NOW CURATING: YOMI
s t r e e t a r t i s t
Fall is a time for art. Whether you associate the season with going back to school, or are just too upset that the cool weather doesn’t linger like it used to, there is always something to do and see in fall. After pope mania dies down and you’ve returned to (what’s left of) the city, check out my top five art events to participate in this fall.
The exhibition focuses on still lifes as a genre, and the variety of approaches taken from the genre’s beginnings in the late 1700s up to the 1960s. “The exhibition will be divided into four chronological sections that mirror still life’s periodic resurgence in the United States.” The exhibition’s title, which received half an eye roll from me—we get it, people will come to see Warhol and purchase tote bags with his work printed on them—hints at long list of featured work, including still lifes from Raphaelle Peale, William Michael Harnett, and Arthur B. Carles.
The ICA is currently featuring the first work of Pryde to be shown in a US museum exhibition. The exhibition has everything: close-up photos of hands, a miniature train—okay, perhaps not everything, but the photographs assert a contemporary feel that we have grown to expect from the ICA’s shows.
The FWM has long been one of my favorite art establishments in the City and has attracted phenomenal talents. This season composer, musician, and theater artists, Cynthia Hopkins, celebrates prior musical theater performances through “the materials collected from the detritus of Hopkins’ performance pieces.” The objects (hand-written notes, fragments of her costumes and props woven into quilts) flirt with concepts of mourning experience, but could potentially resonate as an unfinished product. The FWM opens the exhibition doors for a public reception on October 2, 2015.
If you have never participated in POST or visited a local artist’s studio, you should absolutely partake. The tour will introduce you to new local art and artists. I highly encourage you to find work that you like and BUY it! #supportlocalart
Next Stop: Democracy and Streets Department partner with 60 local artists and ask, “Can 60 of Philly’s most inspired artists help to increase voter turnout this coming Election Day, November 3rd, 2015?” The show displays a collection of “Vote Here” signs from NoseGo, Isaiah Zagar, Joe Boruchow, Kid Hazo, Old Broads, Dominic Episcopo, Gaia, Anthony (Seper) Torcasio, Harlequinade, Darla Jackson, Kelly Kozma, Hawk Krall, Brendan (Peopledelphia) Lowry, Amber Lynn, Ryan Beck, Jessie Mademann, Sean Martorana, Dennis Murphy, Mike L. Perry, Sophie Roach, Miriam Singer, Jason Andrew Turner, Mac Whalen, Aubree Eisenwinter, Sean Brown and many more. This is an event you will not want to miss.
Photo by Ahd Photography
One of my first experiences with art in Philadelphia was at Magic Gardens. For the most part, Isaiah Zagar’s work is likeable. Yelp gives Magic Gardens a solid 4.5 star rating. More than 200 mouse potatoes support Yelp’s assessment, voicing abridged versions of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” in the comment section.
Beyond aesthetics, what we like about Magic Gardens, and Zagar’s work as whole, is its transformative nature. Isaiah took a deteriorating neighborhood, heaved ceramic shards all over it in a borrowed folk tradition, and revitalized South Street. In essence, this is why we find Magic Gardens likable. It is the inspirational story behind the artwork that—like the fragmented chips of mirror in Isaiah’s work—reflect a disjointed sense of self that Philadelphians harbor.
We rejoice in our city’s successes, but only as a reaction to struggle. Whether the struggle is against urban elements, as is the case of Magic Gardens, or the struggle is against our own reputation as a city. Philadelphians have a tendency to position our city in a place that requires a “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” mentality.
The trash to treasure story parallels another Philly classic, (for the purpose of this article we will refer to it as…) the Balboa. The underdog trope follows Philadelphians with the tenacity of Apollo Creed. Positioning ourselves against the critics that dismissively named Philadelphia NYC’s “sixth borough,” we feel the need to rise above someone else’s national perception of us.
The Balboa is not limited to a gross generalization of all Philadelphians, and often rears its head in subsets of local culture. As an artist, and an active participant in Philadelphia’s art scene, I come face to face with the Balboa on a regular basis.
“Why Philly?” New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz asked at a lecture at the Barnes Foundation. He was referring to Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), and though rhetorically asked (fully aware of his audience), there lay some truth in jest. Once something, anything, happens in the art scene in Philadelphia, outside critics scowl. Yet, our city’s CV is impressive. Philadelphia has the only Rodin Museum outside of Paris, is home to countless masterpieces, and has globally recognized art institutions, but there remains a need to fight to show up on the national radar.
The fight is magnified in Philadelphia’s contemporary art scene, and it brings us back to the idea of struggle. If we have the resources, the institutions, the history, etc., then why do we have to fight to be recognized within the contemporary art scene? AND is this a product of an inferiority complex we have accepted as both a city and a people?
A few years ago I wrote an article for Philly.com begging young artists not to move to New York City. The argument was simple: artists can’t afford New York. I interviewed Jason Musson, an artist who began his career in Philadelphia and eventually moved to NYC, in part, to expand his career. Musson described his work in Philadelphia as a necessary, and important, step in his career. The idea has been recycled in one of Curate This’ prompts, “Crossing the Border.” We ask people why they felt they could not pursue their art career in Philadelphia.
Co-founder Julius and I created this prompt out of necessity. So many of our collaborators wanted to include creator friends who had once lived in Philadelphia, but left for greener, or at least other, pastures. The narratives of this prompt tend to follow Musson’s outlook. When opportunities to show your work, or reach new audiences have dissipated, there is an overwhelming feeling that your resources have been exhausted. Philadelphia becomes a tethered backdrop that hosted rehearsals, but never quite made it to an opening night.
The problem with the arts in Philadelphia cannot be summarized in an all-encompassing statement or observation. We are faced with problems that have everything to do with the city, like the Balboa, and nothing to do with the city. An idea of what is obstructing us from receiving international attention, stymieing us from feeding our creative class, or prohibiting local funding sources, is the first step in finding a solution. At the foundation of Curate This is the belief that words possess a transformative authority, and those who command discourse are those who shape the popular imagination. Whether or not you’ve posited yourself as the underdog, your experience as a creator in this city is valid through experience. You are the critic.
First Friday in Old City is reappearing on the radar. There has been a staple group of visitors for First Fridays, yet the event has a reputation for discouraging local artists from participating. “In art school, we used to go to Old City for examples of what not to do,” a friend told me as we shoved through the crowd this past Friday.
When you have a chance to actually look at the work you see that the majority is skill focused, not informed by contemporary interests, says very little about the art community in Philadelphia, and (perhaps the biggest complaint) it is overly commercial. Why go to First Friday in Old City when you can go to Frankford Ave Arts’ First Friday, or to a show at Vox Populi, and be a part of something that reflects the art community and displays relevant work?
The First Friday tradition in Philadelphia has branched out, in part because Old City was only representing a small portion of the contemporary art scene in Philadelphia. Granted, a good portion of the art showing in the 40+ galleries at Old City’s First Friday is created by local artists, and the same can be said about the street vendors—who scale from pandering flea-market-esque venders to actual artists trying to support themselves through their work.
There is a distinct difference in the crowd at Old City and Frankford Ave Arts. In Old City you are confronted by people who are traveling from outside of the city, where Frankford Ave Arts caters to and supports their North Philly community. Community (and competition) seems scarce in Old City, but there are exceptions.
Surprisingly, some non-gallery spaces in Old City are drawing on their clientele to support local talent. This past Friday Indy Hall opened its doors to the public and invited people to KIN: “a collaborative exhibition featuring the creative endeavors of an evolving artistic community.” Indy Hall is not a gallery but a member based cooperative working space. All showing artists were Indy Hall members. A wider Indy Hall community was in attendance, supporting them, and as a result, purchasing local work and advocating for our creative economy.
Art in the Age, a store that sells an array of artisanal products, featured the work of Eric Kenney. His T-shirts, flags, paintings, and prints straddle the line between commercial and art, which sits well with a shop that does the same. Art in the Age is not stepping outside of their wheelhouse when they show and sell work like Kenney’s, but what they are doing is encouraging their customers to buy from a local artist.
Support for Philadelphia’s larger art community is why people like me are returning to Old City for First Friday. There are only so many Facebook invites from friends that you can ignore, but there is still a lot of room for First Friday to become more relevant. It will never be a noncommercial experience, but it has the ear of communities outside of the arts, so it is vital for those of us involved in the art scene to look at it critically.