Artblog Celebrating 20 Years!   Support Us Today!

I Am Here at James Oliver Gallery


[Lauren experiences the best of Philadelphia street art and street art-inspired work. — the Artblog editors]

I Am Here brings the infamous and colorful streets of Philadelphia to the walls of James Oliver Gallery (JOG). Curated by Sarah McCorriston of Paradigm Gallery in collaboration with JOG, this sensational exhibition showcases the crème de la crème of Philadelphia’s street art scene: Isaiah Zagar, Darryl “Cornbread” McCray, Joe Boruchow, Jessie Hemmons (aka Ishknits), Kid Hazo, and the photography of Conrad Benner (alias: Streets Dept.).

Roughly 500 people turned out at the May 16 reception. The vibe radiating from Oliver’s gallery that Friday evening matched the work inside: electric, loud, and pulsing with life.

Different approaches collide, but don’t clash

Isaiah Zagar’s take on the pin-up girl.

Isaiah Zagar is quite the name in Philadelphia–walk down streets or alleys in Center City, Old City, South Philly or Bella Vista, and you’re bound to encounter one of Zagar’s gorgeous and fantastically executed ceramic-and-mirror mosaics.

Zagar is known for his Magic Gardens on South Street; an encounter with his work on an actual gallery wall is unusual, but as usual, breathtaking.”Girl in Bedroom,” an enormous 12-panel piece, combines mirror, marble, tile, and colored cement in colors that mimic the Philadelphia skyline when the sun sets: pale blues, warm pinks, violets, creams, and dark blues swirl together to create the image of a girl. She waves to the viewer, a goofy and content look on her face. Her nude body is contorted into an almost impossible position. “Girl in Bedroom also gives off the feeling of a girl underwater, perhaps in a bathtub. The mural surpasses two-dimensionality and becomes a three-dimensional experience to the viewer. The very surface of the mural is a sculpture itself.

Kid Hazo vs. pay phones worldwide.

Speaking of sculpture, Kid Hazo’s sculpture made it to the opening without the artist. Hazo–the only artist who did not make an appearance at the reception–prefers to remain unknown. Despite his personal anonymity, his work is anything but nondescript. Mocking our current obsession with electronics, the artist integrates the technology of yesteryear (a pay phone) with symbols of current social networking.

“Real Life #TBT” includes a genuine, archaic pay phone as the pedestal for a painted sign showing an iPhone, crossed out, with the popular hashtag #TBT (Throw Back Thursday). If the pay phone is a throwback, perhaps Hazo foresees the iPhone as the next #tbt.

Paper cutouts meet yarn bombs and more

Artist Joe Boruchow and “Animal Locomotion”.

Across the wall from Hazo’s pay phone hang Joe Boruchow’s dark, graphic, and haunting prints. Boruchow began as a stencil artist before evolving his practice to involve photocopies, cutouts, and clearly quite a bit of patience. As with Zagar’s citywide presence, Boruchow’s work pops up all over the city–on mailboxes, newsstands, boarded-up windows, and utility poles.

Both the artist’s cutout pieces and his prints are included in I Am Here. “Animal Locomotion” is both a wheat paste and a cutout–it is a graphic, black-and-white image of an androgynous figure bending over backward at an impossible angle and grabbing the front of his or her shins, the figure’s head nearly making its way between the thighs. The many mysteries of the figure and Boruchow’s craftsmanship keep the viewer intrigued.

Cornbread: the real Marlboro Man.

 More key pieces in the show include an enormous Marlboro Red sign emblazoned with “CORNBREAD” (guess who did that one?), a giant stack of brightly colored, yarn-bombed wooden palettes by Ishknits, and several photographs of artists in the show, as well as incredible photographs of street art by Conrad Benner.

McCorriston and Oliver’s curatorial collaboration has created a dynamic and inspiring show that highlights often-overlooked work as fine art. #itsgreat #checkitout  

I Am Here is on view at James Oliver Gallery until August 2, 2014.