Through March 31
By Daniel Gerwin
Collection is a show brimming with love, and it might just be the start of a felicitous thaw at Vox Populi. Over the four years that I’ve lived in Philadelphia, Vox has felt rather frosty, not so much because of the art on display as because of a chilly vibe that has permeated the place, even at sweaty summer openings.
But this show is different: each work belongs to either a Vox artist or board member, and the space is set up to be homey, filled with things like plants, lamps, chairs and coffee tables from the rooms of the people lending the work. The gallery is redolent with the intimacy that evolves over years of living with a work of art. There is fun to be had in looking at who each work belongs to: the fabulous James Castle is, of course, from the home of John Ollman (whose gallery, Fleisher Ollman, represents Castle); Sarah McEneaney has lent work by the marvelous painter Katherine Bradford, not to mention Fred Tomaselli and Philly’s own H. John Thompson. I found myself imagining the story behind each piece: a terrific painting by Amze Emmons is lent by Erin Murray – did they trade, was it a gift, are they friends? And in general, the quality of the work is extremely high, with memorable pieces by more artists than I could possibly name here. Rumor has it that this exhibit was conceived by Vox’s newest members, which is why it may be a sign of good things to come as new blood pumps through the group’s veins.
Collection also serves as a provocative rebuke to the Modernist white cube. Most galleries show art in a barren, white-walled space in order to present the art as autonomous. In recent decades this conceptual foundation has taken on the unmistakable airlessness of the high-end marketplace, where everything is sleek and gleaming, including the staff at the front desks throughout Chelsea. The result is antiseptic and anti-art. Collection corrects all this by putting artwork in its best context: life as we live it every day, in our own homes. Art is most vibrant in its contingency: how it feels in the company of this plant and that table, what it’s like to stop noticing something on your wall for a week, then suddenly rediscover it and fall in love all over again.
Daniel Gerwin is an artist living in Philadelphia, and his work can currently be seen in the latest issue of New American Paintings, no. 104 (Northeast).