Our fall 2018 gallery show featured artworks created as part of Art in the Open, a public art program in which selected artists created their work on the Schuylkill Banks for three days in May. Ten artists working in a range of media presented work in our gallery and on our trails.
On September 13 from 6-8pm, visitors enjoyed artist talks, light refreshments, and a guided walk to the outdoor installations at the opening reception.
On view September 13 – October 27.
About Art in the Open:
Art in the Open is a biennial citywide event that celebrates artists, their inspirations for creating art, and their relationships with the urban environment. In 2018, 30 artists were selected by jury to utilize the Schuylkill River Banks as their studios, making their creative process accessible to everyone. Working over the course of three days (May 13–15, 2016), these artists infused the River Trail—from the historic Fairmount Water Works to South Street—with art, inspiring new ways of seeing the river and Philadelphia. For more details, visit artintheopenphila.org.
During the course of Art in the Open, I operated a mobile tintype/ambrotype studio, documenting the landscape and individuals in the same form that was first used to produce imagery with this historical process. The public was given the chance to witness the process from start to finish, providing a direct connection not only to the history of imagery in the area but to the history of photography, something often overshadowed by the abundance of modern technologies’ rapid advancements. Subjects had the opportunity to sit and become a tangible record of time, anchored to the landscape of the region and helped create a lasting record, that will last for generations.
From reading signs in the dirt to looking through the darkest skies, our engagement with the landscape has always led to a temporary cultural understanding of who and where we are in relation to it. This inherent urge to look out, in order to ground our presence, resonates with our cultural obsession with the photograph as a form of reality. Before photography’s ability to fix light, various objects were used as a means of mediation between scientists and artists with the intention of producing the idea of truth. The record, photograph or artifact is an absence of space but our ability to afford these objects the power to transcend our present physical state interests me deeply.
My art is a reflection of my relationship with the Schuylkill River Banks, like a journal of my representation of the landscape, urban and natural. Exploring, printing and rubbing patterns, textures and surfaces of the park to enhance it, like a library of texture is here my challenge whatever the weather! There is everywhere a variety of patterns, marks that are usually unnoticed by people, my goal is to draw attention to those elements of the park and activate the pedestrian and streetscape experience. Those marks, those patterns come from street, trail, ground, fence, tree, bench, leave, grass, sewer, driftwood, wood, edge, stones, pole, bark, litter, the ramp, the boardwalk… every urban furniture, every natural, organic element and unexpected matter. Looking for the poetry of my environment, the memory of everything invisible in the park arise. Exploring the less familiar parts and composing again and again with the same start: the energy of the street. My art is a reflection of my relationship with the the Schuylkill River Park, like a journal of my representation of the landscape, urban and natural.
I never know what will be my artwork before coming across a manhole cover, a sign, a ghost sign on a wall, the rough of the road… I explore every common thing and especially letters we don’t pay attention to. These patterns, rhythms, letters and signage fascinate me. To support contrast, repetition of lines, curves and rhythm I use intense black carbon, like an ode to old black and white street photography. I have an intuitive way of working by rubbing, scraping or scratching my soft paper on the floor where I feel every asperity, every rough patch and texture.
When I return from my “urban trail,” I need time to process and, sometimes months later, I experiment with the confusion between typography and translating it into a drawing. I reinvent the picture of a city, street or neighborhoods by interlacing all kind of signs, hand-lettering, pictograms… like a travel diary full of unexpected events.
Matt Greco & Chris Esposito
Damfino (Chris Esposito and Matt Greco) used the 2018 edition of Art in the Open to continue our research into the signs and symbols that represent the rich history of shipping, the Schuylkill River, and Philadelphia. We created a sculpture along the riverbank whose focus is one of the most ubiquitous elements taken from the Schuylkill River’s shipping history – the bollard. We constructed an 8ft tall bollard made of wood and whose likeness comes directly from a mold we made of an original Schuylkill River bollard during Art in the Open 2016. We used the form of the bollard to create contemplation of its utility and its formal value. Working partially in the conceptual legacy of Pop-artists like Claus Oldenburg and Jeff Koons we hoped to bring attention to these oft overlooked and underappreciated objects by enlarging them, aggrandizing them, to a scale that cannot be ignored. We hope this will create a starting off point for discussions about the relationship between culture and the movement of goods and ideas as well as construction techniques and most generally questions about our artistic practice.
Damfino is an artistic collaboration that takes interest in objects made as much by hand as by mind; objects that are tactile as well as intellectual. Damfino primarily works with materials found nearby – culled from city streets and waste bins – materials that have an inherit history yet look conceptually beyond the immediate landscape to suggest larger connections. We seek to provoke and question the audience through a sense of optimism and inquisitiveness with our brand of ironic fait accompli – and always – with one more chance to get it all wrong.
With a reverence for the slapstick genius of Buster Keaton, in solidarity with the playful inventiveness of the Little Rascals, and with the irony of the Post-Modernists; Damfino’s artistic practice promotes fine-craft, cobbled together, ever on the brink, but always honestly made while maintaining a conceptual and theoretical basis in a post-consumerist world.
After working as a designer in the fashion industry, I began to reconsider the fast-paced, unsustainable and disposable way in which apparel is produced and consumed. Through my practice with textiles, I wish to draw attention to time, dedication and purpose, posing the question “what is precious?”, and suggesting the revival of a rather forgotten relationship to objects that is based on a personal narrative or meaning, amid a world of instant satisfaction. During Art in the Open, I utilized textile waste and scraps, repurposing the material by weaving it onto a large-scale frame loom. One of the pieces created throughout the weekend of Art in the Open had been woven by visitors to the event and passersby on the river trail. The collaborative weave brought an interactive element into the work and allowed for many interesting and thought-provoking conversations to begin. Some shared textile related childhood memories and some learned how to weave for the very first time. Proceeds from the sale of the collaborative piece will be donated to the Textile Design department at Jefferson University, where the textile scraps have been collected from.
As an artist, I practice, explore and research traditional textile techniques for a contemporary application. Growing up, I was exposed to a rich textile language through my paternal and maternal grandparents from Poland and Yemen. Both traditions honing on a long-standing heritage of hand-embellished house-ware and authentic costumes, made by hand to be treasured, cherished and signify meaningful life events. My drive for creating originates from the desire to revive and sustain time-long heritage and traditions of craftsmanship that may have been forgotten or let go of over the years, and invite the viewers of my art to redefine their relationship with material objects by posing the question “what is precious?” By introducing traditional techniques such as weaving, embroidery and needlework into my art practices, I hope to echo a resonance and appreciation for significance, effort and dedication to a purpose, a life-event or an individual. I am seeking to create art which is treasured and cherished as one of a kind – just like a fleeting moment to which there is no other.
My work is interested in the underlying significance of the domestic sphere on artistic production. It argues for the relevance of craft, specifically ceramics and fiber arts, by creating a conversation between the two mediums.
Involving a series of transformations, my practice starts with drawing and embroidery and moves to clay, painting and installation. The embroidery stitches a picture in its own visual language, reminding us that everything we know and talk about was first taught to us in a mostly-forgotten home space. The little clay paintings are everyday, but also intimate and nostalgic. Organized into mosaic collages, they show how we gather up images of the world and catalog them into something that can be remembered.
The stitches are also used as a form of writing which further complicates the way line is used. By conflating drawing, writing and sewing, the private domestic sphere becomes visible and embedded in how meaning is constituted.
One of the ambitions of my work is to spark dialogue around these issues and argue for the relevancy of craft right now. I saw my inclusion in Art in the Open as a way to further this goal.
When invited to take part in Art in the Open 2018, I immediately knew I wanted to continue the development of sculpture works that I started creating a few years back after hearing a piece of music. While listening, I closing my eyes and saw a sculpture weaving itself from vines and branches in my mind’s eye. I promptly went outside and started collecting materials and building. I had never created sculptural works before, but I somehow knew how this should be done. I have later created similar pieces in other areas, and each work becomes unique based on the materials available in the vicinity. I start with a wood armature and then start weaving the vines around it. My favorite material has become the invasive Kudzu vine.
Coming from Brooklyn, I was unsure where to collect this material in Philadelphia and was grateful when I was referred to the Schuylkill Center. They were thrilled I would remove this suffocating vine and use it creatively. So I started my weekend by collecting vines and branches and even some roots that I found in the area. With this material I built my sculpture work in the Schuylkill Park over the weekend. On Sunday, my standing figure was done and with left over materials I also created a seated figure, something I had never done before. I am so happy to come back to these magical woods to create a new Human Nature work for the Schuylkill Center’s exhibition. Like us, the work is impermanent and while dissolving it will energize the ground to create new life.
I create the works in an attempt to mirror our humans selves in physical nature. If we could see ourselves as nature we would probably take much better care of it. And thereby take better care of ourselves.
About the Artist:
I paint and sculpt life sized figures that act as symbols for feelings that can’t accurately be described in words. They are often characterized by the object symbols with which they share space. Each figure, or fragment of a figure, stands still in readiness for a charged meeting with the viewer. The viewing activates a series of responses, where identity is projected onto the faceless figure, similar to a reflection that offers the gazer another view of him-herself. This frees the narrative from being contained within the subject matter of the artwork and allows it to exist in the viewing space.
As artist, Art in the Open 2018 was a chance to step outside my comfort zone by working outside, from life, with less of a plan and more spontaneity than my typical studio practice. I found working under the Septa Railroad Bridge very peaceful. I felt connected to the movements of the city of Philadelphia, the contrasts between the fierce flow of the Schuylkill and the rivers of transit – the trains moving above me, cars traveling on 76, the runners and bikers on the trail. I felt both a part of this movement and apart from it as well. Drawing the debris I found by the overpass was a chance to study what would usually be ignored; to think about what had ended up there, and why.
People have been drawing for at least 30,000 years – there is something fundamental about observing, processing that information, and then picking up a tool to draw it in ones own hand, with one’s own voice. I relate to this idea very closely, and feel that I’m part of this flow of history, from then until now, of artists who are fascinated by and draw from the real world. Not in the sense of a need to duplicate, but to explore, learn, select, organize, and build with mark making. My current drawings focus on cosmology, time, history, discovery, invention and the environment.
Participating in the Art in the Open program this Spring allowed me to begin to truly explore sculpting en plein air, bringing the wet clay slabs with me and sculpting directly from what I saw. I have done this on small tiles in garden settings, but never with the freedom to totally focus on this work over three full days. I loved the combination of deep creative focus mixed with multiple conversations with both other artists and community members.
Bridges and water resonate with deep meaning for me. I see crossing a bridge as the confrontation of fear in the face of deep mystery and awe. This is best expressed in my favorite Jewish prayer, “Kol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar m’od v’ha-ikkar lo l’faheid k’lal,”* translated as, “All the world is just a narrow bridge, and above all, above all, is not to fear, not to fear at all.”
*This was written by the great Hassidic Rabbi, Nahman of Bratzlav in the early 1800s. It is sung frequently at High Holidays and other momentous occasions.
I have been working in bas-relief ceramic tile for almost 30 years. My background is in sculpture and printmaking. In ceramic tile, I have found a medium that combines elements of relief sculpture and printmaking with vibrant color. In tilework, molds are frequently used, comparable to the plate in printmaking. This allows me to design once, yet produce many works off the same mold.
When I was in the MFA Sculpture program at University of Pennsylvania, I discovered that my particular fascination was the world of bas-relief: to me, a magical world where something flat becomes three dimensional.
Additional sources of inspiration include maps, bird’s eye views, games and puzzles, electron microscopy, architecture, and asian art. I am fascinated with people’s relationships to places, especially places that live in their memory and that have importance to their lives.
For the continuation of my Flood series during Art in the Open 2018, I was once again inspired by Anna Atkins and other cyanotype artists who used the medium to give scientific evidence of the natural world around us. The idea of documenting shapes and patterns in nature by using the cyanotype process inspired me to document the patterns of the Schuylkill River water. During the weekend of Art in the Open 2018, it was raining and very wet! Not the best time to see people interacting with the river. But, it was a great time to see how the river transforms and takes on heavy rain. The Flood series began with the idea of what happens when people’s objects are taken away by the rapid pace and strength of a flood. I realized after the weekend at Art in the Open, these floods and the rising of water levels unearth problems but also the beauty of the river. Of course there is trash and objects floating that pollute the river which make us realize how our trash affects our waterways. But heavy rain and floods also show us the beauty of how the changing tides and water flow create patterns that have been around thousands of years.
The ocean has always connected me to nature and my place in it. From sailing in the Long Island Sound to the Bahamas, I have witnessed the true strength of the ocean. This power both excites and terrifies me. By using the cyanotype process both analog and digitally, I aim to visually mimic the the power of the ocean to engulf objects in one’s home during a flood. The faded images reference one’s memory of objects damaged in a flood such as cars, trailers, furniture, family albums, clothing, and other personal items. The group of cyanotypes also culminated into a wallpaper pattern which is flooded with a deep blue dye from the bottom up. Transforming these lost objects back into beautiful pieces hopefully reminds the viewer that even though we experiencing loss, beauty can also show through.
Christopher T Wood
Objects can span time and space in ways that are not immediately apparent. The object I call Daydrawing exists in many small (9 x 12 inch) fragments. I create a new panel each day as an addition to this growing object. With no scheduled end to its creation, this work is infinite in size and is not location specific – its components will continue spreading around the world as they are exhibited, sold, traded, and gifted. During the three days of Art in the Open 2018, I created a piece of Daydrawing each day. From there I moved into a set of drawings that are collaborations between myself and the banks of the Schuylkill River. Drawings were created by first searching for a suitable location. The paper was then situated in the landscape, often with the addition of powdered graphite and any local objects asking to participate, and left for the environment to make its mark. The length of time for a drawing was determined by the time frame of Art in the Open and natural forces, such as wind and human traffic, that could render the work irretrievable.
Every day I complete a drawing, and every one of these drawings is a small piece of a much larger object called Daydrawing. Since January 1, 2016, I have added one panel per day to the drawing, the accumulation of which, over time, expand into a broader endeavor in the form of a hyperobject. ‘Hyperobject’ is a term coined by Timothy Morton to describe entities that are problematically large from the human perspective. The artwork has no defined size and is in continuous creation – it is an international art object that eludes time and space in its scope. Daydrawing, in 9 x 12 inch fragments, is both already complete and will never be completed. It is both local and becoming increasingly dispersed as the fragments drift away from one another through digital publication, collection, and gallery shows. It is of critical importance to understand Daydrawing as a single object, continuously in creation and existing in many locations at once. The drawing is currently enjoyed through daily posts on Instagram (@christophertwood,) as entire months in the artist’s studio, and in curated groups in galleries and collections around the world. Each daily addition is rendered in powdered graphite and is a keyhole view into an alternate universe. They are hallucinatory daydreams that respond in part to observations throughout a day (ranging from tales of hubris in national politics to ecological concerns to chance events at many scales – from the cellular to the galactic), and in part to existing narratives at play in the Daydrawing universe. Interests that flavor this and other recent research include Hyperobjects, ‘Pataphysics, Art Conservation, and Zen Buddhism.