‘The Illuminating Sap,’ pleasure for all at Atelier Art Gallery

Katie Dillon Low sees a curated exhibit at Atelier Art Gallery in Brewerytown and loves it. Anchored in the works of Anne Minich, Katie says the show is balanced, with much to offer all tastes. Katie says, "The show brings together five very materially different artists extremely well, and covers the gamut of pleasure for the viewer."

A black mountain with a foreground of rocks creating a smaller mountain. The horizon is a soft peachy color. A note is tacked onto the black mountain. To the left of the canvas is a blue Fleur De Lis and the Artists Signature.
Anne Minich, “In Memoriam”. Image by Katie Dillon Low.

I met with show curator Zachary Rawe at the Atelier Gallery in Brewerytown to see his second show there, The Illuminating Sap.

My immediate impression: I love it. It’s a luscious and tasty aesthetic experience. The gallery is well filled without being too full, and the balance of 2D and 3D work is spot on – I mean, not too much, not too little of each. The overall coloration of the show is something that struck me, and I’m a huge fan of the lighting scheme in the lower, step-down part of the gallery.

The show is anchored by the work of local Brewerytown artist Anne Minich. Anne is 89 years old and works in bodies of work. The work shown here was all created during the pandemic and centers on her relationship with the famous Marcel Duchamp work, “Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas).” As the story goes, Anne is a very small person. So small that for many, many years she was never able to see through the peephole in the wooden door that is used to view “Étant donnés.” It was a maddening mystery to her, until finally she found a friend who could lift her up so that she could view the work. This was all many years ago, before the PMA provided a step for smaller people to get a view, but the work impacted her deeply enough that she has done an entire series of paintings on wood featuring the shoreline of the legs, and the parts in between the legs, of Duchamp’s enigmatic female form.


These pink horizons are delicate and sensual. People who have these shapes on their own bodies can feel that delicacy. People who have enjoyed the horizons of others probably have their own feelings about it. But it’s contemplative. I think the repetition and development of the body (of work) proves that. There are literal elements of time incorporated, and the repetition of several elements, including the word SPAN. Perhaps when one is almost 90 years old, and has survived cancer, time feels a little different.

A shopping bag on the floor of a gallery spilling gout it's contents.
Matt Morris, Romantic Ballet (For my Sylphides). Image by Katie Dillon Low.

Playing excellently with Minich’s work is the work of Chicago-based artist Matt Morris. In the middle of the floor of the lower gallery “Homage to the Romantic Ballet (For my Sylphides)” looks like the shopping bag of some fairy princess that has been left in a gutter. It is like the evidence of some tragic event — someone running, someone falling, someone forgetting something (good or bad). In the upper gallery is a selection from his encaustic and mixed-media painting series “The Women (Dita in Distress,” 1999, Dir. Christina Faust. Starring Dita von Teese, 87 min).

Soft neutral toned works by Matt Morris on small canvases. Materials of the works push out of the 2D space of the canvas.
A group of works form the series “The Women (Dita in Distress, 1999, Dir. Christina Faust. Starring Dita von Teese, 87 min)” by Matt Morris. Image by Katie Dillon Low.

Rawe described these works in the same way he would describe the whole show, “physical and blunt”, (Wait, what?)… but he went on to say that like the pressing of found objects into Anne Minich’s work, the pressing of flowers into the encaustic surface of Morris’s work is both a blunt action and a delicate product. The doll’s furniture or hand-woven ribbon quilt in Morris’s works might fall off at any moment. Be sure and grab a gallery guide – the extensive list of materials Morris uses is worth a look.

Work by Mia Fabrizio, Matt Morris, Anne Minich, and Emmanuella Soria Ruiz in Atelier Gallery. A little red house sits on top of a tall pylon nearest to the viewer. To the right a trifold of mirrors sit. In the background a work that appears to be a music stand sits below a series of paintings hung on the walls.
Mia Fabrizio (foreground, left), Matt Morris (wall, left), Anne Minich (wall, right), and Emmanuella Soria Ruiz (far right). Image by Katie Dillon Low.

Mia Fabrizio presents two cheeky, found-object based works at the front of the gallery. The “Brickhouse,” a piece of red brick in the shape of a house, seems to have been plucked from the ground upon which it was found, along with a core of the earth upon which it stood, holding it up as a pedestal in the gallery.

Anne Inniyang Adams presents four large, hand-built ceramics of the series “The Spirit of our Time.” These vaguely figurative sculptures manifest motion. I can’t stop seeing them (in my mind) slowly bopping around like anemones swaying under water; conversing with each other in little murmurs that I can’t quite understand. The large ceramics are frozen in form where they naturally sagged or melted, resulting in undulating ceramics that reference Black hair. The glazing or painting of the works reflects Adams’s Nigerian roots. I find the works playful, but the title makes me reconsider whether the ceramic personalities are in celebration or actually a stoic consideration of Blackness or African-ness or both. Anne is currently an MFA candidate at Tyler School of Art, and shows work internationally.

An animal pen covered over by moss ad pink and purple laces in a gallery space with other art works in the background along the white walls.
A Pen, Emmanuella Soria Ruiz (foreground), selection of bedfellows magazines (background). Image by Katie Dillon Low.

Rawe had hoped to incorporate more of Emmanuela Soria Ruiz’s new and in-progress body of work in the show, but we will all have to patiently await the completion of the body that includes “A Pen.” From a distance, I definitely assumed that the work used some hard painted surface like papier mache or paper pulp, but I was delighted to find that the metal pen is actually covered in a never-ending scrunchie of digitally printed silk, playing right into the hard and soft show theme that has developed here. Ruiz’s “Two Hunting Blinds for Hiding or Attacking” are utilitarian as they may be used for one to hide or attack (as noted in the title…) people, feelings, inescapable futures? The best part about these works is the clever mechanism Ruiz has used to join the two panels. I’m dying to know if this zipper became a necessity for solving the problem of joining the panels, or if it’s just silly. Either way, it’s a brilliant choice.


“The Pen” casts a purposeful shadow on the wall, where a selection of magazines from the West Philadelphia based literary magazine bedfellows resides on a shelf. In curating, Rawe spent time looking for ‘sexy’ work. (We discussed: Is it sexy? What defines sexy? Is it intimate? Is it sexual? It is *pleasurable*- Yes, that’s the right word.) The contents within the bedfellows publications fall more on the overtly sexual end of the scale, and the publication does self describe as based on notions of intimacy and desire. Visit the gallery during the opening reception on Friday, August 11th from 8-9pm for a poetry reading organized by bedfellows, featuring Tyler Antoine, Juliet Gelfman-Randazzo, Stephanie Cawley, Basia Wilson, Jason Masino, and Susannah Simpson. [Ed. Note: See an Artblog interview with bedfellows co-founders and ​Executive Editors Jack Sadicario and Alina Pleskova.]

Here’s the conclusion part. The show brings together five very materially different artists extremely well, and covers the gamut of pleasure for the viewer. Zach said he loves group shows because they “set everyone in weird motions.” And it’s good.

Be sure to see this show at the Atelier Art Gallery, 1301 N 31st St. Suite 2 (or ask a friend how to get there) from now until September 1st. Opening reception: Friday, August 11th, 5-8pm. Gallery Hours: Fridays 12-4pm and by appointment. [Ed. Note: More Artblog coverage of Zach Rawe’s curated shows at Atelier Art Gallery in Kate Brock’s review of “House and Travels”.]