A Tale of Two Galleries – First Friday in Philadelphia, 9/4/09

1. Artists’ House exhibition, “Art of the Still Life,” was a failure: it was all still life, and it was hard to see what many of the individual artists were trying to achieve through their choice of style. Only a few pieces of that one genre were to be had per artist; the paintings all seemed to be the same rather quickly – “okay, there’s fruit, it’s on a table, and there are also pitchers or cups and other random objects BORING.” I wondered what kind of house the artists lived in that moved them to make these paintings: apparently no one owns a television if they’re an artist? Or has anything on their table besides tastefully arranged fruit and cups? Artists’ House has been excellent when it displays portraiture, and allows the human form to speak despite the artists’ limitations.

A few things stood out: Paul took note of the brushwork on Samuel Evensen’s “Pomegranates” – the build-up of texture was slowly done, and every color was meticulously positioned to create that lifelike look without elimination of the strokes. I thought Logan Speirs’ “Sunflowers” showed an excellent sense of line; you could get lost in the gnarls the backs of the flowers’ heads take. I felt he was one of the few artists at the exhibition trying to say something, not just show off his technical ability or design sense.

The other artist trying to say something – I think – was Ed Bronstein. Take a look at “Still Life in Blue and Orange.” There’s a jar with a grinder atop it, and a picture within; a pump for oiling things (h/t Paul); a book about the abstract painter Richard Diebenkorn; three more pictures at the upper right. All of this sits on a white surface, which is itself upon a blue chair. I’m not quite sure how to interpret all of this; it looks like some general comment on motion (grinding – coffee? oiling – bicycle?) over a landscape (Diebenkorn), with arrival being the pics at the upper right; yes, that’s a counter-clockwise motion, but the chair indicates to me “hey, maybe this is a portrait of someone who should be seated.” Again, not sure, I’d have to look at the painting more closely. The trouble with the painting is that technically, it wasn’t the sharpest thing I’ve seen, not by a longshot.

2. Rodger LaPelle held work by the artist David FeBland – you can see his style vividly here – it’s almost like he’s painting photographs with his own unique photoshop filter applied. It works: he picks bold images that convey the discomfort and intensity of the environment throughout the exhibition, but there are times he releases that tension or works with it to accentuate a portrait. I think I almost fell in love with the elfin girl – can’t tell the age, something about her seemed older when I first glanced the painting – from “My Search for Paradise” while looking into the distance with her; the thickness of the air isn’t an obstacle, but lighted such that she is that much brighter when she appears while approaching the picture.


  1. I wish I had done something remotely interesting last night. Thanks for sharing :). I’m definitely not a fan of still life paintings, no matter how well executed. Seems like such a strange subject for a show.

  2. IT seems that the still life’s might actually be meant as portraiture. The Still Life in Blue and Orange that struck you so much seems to be described exactly like a portrait. It is actually a basic exercize for art students to depict someone without actually painting them. There are actually several art students across various majors in my year who are currently expanding on this theme. It goes back to an art historical idea from I believe the turn of the 20th century that a physical portrait is not a true portrait of an individual. Those still lifes may have had a deeper meaning behind all of that ‘boring’.

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