Through October 21
By Gabriela Vainsencher
Catagenesis, a group show at the Globe Dye Works in Port Richmond, Philadelphia, includes site-specific installations, video projections and performances by 15 invited and open-call-sourced artists from the US, as well as Israel, Canada, and South Africa. Presented by Philadelphia Sculptors and curated by Leslie Kaufman and Cheryl Harper, the show’s title refers to “creative renewal of […] technologies, institutions and society.” One of the curators’ stated goals is to “stimulate the process of returning [the building] to life, allowing neglected spaces to take on new identities.”
Artists and the things they make are often willing, productive (and affordable) participants in the rejuvenation of buildings, neighborhoods and cities, spinning beauty out of discarded materials and derelict spaces. At Catagenesis, the works’ success is measured precisely by the extent to which they are site-specific since the building itself, drenched in rust and dusty light filtered through soaring 147 year-old ceiling beams, has the kind of presence an artist is better off not trying to upstage but rather to harness.
Found in a passageway between two of the building’s sections, Ryan Mandell’s Truss is an MDF construction designed to mimic the architectural element above it and to disintegrate as rain and sun pours down on it through the no-longer-there roof. Looking at Truss in its pristine opening-day state, it’s fun to imagine its pure straight lines and immaculate texture succumbing to nature’s whims. Gandalf Gavan used zeolite, a red sand-like material, to create a superbly minimal and very enjoyable piece in which a pink neon lighting fixture coaxes rainbow waves from neatly arranged squares of the stuff, which the artist originally found in a huge vat at the entrance to the exhibition space. Across from Gavan’s piece is Timothy McMurray and Jacqueline Weaver’s Cibacron F, in which the giant, simple, and pleasant image of pigment dissolving into water is projected over a porous screen made of many cotton strings pulled taught between ceiling and floor.
Nivi Alroy uses old objects found at the Dye Works to create something between a sculptural installation and a theatrical set, in which one imagines a fairytale scientist conjuring a world made of water-blue skies in test tubes, spilled-over rigid clouds, decrepit doll houses, and cut-out nonsense maps of imagined cities. Alroy’s work looks like a drawing that’s popped out from a page into 3D existence. Don’t miss the adjacent installation by Pat Bowman, with its comical giant yellow worm made from fabric scraps, and the sewing machines, almost cartoon-like in their expressiveness (this is a compliment), that shoot out strings to form physical rays of color through the room. Carolyn Healy and John Phillips’s Indigo Hunting is also a feat of repurposing materials rescued from the Dye Works. Most striking is the effortless-looking drawing-in-space the artists made by putting together pipes found throughout the building.
As you exit Globe Dye Works, make sure to cross the street at the corner and look up at the roof, where Reece Terris refashioned the building’s old sign to make a text piece that can be read as either being about the dream (or nightmare) of not having a day-job, or the effort of departure and the travails of leaving.
Also included in this show are Scott Pelant, Joseph Leroux, Christine Altman, Elizabeth Mackie, Michael Morgan, David Meyer, Damian Yanessa and David Page.