A show pairing artists from Philly and Baltimore lacks creativity and focus.

By Manya Scheps
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Jan. 26, 2010

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Broom town: Daniel Petraitis’ metal sculpture stands out.

Philadelphia, a city perennially trying to keep it real, takes some cues from Baltimore and vice versa. Their DIY art scenes are congruent, both based around grimy neon-laden warehouses, factories and living rooms purporting themselves as galleries.

“Baltidelphia,” currently at My House Gallery in South Philly and Hexagon Space in Baltimore, celebrates the twin towns by pairing 22 artists from each. The teams, selected by curators Alex Gartelmann and Phuong Pham, were given three months to collaborate on a project.

Though teamwork was the theme, there is a surprising lack of chumminess in the show that stems from inconsistent communication between the artists. For many pairs, contact ceased after a few initial emails. The result, says Gartelmann, was panic before the opening, with many of the artists floundering to find something to make. This feeling carries through to the work, much of which is simply documentation of the communication in lieu of creative, well-thought-out artwork.

Take, for example, Masha Badinter’s drawings of emails between herself and partner Sean Scheidt and the framed printouts of Gmail chats and Facebook comments between Megan Lavelle and Jen Gin. There’s an earnest attempt at artistic integrity through personalizing technological interaction. But getting meta doesn’t mean getting conceptual. The aesthetic choices by the artists—which Gmail theme they chose, for example—aren’t intellectually satisfying.

Beth Heinly and Rick Royer’s piece is more subversive as it wades through the digital awkwardness. The installation consists of printouts from a Flickr photostream pinned on the wall and involves dizzying layers of technology. The pictures were appropriated, altered, Photoshopped, Google Voiced, uploaded and finally favorited. The pictures themselves aren’t anything special, but the piece shines in clunky confusion.

There are other pieces that hint at multi-step process, at effort, at concept. Daniel Petraitis’s masterful metal sculpture glorifies the lowly broom. While the piece isn’t necessarily collaboration in the traditional sense of the word, since Petraitis sculpted it alone, it is simply masterful work.

Jim Grilli and Emily Claire Dierkes’s piece worked in the puritan sense. They mailed a painting back and forth for months, and the result of their diligent, incremental changes is, unsurprisingly, a finished piece.

Daniel Potterton plays with the very notion of collaboration in his installation. Though the work was executed solely by Potterton, it is an imitation of his partner Kathleen Mazurek’s aesthetic with materials she sent him. These works distinguish themselves.

Despite its attempted sincerity, “Baltidelphia,” feels overwhelmingly like the detritus of failed partnership. The show strives to unite artists and could’ve been interesting if the geographic differences had actually been, well, different. The choice to join Baltimore artists with Philadelphians is not particularly inspired since the resulting work is nearly indecipherable. The 44 artists, though technically strangers, are all young and energetic. They come from the same demographic and share cultural touchstones. They’re the very audience to which My House Gallery and Hexagon Space cater.

Based solely on artistic merit, the show is unfulfilling, boasting works in progress. But as a presentation of a single community, “Baltidelphia” succeeds. It’s an acknowledgement of the togetherness of DIY artists, who share faults and a relentless spirit to bring alternative art to the world, one living room at a time. â– 

Through Feb. 7. My House Gallery, 2534 S. Eighth St.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Harry and Harrietta said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 09:19AM

“Jeeezzzzz, did we bump our heads and wake up in OZ or sumptin? A real review that isn't simply a cheerleading session. OMG!!!!!!!!! Wake us up toto.

lovvvvveeeeeeee yaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!”

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2. berth heiny said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:20PM

“This is a great review...realistic and entertaining. For the record, good art is hard to come by, making a successful piece happens about 1% of the time and collaborating...well, that is a true RARE happening when a promising piece of art is made. It's like finding a best friend. This review failed by choosing not to use this one word...."experiment", which is what this project was. Experimenting is also one of the many things that thrives in the DIY, alternative, underground, grungy, grimy, factory, living room, spirit SCENE. Art viewers/artists should thank the art gods for curators like Alex and Phuong.”

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3. berth heiny said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:48PM

“Also did artblahg go to this show? They're totally ripping off my toto reference. Love ya artblahg!!!!”

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4. Harry and Harrietta said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 01:51PM

“Hi Bettcha Hinney,

We did not appropriate your thang and although there might be some air wave synergy goin' on we do have at least one problem wit this piece, mostly because many of the artists are the usual suspects. If we can get good reviews on under-recognized artists, at least once in a while, that would be the bestest.

We'll give our take on this review and the entire "wonderful world of the local art media" in our Weekly Poop Meter wrap up.

lovvvvvvvveeeeeee ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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5. berth heiny said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 02:23PM

“Can't wait....I love the poop meter!”

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6. Anonymous said... on Apr 13, 2010 at 11:44AM

“The artblahg is a creep and a bore. try reading the mirrow of the dark mirror: . the guy who writes the artblahg likes to talk malicious, spohomoric crap on people and their art.

he's a locally based, art focused glenn beck. don't answer him and stop fueling his hateful soapbox.”

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7. Anonymous said... on May 19, 2011 at 12:13PM

“We wanted to give you a heads up about Vincent Romaniello. He is an internet troll who writes a racist and sexist “anonymous” blog, often with veiled threats. Sometimes not so veiled threats. There have been numerous problems with artists who have worked with him in the past, false blogs created and online stalking. This isn’t to scare people, we only want you to know what he’s been doing to many artists he’s worked with in the past, some of whom he knows personally and some who he’s never met. He posted here under the name “Harry Harrietta.”

You can read about Vince here,
Because most of the online harassment has happened in the Philadelphia area, please contact Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts if you have any problems with Vince. They have a great deal of information regarding his cyber harassment and can help you. Most of it is only a nuisance. But some is more serious.”


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