When scanning Philadelphia’s diverse and shape-shifting art-filled neighborhoods, patterns begin to emerge. This is a city whose streets are popping with fresh public artwork, whose galleries and museums are known around the world for their relevance and whose artists are always pushing and pulling at important questions, working together and doing our city proud.
Aside from the occasional naked man climbing a bus—or maybe because of him, Philly’s streets are as perfectly viable a muse for its artists as anything else in the city. With a sculpture in every park and something artful to find in every neighborhood, artists work to keep things fresh here, which is why some of autumn’s most exciting action comes from local artists who’ve inspired and conspired with other area creatives. The collaborative spirit is alive and well this season.
This month, with the African American Museum in Philadelphia’s exhibit, The Unflinching Eye: Works of the Tiberino Family Circle, is a time to remember and celebrate the amazing body of work by prolific Philadelphia artist Ellen Powell Tiberino and her extended clan, who have continued her wondrous legacy. Ellen Tiberino got Philly: She was quoted in 1988 as saying, “I paint life, and life is not always beautiful.” Responsible for some of the most amazing three-dimensional murals, sculptures and large-scale paintings in the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, a selection of the Tiberino family’s vibrant and poignant work will be on display through March 2014.
Most art lovers start their Philly adventures at the top of the rear steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This month, the museum welcomes a retrospective of Philly-born artist/writer/poet Barbara Chase-Riboud, with The Malcolm X Steles, which focuses predominantly on her Malcolm X sculpture series. November at the PMA brings the exciting and mind-twisting work of Salvador Dali, Roberto Matta, Joan Miró and Dorothea Tanning, among others, in The Surrealists, which offers a historical tale about the revolutionary movement.
Back out in the streets, Made in Philly will essentially come right to you this fall. Held throughout September and October via a coordinated takeover of 50 street-level advertising spaces throughout Philadelphia, Made in Philly brings you outstanding artwork, diverse and accomplished professional artists in place of soul-crushing corporate ads. Neighborhood-specific installations will highlight this project. The October portion comes partnered with this year’s Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, lifting white gallery walls to bring audiences directly into the creative process. Contained within the weekends of Oct. 5-6 (East Philly) and Oct 19-20 (West Philly), the Center for Emerging Visual Artists-run program is the largest self-guided tour of artist studios and creative workspaces in the Philadelphia area, with options for guided trolley tours as well.
Speaking of self-guided tours, you’ll want to take a few leisurely, flannelled walks through the pulsating art-filled neighborhoods of Rittenhouse Square, South Street, University City, Old City and Northern Liberties. With too many galleries to mention, it is always a good idea to just wander around and walk in. Take, for instance, an evening jaunt down Frankford Avenue between Girard Avenue and York Street in Fishtown, with its fleet of pop-up galleries, small shops, DIY spaces, outdoor art and established galleries paired alongside friendly little restaurants, coffee shops and urban gardens. It’s here, with the neighborhood’s quiet but alive vibe, where you can still feel like you’re truly exploring.
Outside Rocket Cat Cafe, Shepard Fairey’s mural was recently vandalized, so watch for something new by the Mural Arts Program soon. Down the street, a sculpture/mural changes as you walk by. Everywhere, artful graffiti winks at you as you pass. The area is built as much by art as it is by red bricks. Take a step into Fjord, Circle of Hope, the Soup Kitchen, Pizza Brain or White Stone Gallery, and see what all the fuss is about.
The fuss continues throughout the city in November with the Knight Foundation-funded CITYWIDE project, which will unify the city’s artist-run collectives in a month-long, multi-gallery exhibit. More than 20 groups will participate in an exchange of exhibitions, ideas and practices. For example, the owners of Rebekah Templeton will have a show at Grizzly Grizzly, while members from Grizzly Grizzly commandeer Rebekah Templeton for the month. The sweeping shared project represents a geographical and ideological collaborative exchange that involves over 100 local artists.
Chinatown’s Space 1026, central to the CITYWIDE Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to produce a hand-printed book to document the month of art, will feature colorful printed and quilted work by Crystal Stokowski and Michael Persico in October’s Wet Dreams.
Old City’s Indy Hall, an alternative office space known to be an exciting place for hungry self-starters to pull up a seat next to like-minded creatives, will continue its new series of exhibitions in the space, with Philly, Boston and NYC-based artist Thomas Buildmore’s explosive, street-art inspired still-life series of bouquet paintings.
Gravy Studio, a Fishtown photography gallery and education studio not far from the vibrant Crane Arts Building, provides a new show each month this fall, with aged digital photography by Andrew Pinkham in October and cinematic-style storytelling by Julianna Foster in November, followed by Andrew Swartz in December. And when James Weingrod’s space-bending exhibit comes down at Napoleon, get ready for an exhibit by UArts sculpture tech Lewis Colburn. In December, they will host an open call for a performance piece.
At the beautiful Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Ryan McGinness’ psychedelic, layered work will be on view through October and November in a show called Finding Infinity, which coincides with his mural dedication on the far side of the University City Science Center, organized by the Mural Arts Program.
Back north of Girard Avenue, on Lawrence Street, the excellent and unassuming Salon 1522 features a collaborative show this month filled with ceramics made in Georgia, Texas and Philly called Electric, Wood, Love. Owner Shane Leddy will open his studio in November, and Champion of Empty Rooms co-chair Veronica Cianfrano will inhabit the space in December with small, overlapping memories and large canvas work.
Outside the city, it is always worth the drive to Mount Airy Contemporary, whose early fall will be filled with kinetic sculptures and abstract paintings by Brad Litwin and Jonathan Eckel, and the Mount Airy Arts Garage, who’ll be hosting a festive Chanukah Art Market in December.
More fall museum exhibits
Jordan Eagles: Blood Work. A new series based on the elemental qualities of blood and copper, as well as minimal works in blood dust and gauze. In the presence of light, the works vibrate iridescent reds, crimsons, oranges, browns and black, projecting an intense glow. These effects make the works appear as if they are illuminated from within. Artist reception: Wed., Sept. 25. 5-7pm. $10. College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22nd St. 215.563.3737. collegeofphysicians.org
Dinosaurs Unearthed. More than a dozen realistic, full-bodied animatronic dinosaurs reflecting the most up-to-date scientific understanding—as well as skeletons, fossil casts of skulls, claws and horns, real specimens of mosasaur and spinosaurus teeth, an Oviraptor egg and the ever-popular coprolite (dino poop). Opens Oct. 12. Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. 215.299.1000. ansp.org
One Day in Pompeii. In the year 79, Pompeii vanished beneath thick layers of volcanic ash left by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. But what nature destroyed, it also preserved. Hundreds of exceptional artifacts offer an insider’s glimpse into the daily life and tragic end of this ancient Roman city. Opens Nov. 9. $27.50. Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St. 215.448.1200. fi.edu
Autumn in Philly: a veritable carnival of awesome. It’s a hit musical at the Walnut; it’s Janelle Monae at the Electric Factory; it’s Dali at the Art Museum; it’s Charles Vess at a science fiction convention.
PW's Holiday Guide 2014