When the gallery scene is diffused and diverse, an arts writer can feel like a schizophrenic: frantically looking for patterns in random phenomena, hoping nobody notices that half the time, it’s probably all in our heads. But once in while, the stars align, and for better or worse, we get to highlight a bona fide trend. So, trend alert! July is all about sculptures that drip with color.
Ryan McCartney: Breaks to Make at Tiger Strikes Asteroid
For an artist who has shown mostly paintings in Philadelphia, Ryan McCartney’s solo show, Breaks to Make, sports very little canvas. Instead, he’s turned his hand—and brush—to wood. Ringed by six wall-mounted paintings, two wooden floor sculptures steal the show. At first, “Dog Years“ (2012) looks like a giant atticus, complete with spools and beads for counting. But two irregularly shaped crimson discs deliciously upset the balance. They tilt at different angles, making a soup out of the linear time and suggesting a more mystical conception of accountancy. “Some Architecture“ (2012) pushes these esoteric allusions even further. Grouping together exquisitely carved feathers, eggs and a skull atop a chair, “Some Architecture” presents a whimsically figurative yet mystically arranged still life. Both sculptures glint with the careful craftsmanship of an old-fashioned toymaker, their burnished primary colors seeming to fade and intensify according to patterns of beloved and repeated handling.
Through July 29. Tiger Strikes Asteroid, 319A N. 11th St. 484.469.0319. tigerstrikesasteroid.com
Daphne at FJORD
For its third exhibition, newcomer gallery FJORD presents a selection of works grouped loosely under the rubric of the double take: Curator Liam Holding hopes that small reversals in seemingly familiar objects will subtly shift the way we see the world. In many ways, it’s a modest proposal; isn’t that what most interesting art does anyway? But the overall strength of the objects in Daphne reward careful looking and give Holding’s flat-footed thesis a simple elegance. Matt K. Brett’s “Untitled Plywood Box” (2012) looks like a bright blue USPS mailbox, but its familiar hue hails not from post-facto paint but rather from a set of preconditions: Brett used only the top sheets of plywood from industrial pallets to sculpt the box, all of which are already stained a standard blue. Jack Henry’s “Core Samples” (2010) perform a similar sleight of hand. From a distance, they look like columnar, swirling abstractions. But up close, they’re more like melted and tightly moulded junkyards. They’re studded with objects like plush Spider-Man toys and gift-wrap baubles that have no rightful place in the language of abstraction.
Through July 31. FJORD, 2419 Frankford Ave. 215.837.2980. fjordspace.com
Vox VIII at Vox Populi
Most juried shows suffer from a disparity of visions. It’s practically unavoidable when you mix an open call for art with guest jurors who are likely working together for the first time. But Vox VIII is tight, focused and entirely in step with the profusion of handcrafted color on display at Tiger Strikes Asteroid and FJORD. Jurors Ruba Katrib and Marlo Pascual have stacked the galleries with an array of colorful sculptures and paintings that revel in gunky, hand-hewn materiality. Latex, ceramic, thickly coated paint, pure pigment, oil residue, wallpaper, epoxy, resin and balloons drip, slide and gel in every room. It sounds chaotic, but it’s actually dynamic—a unified front of chipper, oddball objects. Of course, not everything adheres. Marcelino Stuhmer’s theatrical recreation of Orson Welles’ famous fun house shoot-out scene in “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) is a bit of an outlier. With its black-and-white palette and sparkling faux glass, “Get Ready to Shoot Yourself” (2009/2012) deploys an entirely different—albeit thoroughly seductive—sort of theatre from the suggestively organic forms that mutate through the rest of the show. But herein lies the strength of the exhibition: It’s able to persuade us that all these objects belong together anyway.
Through July 29. Vox Populi Gallery, 319 N. 11th St. voxpopuligallery.org
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PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide