Corey Qureshi is Seeing Red at Libby Rosa’s Blah Blah Gallery solo exhibition

See Libby Rosa's solo-exhibition at Blah Blah before it closes June 30th! Corey explores the strange mythology that Rosa creates in Vox Populi's newest exhibition space at 319 N. 11th St., focused on uplifting non-binary and female artists. See how Rosa sees red through a fresh and softened approach to the inherently violent term.

Fluttering by Libby Rosa is a painting with a purple background with rain spilling across. The bottom of the canvas shows a spread of wild rain forest flora. Along the top portion of the canvas runs a Caucasian fleshy colored band with two hands meeting at the center and plants bordering the ends of the arms.
Fluttering (2023), Flashe and acrylic on canvas, 22″ x 26″ Image courtesy of the artist

When I think of “Seeing Red”, I think of the inherent rage that comes conjured up from the phrase. I think of the Minor Threat song with its unrelenting pace and alienated lyrics. In the case of Seeing Red, Libby Rosa‘s solo show at Blah Blah Gallery, I mainly found the opposite to be true. The immediate vibrance of her flashe/acrylic canvases soften the more barren or plausibly troubling imageries.

In the case of “Fluttering”, a wet, purple night breathes with a range of delicate and hard raindrop patterings across the tops of many leaves of plants. There’s a fleshy (caucasian) band across the sky… an internal, intangible sense of bloom? The set of hands across this flesh is languid, teasing at, but not clearly giving a shower of blood to nourish the baseline of greenery. This soft suffering to sustain or at least point to an alternative to the beautifully painted subjects is a throughline, an idea that comes up in other cases here.

A corner of a gallery shows a bright blue floor with curtains draped from ceiling to floor in bright yellow and red.
Gallery Shot, Installation View of ‘Seeing Red’ Image courtesy of the artist

Long, chiffon-flamed curtains are offset by the bright, animatedly blue coat of paint breathing across the floorboards. “Reaching Out” and “Night and Day” are small square sibling pieces. Among their dry, dying fields are portals into lush, verdant moments. “Reaching Out” stretches a hand out, beckoning you to dive straight into the painting within the painting. Like “Fluttering”, an easily accessed means of entering the pictures (literally, ie: a pathway) isn’t presented. You’re mostly meant to be filled with the swollen immensity of these natural scenes.


The aforementioned portals show up in others like “Seeing Red” and “A Cave Full of Echoes”. In these two, the portals are paintings, canvases within canvases à la Magritte. Are we seeing red in works unexecuted, abbreviated to miniatures, added to incorporate ideas that can’t be fully addressed for whatever infuriating reasons? I find these potential alternative focuses (the meta aspects) to be a type of restriction, though this isn’t exactly a negative characteristic. More like. A wistfulness.

Two canvases on a gallery wall on the left is a painting of a field with gold and red and gold flowers, on the right side is a mirror with the image with a dark blue and black version of the bright field with a hand reaching towards the flowers. The upper portion of the canvas is a sky with greyish clouds streaking across. The painting on the right shows a woman with green skin and undefined black hair coming to points. She wears a pink shirt with plant like tendrils reaching off. The background is a dark orange like that of persimmon.
Reaching Out (2023) and Witch II (2023) Flashe and acrylic on canvas, 8″ x 8″ Image courtesy of the artist

“Witch” I, II, and III are the most apparent series in the room. A woman’s gradual spiritual and physical decline is documented—from joy to stillness to death. “I” is full of a fun type of motion, a dance… But the respective intrusions of vines and flames in the second and third paintings show the character’s subjection to stationary beauty and a death sentence that comes from her unecstatic participation in stillness.

Viewing the witches gives a new light to the rest of the exhibition. Her fingers tiptoe through the show, and the curtains place you in a fire with her. You’re also given a new set of eyes to group the work together. Interestingly, most of the relations are spread out rather than hung next to each other, so you have to spin the blue expanse a bit. Almost every visual has its foil, creating bits of dialogue in the gallery. It would feel wrong to acquire certain pieces here without their companions.


“Metamorphasis of Medusa” is the lone sculpture in Seeing Red, a tiny and endearing foam rock that a butterfly has broken out of. Medusa’s gaze has transformed and lost its hardness for the new possibility of fluttering wings away from a frozen state. The invocation of Medusa further raises ideas about the mistreatment of women. Maybe we’re seeing red over this.

I wanted to finish by introducing Blah Blah, the newest studio-sized gallery in the Vox Populi catacombs. The space intentionally focuses on women and non-binary artists “…with the desire to marry both the deliberate and frivolous perspective of art.” This is the third show of what’s looked like a great run so far. It also happens to be Libby Rosa’s first solo show in Philadelphia, though her own PEEP Projects has been running playful and widely varied work in the city for the last three years. 

Seeing Red is a solo exhibition of art by Libby Rosa at Blah Blah Gallery, to June 30th, 2023. 319 North 11th Street, 3rd Floor, unit 3J. Open Saturdays and Sundays 2-6pm or by appointment. Wheelchair accessible.