Saturday, July 10, 2010
First Friday, July 2010
I took advantage of an early dismissal from work on the Friday before this Independence Day weekend to visit PAFA and PMA, which whetted my appetite for this month’s First Friday. Then I remembered that we are now in the dead of summer, the art world’s wasteland off-season. My fears were to be both confirmed and refuted, as I took consolation in some quality amid spotty offerings.
I first tried my luck in Old City, walking in and then quickly out of Pentimenti Gallery’s Three Weeks Only! without much regard for its contents. Shifting next door to Dalet Gallery, I found an exhibition with the focused quality worthy of a spring or fall showing, not one meant to be buried amongst summer’s scrap pile. Featuring six contributors with The Center For Emerging Visual Artists and curated by Amie Potsic, the work felt evocative of crisper weather, limited in color palette to black, white, and some red. I was enthralled with Gregory Brelloch’s sublime celestial scenes and his command of graphite on paper. I immediately thought of two points of comparison, having just seen both of them at PMA: an almost photorealistically detailed Vija Celmins seascape (also graphite on paper) in the exhibition Water Work, and a Giovanni Battista Tiepolo etching in Visions of Venice employing his signature perspective of gazing upward toward the heavens. Among the other artists included, Danielle Bursk’s paintings of finely crosshatched white lines against black—and vice-versa—wove nests of intrigue.
I quickly peered into The Clay Studio which was opening its Seventh Annual Marge Brown Kalodner Graduate Student Exhibition. After I left, I found it hard to shake this little grotesquerie, Clayton Keyes’ The Collector, though not necessarily for positive reasons. Browsing through his website reveals a coterie of other malformed misfits. But his work was memorable, which many of the other selections were not. One other standout oddity, Undine Brod’s trio of mounted trophy heads that look like bandage-wrapped Frankenstein animals pieced together with spare parts.
The Bambi Biennial, now in its second edition, was next. My expectations were high: the ArtBlog ladies talk a big game; could they back it up? In case you had not heard—which, if you keep an ear to the local scene, it would be impossible to remain unawares—Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof were the jurors.
The immediate feeling I got walking into the gallery was entirely chaotic. Bambi Gallery is a fine space for some shows, but scale is key, because it did absolute disservice to their Biennial. The installation was salon style hell, the true depiction of which my photos cannot convey, aggravated by the number of people squeezed into the limited area. Perhaps, salon style is an inaccurate label; in some way, it felt more like an art gallery version of entering inside a home on the morbidly riveting show Hoarders. Hyperbole? Yes, but the work had no room to breathe, which was of issue because I was not convinced of how well it all coalesced. It is hard for me to say what I liked, since I felt distracted the whole time. I do not fault the artists selected, because independent of their individual merits, they are the victims of circumstance: the gallery and the two jurors should have known better than to stack artwork everywhere.
Crossing to the The Piazza’s opposite wing, the brand new Vincent Michael Gallery revealed a scene of marked contrast. With a crowd that appeared larger than the one I had just left, but more open space to hold them, the atmosphere was one of free-flowing energy and interaction (at Bambi, people were huddling around in impenetrable cliques). I think that pride was a differentiating factor for the VM Gallery crew, excited to share the long-delayed opening with any and all. The straightforward central narrative of the inaugural exhibition, PaperMonster Ate That Little Boy, also helped. The artist PaperMonster had a palpable exuberance. Being present when he was putting final touches on the wall stencil (see my previous post), I could see how pleased he was with it. Unequivocally the pièce de résistance, all of the smaller pieces orbit around its gravitational pull, which was not at all a bad thing. The work is impermanent, and naturally burns brighter in its short lifespan.
Oh, and that nasty little piece of agitprop, The Art Of The Steal, was screening at the Piazza that evening. Been there, seen it, and don’t get me started on its insidiousness wrapped in white knight crudsaderism!