Activist themes are prominent in the large arts festival.
There are many treats in the print festival Philagrafika 2010. One of the best is in the upstairs gallery at the Print Center—the Space 1026 yurt, a demure, grand dame of an object that is the embodiment of the one for all, all for one spirit of the hard-working Chinatown collective.
The yurt is one of several installations at the Print Center in a large Philagrafika group show featuring 14 artists and art collectives from around the world. Not surprisingly, much of the work is activist in nature. Here’s a sampling.
In the spirit of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the three-person Chicago collective Temporary Services (Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer) is a pamphleteering powerhouse. Temporary Services, which also produces exhibits, is represented here by a row of zines dangling from the ceiling. The collective also made a 30-page zine especially for Philagrafika that’s available as a giveaway. Produced in black ink on green paper, the zine focuses on the life and ephemeral art of New York artist Peggy Diggs. The modest monograph introduces you to a wonderful overlooked artist.
Eric Avery, a Galveston, Texas, doctor specializing in HIV/AIDS and known for his activist art has a surprise installation in the first floor bathroom that includes wallpaper and toilet paper, both printed with graphic images and frank information on how men and women can protect themselves from STDs. Avery etched a message into the toilet seat: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” The message is in reverse so that it will “print” correctly on a sitter’s bottom. Not for everyone but be sure to take a look.
Capetown’s collective Bitterkomix (Joe Dog and Conrad Botes) has some stunning comic books on display in a vitrine—they’re as raunchy as anything penned by R. Crumb. It’s too bad you can’t read the comics in the yurt. In the glass case they’re way too sacrosanct for their content.
But there are some books for you to touch. The Buenos Aires collective Eloisa Cartonera (Javier Barilaro and Washington Cucurto), working with homeless in their city, made a series of poetry books with covers made from scavenged cardboard. The poems are in Spanish but even if you can’t understand the language, the books are earthy and evocative and a delight to page through.
Mexican artist Erick Beltran’s interactive world politics game includes a maze of interconnected black-topped tables and little game pieces that represent world figures. The visuals are austere and off-putting but the game pieces weren’t available when I visited so I can’t say how interesting the game might be. On a nearby wall, sits a somber and didactic complement to Beltran’s game. Animal activist Sue Coe’s large black-and-white prints include a new image about the earthquake in Haiti.
Philagrafika 2010. Through April 11. The Print Center, 1614 Latimer St. 215.735.6090. printcenter.org
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