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Making art at Cherry Street Pier and showing it at Atelier Art Gallery, ‘Unfolding’ the process

Corey Qureshi vists 'Unfolding' at Atelier Art Gallery, a group show organized in collaboration with Philadelphia Contemporary, featuring former Cherry St. Pier Artists-in-residence. Corey says with 22 artists on view, you're sure to find something that captures your interest- so check it out before the show closes on July 23, 2021!

Art Installation of papers filled with writing and color palettes, clipped to black strings, hanging between a black metal bar and a white support beam.
Yolanda Wisher: Installation image, Unfolding at Atelier Art Gallery. In image: Yolanda Wisher, Room for Error, 2021. Photo by David McDowell.

Opinions differ about when an artist should stop working on a piece. In creation, things reach a point that can either be added to, revised, or left as is. Some creators keep their works in progress private. Others have a more process-based approach, sharing and even publishing or selling things that aren’t what they’d define as finished. Think of drafts posted online, live painting at events, or interactive installations.

Since 2018, two sets of Cherry Street Pier’s Artists-in-residence have spent time making things in very public studios, interacting with and working in view of people just passing through the multi-purpose space. Past and present residents were asked by Philadelphia Contemporary about the experience of continuously showing works in progress, the way this could inform final products, and how finished work can show evidence of its development. Unfolding, a large group show at Atelier Gallery, explores these questions. Some of the art on view answers them, while others residents’ ideas were better explained in the statements available to read in the gallery.

Art installation of colorful threads hung in a radial circle, descending down to the ground, with black drawings drawn on translucent sheets hanging in front of the colorful threads.
SpArc Services: Installation image, Unfolding at Atelier Art Gallery. In image: SpArc Services, Always Evolving, 2021. Photo by David McDowell.

A few of the works are openly process-based, showing time spent invested into a larger project. Carla J Fisher‘s “Visiting Progress” is a large and beautiful bundle of threads that mentally brought me to the edge of the Pier. With it’s soaked-looking bits of actual palm bark fronds and inconsistent, progressing feel that illustrates the creation process, the piece looks like some fantastic object you’d find floating if you looked down into the water. SpArc services illustrates the process differently. Their contribution “Always Evolving” suspends the illustrations of several student artists from a circular tube that acts as a large mobile. Transparent acetate sheets layer paint marker drawings to create a beautiful 3D collage of different scenes and objects, with a rainbow of threads in the center.

More interactive than either of these works is Yolanda Wisher‘s multi-faced installation. In the gallery there’s a wooden desk housing a beautiful black typewriter, with a purple ream of paper however far down the page has been typed on. A chair and accompanying note invites the viewer/reader to add a line to the collective poem, with an uncomplicated prompt and an example for inspiration. Next to this activity there’s two miniature clothes lines of papers. On them are small prints with quotes from others and typewritten poems from Wisher that’re inspired by free jazz greats. I spent a lot of time here reading and wishing the music referenced was playing. Outside of this show, Wisher is also the curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary, hosting the podcast Love Jawns: A Mixtape.

Vertically rectangular hanging artwork crafted out of wood, featuring intricate lines and panels that resemble a church ceiling.
Sharif Pendleton: Installation image, Unfolding at Atelier Art Gallery. In image: Sharif Pendleton, Layered, 2021. Photo by David McDowell.

Contrasting with the pieces that are so open about being made, some of the work I love feels finished without much illustration of process. Sharif Pendelton‘s laser-etched photography on MDF gives an intricate, deconstructed feel. Bold acrylic paintings by Jason Alexis Ramirez and Athena Scott project messages with words and images that seemingly address the viewer with their actions (a flower seeking nourishment and James Baldwin lighting a cig, respectively). These three specifically felt so complete. I was initially more focused on how they looked instead of the way they came to be, but the compositions themselves asked questions of the viewer.

Overall, there’s a lot to love about Unfolding. Between 22 artists, you’re bound to find something that does it for you. On visiting, you’re welcome to take a cute booklet full of questions posed by Philadelphia Contemporary to the artists. The variety of perspectives inside adds to the experience. While it’s left open-ended whether or not public creation is beneficial to art/artists, you’re given much to think about in the way of process. If you’re an artist or someone interested in the act of creation—how something’s made or what it could mean/what it’s for—go check this out. If you’re neither of those things, go anyway!

Unfolding‘ is on view at Atelier Art Gallery, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00AM — 6:00PM, through July 23, 2021.

Installation view of group art exhibition 'Unfolding,' featuring framed paintings and hanging installations.
Gallery shot: Installation view of Unfolding at Atelier Art Gallery, 2021. Photo by David McDowell.