A diverse group of artists looks at Native American politics and the environment.
"It's not only serendipity that the show's here," says Brian Wallace, director of exhibitions at Moore College. He's talking about "Lewis & Clark Territory," a show from Tacoma, Wash., that's now sprawling across the Paley and Levy galleries at Moore.
It turns out that Wallace, who came to Philadelphia in 2003 from the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington state, has been back several times since he left.
"When I saw Rock Hushka [curator of the Lewis and Clark exhibit] at the College Art Association meetings in Seattle, we talked a lot about the show. I didn't see it, but because of my respect for him and for the artists in the show, I thought the show would make sociopolitical points," Wallace says.
Indeed it does. The group exhibit-whose artists are both Native and non-Native Americans thinking about race, politics and the environment-is a nice counterpoint to the other historical programming in town about the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Moore College is next door to the Academy of Natural Sciences, now hosting perhaps the definitive Lewis and Clark bicentennial history exhibition. Wallace says Moore has worked with the Academy on things like programming, publicity, sharing auditorium space (Hushka's opening lecture was in the Academy's auditorium) and the reception, which Moore hosted.
Both institutions hope for crossover between the two shows. "There will be audience spillover," Wallace says. "When I was trying to fix the videos in the window, we saw people walk by and then they came in. They were going to the Academy of Natural Sciences to see the Lewis and Clark exhibit and came in to see what ours was."
The videos Wallace refers to, which face the street and run day and night, are by Northern Cheyenne nation member Bently Spang. Spang is the main actor in his short pieces, which comment on the seriousness-and kitsch-of Indian lore and culture. Atmospheric and snappy, the pieces are two of the best works in a very good exhibit.
Also strong in the 75-work 20-artist exhibit are the many photographs of sweeping vistas, all shrouded in other contexts. There's eco-
devastation and, in the case of Susan Seubert, murder. Seubert's Ten Most Popular Places to Dump a Body in the Columbia River Gorge should win a prize for most chilling title.
There's one outstanding sculpture: Leo Saul Berk's Ribbon, an inward curling spiral of processed wood peeled from a sheet of plywood at the manufacturing plant. Ribbon, which nods at Richard Serra's monolithic inwardly spiraling canyons of steel shown in 2003 at Gagosian, is delicate and fragrant, its pine scent a big presence in the gallery.
Beautiful and elegiac, the piece speaks about lost forests and the subversion of natural wonders to man's development needs. "That piece really sums up the show's themes about the commodification of the West," says Wallace.
It's surprising to see traditional Native American crafts like beadworks and basketry in this conceptually driven show, but Thomas Haukaas' Lakota Special Boy Shirt and Linda Oyatewaste Haukaas' drawings of tribal costumes are not only beautiful, they also represent personal assertions by the artists of the importance of these native art forms. The works are a breath of life in an otherwise dark and questioning show.
"Lewis & Clark Territory:
Contemporary Artists Revisit Place, Race, and Memory"
Through March 20. Galleries at Moore College, 20th St. and the Pkwy. 215.965.4045. www.thegalleriesatmoore.org
Art and Sold
While looking at the exhibit by Christopher
Gallego-nicely done academic realism drawings are the best thing in the show-at Seraphin Gallery, I was offered a side dish: insights into the gallery's marketing strategy, something I'm always curious about. Lorraine Seraphin, who's the sister of gallery owner Tony (whose other business is Global Wrap, www.globalwrap.com), told me they discovered two venues that have been bringing them contacts and maybe a sale in the future. First the Seraphins rented a display case at the Kimmel Center and put in it a piece of art by an American impressionist they represent, Hugh Breckenridge, who died in 1937. They've also been advertising in The New York Times' Friday art section. As a result of both placements, they've been getting phone calls. I pass these on as examples of thinking outside the Philadelphia box. >> In other gallery news, two artists, Tina Newberry and Martha Mayer Erlebacher, both of whom used to be with Charles More Gallery, have moved on. Newberry, an excellent painter of quirky autobiographical paintings, found a home with Schmidt-Dean, where her current show sports a bunch of red dots. Erlebacher, a painter of figures in symbolic landscapes, landed at Seraphin. Next up at Seraphin? Phoebe Adams. (R.F.)
"Christopher Gallego," through Feb. 20. Seraphin Gallery, 1108 Pine St. 215.923.7000. www.seraphingallery.com >> "Tina Newberry," through Feb. 19. Schmidt-Dean Gallery, 1710 Sansom St. 215.569.9433. www.schmidtdean.com
Calendar: Aug. 26-Sept. 2