Catch these two excellent shows before they close!
You, Me, We, She at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery
Featuring the work of 19 contemporary artists and artist groups who use photography, video, sculpture, publication and performance, You, Me, We, She explores how women organize, depict and define themselves. Julia Sherman’s glass-mounted photographs lyricize a disturbing moment of denied representation. Photographing the tinny, crackled surfaces of acid-doused mirrors in a Manhattan convent, Sherman documents the perversely beautiful visual results of an attempt by nuns to root out their own vanity. While Sherman’s “Un-Reflective” series of photographs glance off the surface, Fawn Krieger’s “Architectural Organs” burrows deep inside the body. Arranged in a grid on lumber scavenged from a demolished Quaker meeting house, Krieger’s unfired, petal-pink ceramic sculptures suggest an inventory of internal organs.
A number of pieces play with gender and its performative aspects. Francine Spiegle’s large format photograph, “Untitled (3),” documents one of her recent performances—an abject cocktail of squashed food and suggestive gunk that riffs on the vernacular of horror films and porn in the name of subverting feminine stereotypes. Employing a markedly different register, Jennifer Levonian’s “Rebellious Bird” uses paper-doll animation to tell the story of a female Civil War re-enactor who impersonates a transgender soldier. The narrative twists and turns and Levonians’s vivid watercolors lend this quietly revolutionary story of historical drag a dissonant, homespun feel.
On the subject of passing for the gender you hope to be, a prim embroidery in “Rebellious Bird” offers this ingenious advice: “If you cannot convince them, confuse them.” Levonian’s creed functions as an ad hoc motto for the exhibition. Dramatizing moments in the complex history of gender construction and negotiation, You, Me, We, She is just confusing enough to be convincing. ■
Through March 31. Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut St. 215.545.6140. fleisherollman.com
Nathan Pankratz at Bridgette Mayer Gallery
Although Nathan Pankratz works with acrylic paint, his panels have the distinct feel of collages. The tension between the two is arresting. It’s a lovely, cross-media confusion kept afloat by the languid intensity of the colors in Pankratz’s 17 paintings and four collages.
Pankratz intentionally courts such aquatic references: the titular Peruvian river invoked in Over the Urabamba’s title ripples its murky currents through each canvas. In “CMYK,” an uninterrupted tract of squeegeed brown paint snakes its way around the canvas while in “Fold,” elements of collage break in to arrest the lazy downward flow of paint with sharply cut, horizontally painted planes. In both, paint that at first mimics the murky brown of river water churned with sludge thins to reveal mossy greens and luminous pinks.
Aside from “Page,” where strips of tape have been left on the canvas to form a triangle, Pankratz’s process is opaque. Collaged elements might look like paper but are, in fact, carefully lifted strips of paint. Part of the pleasure of looking at the work emerges from this indecipherable but utterly compelling scavenger hunt.
Although Pankratz writes in a statement that he hopes visitors will “glimpse moments of the sublime via landscape as in Caspar David Freidrich” (a 19th-century artist whose paintings are considered the hallmark of German Romanticism), his muddy rivers seem less sublime than phenomenological. They insist on a personal, visual experience. Instead of buffeting us to mass euphoria on the foamy spray, Pankratz’s paintings drag us down into the undertow, where we must each slip and slide in our own way.
Through March 31. Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St. 215.413.8893. bridgettemayergallery.com