Portland, Ore.-based artist Zachary Davis owns and operates a gallery with the arts collective Appendix Collective, so it’s no surprise that even in a solo show, his pieces relate to each other by working together. In his show "Lowbeam" at Extra Extra, computer-generated graphics bleed with forms from the natural world, grouping stalactites and cloudscapes above a common denominator of 1’s and 0’s. Exploring how our bodies function to process the world also means mining our relationship to technology: “Each piece deals with nature mediated through technology,” Davis explains, citing the example of a large wall projection included in the show. While the subject of the video is a drifting expanse of orange clouds, the viewer’s perception of them in twice removed: once, via the video technology and a second time by the shape of a key hole on screen, imposed to siphon our view. The result is a highly controlled glimpse of a dubiously natural phenomenon. Asked how the title, “Lowbeam,” relates to the work, Davis says he thinks of it as “a small, illuminated spot in a larger obscure field.” This motif shows up throughout the exhibition, reminding the viewer that all our sense combined reveal only a fraction of what’s actually going on at any given moment. Instead of bemoaning the shortcomings of human perception, though, Davis relishes the romance of the shadows: “I think of ‘lowbeam’ as an archetypal perspective for anyone or anything moving through the world, with a strictly finite ability to perceive its surroundings and a tremendous amount of unknown yet to be encountered.” Lowbeam is a technofile’s blind man’s bluff; be prepared to grope your way through Davis’ sculpture and video to a richer understanding of the twinned algorithms that drive both organic and digital matter. (Katherine Rochester)
7–10pm. Through Aug. 7. Extra Extra, 1524 Frankford Ave. 301.412.7547. eexxttrraa.com
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Most art scuffles with its city of origin, but the work in "Urbanism," curated by PAFA’s Julien Robson, zooms out farther than its immediate surroundings to spin more general narratives of the urban fabric. A mere peek at Philadelphia-based artist Ben Peterson’s exquisitely detailed ink and graphite drawings betrays their rain check on reality. For starters, it’s just too damn clean; never did Philly ever boast a lawn so beatifically free of litter as Peterson’s manicured plots (although fastidious execution aside, some of his caved-in roofs and roving foliage recall a certain city’s pandemic of vacant lots). Meanwhile, artist duo the Dufala Brothers grind a bit more grit into the gravy without sacrificing the absurd. Their piece for the uniquely gigantic Fisher Brooks Gallery at PAFA takes the form of a 40-foot Dumpster upholstered on the interior, like a roach with a soft core. Not one to pass up the opportunity for working large scale, Amy Walsh also takes full advantage of the 7,000-square-foot gallery space with a 50-by-20-foot site-specific installation. Cobbled together with cardboard and wood, the colossal structure is really a foil for the miniature scenes visible through numerous spy holes—a sanitized nod to Philadelphia’s most famous peep-hole piece: Marcel Duchamp’s naughty ” Etant Donnés,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Satisfying our desire to pry into the interiors of private dwellings, Walsh’s secret scenes play with perspective in a trompe l’oeil effect that disorients the viewer in an uncanny tour de force. Abstracting even further from the normal appearance of objects, Arden Bendler Browning’s large-scale paintings combine the speed of urban life with a jarring collision of perspectives that burst across the field of vision like a pleasurable sucker punch. (Katherine Rochester)
10am–5pm. Through Sept. 4. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building, first floor, 118 N. Broad St. 215.972.7625. pafa.org
A Future Past Present
Osvaldo Romberg Studio—the Port Richmond space owned by Slought Foundation's senior curator, Osvaldo Romberg—hosts an opening tonight for new paintings by two Philadelphia-based artists, David Stanley Aponte and Jordan Graw. Curated by K. Malcolm Richards, a lecturer at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and author of "Derrida Reframed: Interpreting Key Thinkers for the Arts," "A Future Past Present" explores the art form's evolving attempts at representing the world. From its early role as nature's mirror, to modern painting's dismantling and re-imagining of the everyday, to the way many contemporary painters ironically gaze at the iconography of the past, these mutating struggles constitute the work of both featured artists. Aponte's paintings are like old, forgotten, foggy photographs. With minimal brushstrokes and color (most are black and white), he captures the quiet, quotidian aspects of his human subjects, bestowing value upon seemingly insignificant movements, exchanges, and moments. Graw's work lingers between the impressionist and expressionist imaginaries. The colors are sudden and seductive, but familiar objects transform into blurry, bizarre shapes. Viewed together, their works articulate contrasting ways of remembering and grappling with the past. There's also music. Mirage Fading Momentarily is the latest manifestation of Aponte's MFM, and tonight's improvising quartet presents a live score for Vsevolod Pudovkin's 1925 film, Chess Fever. The Humanization 4-Tet, featuring two renowned Portuguese musicians (saxophonist Rodrigo Amado and guitarist Luis Lopez) and the Gonzalez brothers from Texas (double-bassist Aaron and drummer Stefan), headline with their volatile blues and scrappy free-jazz. (Elliott Sharp)
7pm. Osvaldo Romberg Studio, 3232 Collins St.
Begun in 1991 by the Old City Art Association, First Friday was firmly rooted in what is now a touristy and increasingly trendy neighborhood. Today, Old City offers up a dense cluster of commercial galleries but its draw for people on the hunt for experimental art has weakened considerably in the face of an exodus of nonprofit spaces.