In a perverse swing of the historical pendulum, juried shows have gone from a high-falutin’ French club of conservative taste to an expo of democratically accumulated and thoughtfully considered art. Vox VII, Vox Populi’s seventh annual juried show, is a good example of the latter.
“Juried shows are a chance for the artist—any artist—to put his or her work out there to be seen, if only by a few interested professionals,” says Vox VII juror Melissa Ho, an “interested professional” who’s assistant curator at the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington D.C. She’s joined by juror Hennessy Youngman, perennial YouTube favorite and alter-ego character of Philly-based performance artist Jayson Musson. Together, Ho and Youngman have waded through the mayhem of an open-submissions process and emerged on the other side with an exhibition that finds cohesion among its varied parts.
The pieces in Vox VII gel loosely around themes of the urban experience and the relationship between time and movement. Appropriately vague for a juried show of randomly submitted work, these themes are secondary to the singular visions that fall beneath their canopy. Indifferent to trends, Ho says she responded to work “when there was a strong individual voice coming through.” This voice, as it turns out, often speaks with a familiar mid-Atlantic rumble. While the call for artists was circulated internationally, the local ties in the show run deep. Eight selected artists are graduates of Penn’s MFA program (including Youngman), while Ho was a Vox member artist herself at one time.
The standard practice of inviting high-profile guests to jury can sometimes feel like a phoned-in celebrity appearance, but at Vox, guest jurors lend exciting twists to the content of the show. Known for his arrestingly honest and uproariously funny informational broadcasts on the practical uses of art-world lingo, Musson—acting as “Hennessy Youngman”—is likely to spice up the jurying process with his antics. Vox Executive Director Andrew Suggs is hopeful that Youngman will opt for “rewarding content and purpose over pretension”; aka “cutting through the bullshit.” Youngman’s direct approach rings true for artist Adam Jacono, who says, “Vox VII did it right with the jurors, and I think Hennessy speaks for a lot of the younger generation artists included here.”
Like Youngman, Jacono also plies subcultures with a critical eye; his black-and-white pigment print, “Praise,” captures the devoted in different states of worship—many of whom were no doubt surprised when the forecasted Rapture called in a rain check this past May. As in much of his work, the photo collage is laced with the idea of being sick of consumer culture, hinted at here by the Megachurch mantra that faith returns in riches. Jacono’s image is a patchwork of snapshots sutured together to form a pulsing sea of raised arms and upturned faces that bear more than a passing resemblance to brokers on the floor of the stock exchange.
In contrast, any movement in Ashlee Ferlito’s large-scale painting is frozen and painted over. With its suggestive title, the fringe of color that peaks out the top of “Beautiful Letdown” breeds fantasies of an aborted Morris Louis, the signature veils of color blunted with Ferlito’s no less expressive white. Like much of the work in the show, her painting also flirts with other mediums. Like a printed proof, Ferlito’s vivid strip recalls the color tabs that edge a designer’s mock-up. Her painting reads like the spectral index for an image we will never fully see, an apt metaphor for a show whose many voices converge momentarily at Vox before returning to the logic of their separate conversations.
Milana Braslavsky, Andrea Brown, Chris Domenick, Hilary L Doyle, Leigh van Duzer, Kristina Estell, Ashlee Ferlito, Erik Geschke, Scott Giblin, Ben Goddard, Bobby Gonzales, Jordan Graw, James Grilli, Adam Jacono, Tara Kelton, Nichola Kinch, Matthew Krawcheck, Jennifer Lingford, Kevin McCullough, Bud McNichol, Dustin Metz, A. Bill Miller, Jonathan Monaghan, Benjamin Pederson, Daniel Petraitis, Lauren Rice, Peter Schenck, John Schlesinger, Run Shayo, Jaime Treadwell, Jessica Vaughn, Sarah Weber, Nathan T. Wilson & Dante Blackstone, Lindsay Wraga.
Opening reception Fri., July 8, 6-11pm; Exhibition through July 31. Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th St., third floor. voxpopuli.org
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide