Philadelphia Contemporary at the Philadelphia Art Museum

The Philadelphia Art Museum has installed two new wings below their traditional galleries and above a new forum in the guts of the building.

  

 

Looking up to the area of the new galleries from the  sunken Williams Forum

 

 

One wing is dedicated to the art of the Americas. 

 

The other to contemporary art.

 

 

 

Entry to the Contemporary wing 

 

 

The inaugural contemporary art exhibition is dedicated to artists who are native or who have worked or are working in the city. 

The work of 25 artists were chosen.

 

 

 

 

Detail of Walls of Change, 2021, acrylic latex paint on wall. 

Designed by Odili Donald Odita, American born 1966 Nigeria.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

 

 

The quality seems somewhat variable to me.  Pre-eminent  living artists and artisans active in the city are not included. 

 

 

This may indicate the difficulty that a front-rank museum like the Phildadelphia Art Museum has when it focusses on its native artists because it has done this without consistency

 

 

 

Detail of Walls of Change, 2021, acrylic latex paint on wall. 

Designed by Odili Donald Odita, American born 1966 Nigeria.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

 

so focussed is it on the giants who have walked the American land since Marcel Duchamp whose legacy is in the keeping of this museum.

 

 

 

Visitors looking at the work of Jonathan Lyndon Chase

 

 

 

The uneven quality of the art displayed here is a disappointment because Philadelphia is a generator of art expertise and a feeder of such to that giant art crocodile, New York. 

 

She has three major art teaching schools including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest in the country.  And a number of smaller ones.

 

She has a regional museum – the Woodmere Museum – now in the 79th year of exhibiting local work – to within 50 miles of the city – which is juried annually.  The Woodmere’s sole remit is to tell the story of Philadelphia’s artists.

 

 

One wonders whether there was any collegiality of decision-making here?  If yes, we may be in trouble all round.

 

If no, it shows and not least with the work which decorates the entire corridor spanning these galleries – Walls of Change.

 

Eye-catching though this commissioned work is, it has no depth, no local references;  and no local or even national context;  and could have been given any name under heaven and placed anywhere on earth without prejudice.

 

 

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Songlines, Cosmos, 2017, mixed media. 

Howardena Pindell, American born 1943.  Private collection on loan to the  Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

The artist is only now coming into the major spotlight after a long career more or less in the wilderness. 

Here she stitched together stips of canvas and layers them with paint and everyday materials. Her titles conflate everyday life with cosmic dust.

 

 

 

 

 

Man in Blue Looking, 2020, archival pigment on Dibond aluminum composite panel. With Special Thanks to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. 

Eileen Neff. American born 1945.  Loaned by the artist and her gallery to the Philadelphia Ar Museum in 2021

 

The artist documented the restoration of a diorama which has been sealed since the 1930s at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.  This seems to be the context of this image.

 

 

 

Blue Jays looking at Blue, 2020, archival pigment on Dibond aluminum composite panel. 

Edith Neff, American born 1945.  Loaned to the Philadelphia Art Museum by the artist and her gallery.

 

The artist is an ardent birder (twitcher).

 

 

 

 

Quaker Woman, 2019, distemper and oil on linen. 

Jane Irish, American born 1955. 

Loaned by a Philadelphia gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

The Valley Forge 1970 resistance march (Vietnam) is being depicted here.

 

The artist arranged these figures as though we are looking upwards at them.  Her focus is the history of US involvement in the Vietnam War (1961-75) and the immense popular effort to bring it to a close.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of the Tattooed Lady, 2017/2021, (from the series Necrology); archival links on Hahnemuhle, Photo Rag Ultra Smooth paper.

Ken Lum, Canadian born 1956.  Loaned by the artist and his gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

The Mystery of the Tattoed Lady, 2017/2021, (from the series Necrology);  archival inks on Hahnemuhle, Photo Rag Ultra Smooth paper.

Ken Lum, Canadian born 1956.  Loaned by the artist and his gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

The lives depicted, the artist says, are neither fact nor fiction.He collected the information form obituaries and he uses personal recollection also.  He hopes the reader becomes absorbed in the language and look and overall image of the text.

 

 

 

 

Isola, 2017, stained glass panel:  flash glass, sand-blasted, engraved, handf-filed, and vitreous paint; assembled with copper wire. 

Judith Schaechter, American born 1961.  Courtesy of the artist and her gallery

 

 

The artist says:  “When in despair, it is beauty that fills us with life and inspiration.”

The artist attacks difficult existential subjects without shirking.  Here the need to recognize that we are, effectively, alone in life. To accept this and work towards serentiy.

 

 

 

 

 

Murdered Animal, 2019; stained glass panel:  flash glass, sand-blasted, engraved, handf-filed, and vitreous paint; assembled with copper wire. 

Judith Schaechter, American born 1961. Private collection on loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

The artist says:  “When in despair, it is beauty that fills us with life and inspiration.”

Murdered Animal was inspired by a seventh century Assyrian low-relief sculpture of a lion hunt.  She places the fate of the animal in the center.

It is also a memorial for the artist’s cat, Siouxsie.

 

 

 

 

 

Patron Santiago – TIWANAKU, 2012; clay, underglazes, glaze, casein paint, wax, gold and silver leaf.

Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru 1962. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

San Pedro – Wari, 2014 (from the series Corpus); clay, underglazes, casein paint, gold leaf.

Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru 1962. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

Santa Barbara – Caral, 2017 (from the series Corpus); clay, casein paint, mixed media, gold leaf.

Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru 1962. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

La Linda – Shipibo-Conibo, 2021 (from the series Corpus); clay, underglazes, glaze, aluminum, white gold leaf. 

Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru 1962. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

San Sebastian – Moche, 2012 (from the series 2012); clay, underglazes, glaze, casein paint, gold leaf.

Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru 1962. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

The artist says: “Corpus is about endurance.  The amazing capability we have to adapt and survive, led by hope, strengthened by cultural and communal identity.  Capability tested in times of crisis like today when our contemporary history is in turmoil.”

This is masterful artistic and arisanal expertise to merge two inherited legacies so as to eliminate the hierarchy  which has subordinated the one to the other:  the mestizo indigineity to the Roman Catholic European. 

 

The title of the series – Corpus – is also interesting.  Discrimination was and is based on the way our bodies differ: what colour our skin is; the shape of our bodies; whether we are thought to meet or not meet conventional standards of beauty or the comportment defined for each gender.   

 

Here the artist juxtaposes the two body types of her heritage; placing the indigenous, the mestizo, front and center.  A reminder also that it was not the body of Jesus Christ which is important – we know nothing about his body – but his behaviour, the working out of his spiritual life.

 

Corpus Christi commemorates the transformation of bread and wine to the body of Christ. In Cusco, Catholic churches were built over Incan shrines. 

The procession of Corpus Christi through the streets of Cusco has people carrying embroidered banners.  The artist commissioned such with her figures as centerpieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vapor trail in debris, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 

Hiro Sakaguchi, Japanese born 1965. Private collection on loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

A post-apocalyptic scene suffused with the artist’s memory and personal references.

 

 

 

 

 

Escape (Flight), 2017 (from the series Camden), archival pigment print, visual effects software.

  Tim Portlock, American born 1969.  Loaned by the artist and his gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

Dawn Chorus, 2017, (from the series Camden), archival pigment print, visal effects software. 

Tim Portlock, American born 1969. On loan by the artist and his gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

Camden, NJ is directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.  It is one of the poorest cities in the United States.  These images are both what is and what people wish for or imagine.

 

 

 

 

Yellow Forest II, 2017, twist ties, zip ties.

Mi-Kyoung Lee, American born 1971 South Korea. 

Private collection on loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

The contradictions of our lives as here:  natural imagery made of man-made materials: hundreds of small bundles of industrial plastic twist ties.

 

 

 

 

Woman with White Dress, North Hollywood Street near West Susquehannah Avenue, North Philadelphia, 2008, pigment print. 

Daniel Traub, American born 1971.  Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

North Philadelphia is the part of Philadelphia which suffered most from the loss of manufacturing jobs and the abandonment of the cities and its population for decades.  Many people continue to live there in dignity.

I worked in the North Philadelphia ghetto and I do not think such poverty  and degradation exists anywhere else in the ‘West’. 

 

 

 

 

TBD

Daniel Traub, American born 1971.  Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

North Philadelphia is the part of Philadelphia which suffered most from the loss of manufacturing jobs and the abandonment of the cities and its population by national and local governments for decades.  Many people continue to live there in dignity despite the brutality.

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Course, 2021, installation of Parlour Domes, Epergnes, Plateaus, Calcified-Bone Table, Jewellery and Woodwork. 

Doug Bucci, American born 1971.  Commissioned by the museum from the artist.

This, a commission of the museum, is a self-portrait.

The artist has had diabetes all his life.  Here is a glimpse of the daily balance between provocation and discipline in the shadow of deat

 

 

 

 

 

Keason, gelatin silver print on car parts, colour and black-and-white sublimation on aluminum plate.

Mohammed Bourouissa, French born  1978 Algeria.  Private collection on loan to the Philadelphia Art, Museum in 2021

 

 

The artist spent nine months in 2014 observing the lives of riders of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in the Strawberry Mansion area of Philadelphia.  He was clearly moved by the devotion of its members to horses and to horseriding in the midst of a big city in which they were (are) all but forgotten. 

The artist transfers his images to sculptural objects like car parts.

 

 

 

 

 

Window Chain, 2019, pigment print on mesh, steel hardware. 

Micah Danges, American born 1979, Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

A very beautiful image of something not real and real; the result of the artist’s use of materials with visual manipulation of what shows up in the frame he chooses.

 

 

 

 

Hallway, 2017, oil on canvas. 

Becky Suss, American born 1980.  Private collection loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

8 Greenwood Place (my bedroom), 2021, oil on canvas.  

Becky Suss, American born 1980.  Loaned by the artist and her gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

During the pandemic, the artist returned to her natal home with her baby son. She documented what she remembered and what is.

 

 

 

 

 

S.O.S (Sam on Sill), 2020, neon, vinyl siding, laminates, plywood house paint, hardware, velvet, foam.

Alex Da Corte, American born 1980.  Private collection loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

 

Night Window (for Tamayo), 2020, neon, vinyl siding, laminates, plywood house paint, hardware, velvet, foam.

Alex Da Corte, American born 1980.  On loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021 by the artist and his gallery and a private collection.

 

 

Hanging between cute and the horror that sometimes overtakes our lives from inside our homes.

Tamayo is Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Mexican, who combined Surrealism with folkloric images.

 

 

 

 

Self-portrait as Street, 2019, earthenware, concrete, resin, found objects, base, chains, gun parts. 

Robert Lugo, American born 1981,

 

 

 

 

Do you know how hard it is to get a black man through high school, 2019; earthenware and acrylic paint. 

Robert Lugo, American born 1981.  Loaned by the artist and his gallery to the Philadelphia Art Museum

 

 

The artist says he is a ghetto potter, activist, culture-maker, rapper, spoken word poet and educator.

The image on the pot is of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, MI in 2014.  Brown is wearing his high school graduation cap.

 

The self-portrait is how the artist sees himself.  He sees his fate as an artist, as a man who has survived, as miraculous because Michel Browns’ fate, he believes, could have been his.  As it has been so many others’ in the US.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image included in Be Alarmed: The black American Epic Movement; 2013, matte digital chrogenic print.

Tiona Nekkia Mcclodden, American born 1981. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

 

Single-channel vIdeo images included in Be Alarmed: The black American Epic Movement featuring performer Danielle Deadwyler, 2014.

 

 

 

 

Image included in Be Alarmed: The black American Epic Movement; 2013, matte digital chrogenic print.

Tiona Nekkia Mcclodden, American born 1981. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

Images and videos are taken from Be Alarmed: The Black American Epic Movement; still and moving images, 2013 and 2014.

This work is in part autobiographical and was filmed in North Philadelphia where the artist has lived for 15 years.

It follows The Haint, a mute spirit which incarnates the spiritual and familial past of the artist.  The work shows family members. These videos and images are part of a larger film with no beginning nor end.

For the artist, there is no conclusive meaning or absolute interpretation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crow Hill, from the series Elegy, 2020;  antique quilt, used clothing collected from incarcerated people, assorted textiles. 

Jesse Krimes, American born 1982.  Private collection on loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021

 

 

Crow Hill is a prison in the United States.  The artist is incorporating the memory of incarcerated people.  The chair is empty. Some of the materials used comes from clothing of people who are in prison. 

The artist is concerned that prisoners be recognized as members of our communities and not as a category of degraded persons, hidden away.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Til Bronze Flows Through the Streets, 2020, UV print on vinyl. 

Wilmer Wilson IV, American born 1989.  Loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum by the artist and his gallery in 2021

 

Until the day that the bronze of statuary filling our cities with men on horseback, conquering and heroic, is melted and flows through our streets in heavy molten form; their features and gestures obliterated.

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Smells Like Us; spray paint, acrylic oil pastel, chalk pastel, plastic glitter, and marker on muslin; 2020.

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, American born 1989

 

 

 

 

?Tin Man Heart, aluminum can, acrylic paint, chest hug, low singing; 2020.

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, American born 1989

 

 

The artist is black, homosexual and has bipolar syndrome.  He is proclaiming how many ways there are of being.  Not just one.  Many.

This is the endless quest of minority populations to be let be.  As is. Not seen as different, inferior or anything else. Equal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Philadelphia Contemporary at the Philadelphia Art Museum

  1. So many challenging works here, Sarah. I was especially struck by the first Peruvian work by Kukuli Velarde. A blistering evocation of identity reasserting itself.

    1. I agree with you. I was thinking how fortunate are artists who have a way of working through the conflicts within their own identities. I like particularly that she is not a zero sum game person: she does not degrade Europeans. She absorbs them.

      One day I was stopped by a Hispanic man near my home. He was carrying a piece of equipment. He asked for help. “What is am and pm?” he asked. I could have burst into tears. He was installing the device which regulates heat and air conditioning in a house nearby. How could he have possibly known what these terms mean? They aren’t even English but Latin. Vast, vast difficulties for all immigrants who leave their countries. If they arrive……

      1. Those who so fear immigrants never seem to think of the anguish involved in leaving a homeland – whether the events that prompted it, or the pain of arrival in a new land.

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