martha Rich
Selection of Queen Series, Martha Rich

Rich’s other large installation is composed of twenty experimental-looking paintings and collages done on reject CMYK prints from one of her old projects. The initial print is from Rich’s original painting of a 60s-era Pasadena Rose Queen, but these manipulated copies contrast strongly with the demure composure typically expected of a queen. Most notable is the collage-covered print plastered with eyeball-less images of the British Royal Family. A critic might say that the superimposition of British princes and princesses over an elected queen is tongue-in-cheek and mocks the overlap of “royalty” with “celebrity,” but I think that Rich would say she just did it because it’s silly.

"Queen Series 13," Martha Rich
“Queen Series 13,” Martha Rich

Greiman and Rich both shy away from the “analyze and interpret everything” attitude we tend to adopt when viewing art; sometimes “I like it” is justification enough. “Nothing Is Rather Do” is bright, humorous and enjoyable for those of you looking to rediscover the vibrant and creative energy of your childhood art time. For those of you who were the more regimented, math-class lovers, well, there are only 363 days until next year’s tax returns.

“Nothing is Rather Do” will be on display at Space 1026 until April 27.