By Philip Mastrippolito
Global Conscious, Local Artists which closed two weeks ago at Pentimenti Gallery, was a diverse collection of work from six Philadelphia-based artists. Each artist specializes in his or her own medium of choice, addressing contemporary issues regarding the economy, the environment, religion, consumption, and the attitudes of today’s society.
Tim Portlock provided three inkjet prints of post-industrial cities, rendered from 3D computer graphics. Though they may as well appear to be settings for a video game, the titles give the images context that when put together, play out in a narrative trilogy of urban blight and suburban expansion. Clone shows the constant sprawling of housing developments and shopping centers, with new buildings still awaiting occupants as more are under construction. Desolate shows a sparsely settled area with abandoned storefronts becoming less habitable for law-abiding citizens. Salon depicts an abandoned city in complete economic collapse, with only stray dogs as its inhabitants. Subtle details in each image bring the economic issues Portlock is addressing closer to home. The most startling is a monument in the background of Salon that bears an eerie resemblance to Philadelphia’s City Hall. The images tell a cautionary tale of economic excess and its consequences, with a clever fusion of romanticism and 3D computer graphics.
Shaina Craft had two beautifully articulated pastel drawings titled Experiment 169 and Experiment 154. Each portrait features three distinctive poses of a figure faded together, giving an impression of time passed, almost in a cinematic quality. The wide-eyed expressions gazing into space and the shifting poses perhaps mean to convey an intense feeling of nostalgia, or regret.
Tim Eads’s Taxonomy of Trash is precisely what it sounds like: nine photographic prints of discarded everyday objects. Each object sits in stark contrast against a white background, allowing the viewer to see mass-produced forms in great detail, as well as the wear and tear of their usage by consumers. Each object comes off as lowly and pathetic, with no wrinkle, scratch, scuff, or caking left unseen. At the same time, the objects are exhibited and treasured for being trash, bringing awareness to our wastefulness as consumers, but also finding beauty in it.
Emily Schnellbacher’s Fall filled the Project Room at Pentimenti Gallery, mimicking what appeared to be a devastating flood. The seamless installation of pipes and stained walls is as believable as anyone’s leaky basement, but the material used for water is what brings the piece into a realm of irony. In place of water are hundreds of water drops crafted from fabric, spilling onto the floor in a splashing mess. Colorful variations of blue and different fabric textures bring a childlike whimsy to something so destructive. One could hardly look at this crafty display without a chuckle, perhaps mixed with chills (especially if one’s had personal experiences with in-house flooding). Given the title’s possible reference to hurricane season, the piece makes a subtle mockery of natural disasters. With the changing climate we may eventually see floods and other disasters as little more than a common nuisance, just as Fall illustrates a room flooded with “water” in ironic impartiality.
Raul Romero’s two short videos from his Playground Fun project, Swing, Swing, Swing, and The Tire Swing both show adults in their twenties or thirties engaging in child’s play on an abandoned train viaduct. In The Tire Swing a group of adults in a desolate area near railroad tracks takes turns riding a tire swing, each one receiving a close up shot with muted dialogue, possibly telling the cameraman about themselves. The haunting soundtrack of industrial noises and dissonant choral chants in Swing, Swing, Swing turns what seems like careless fun into a forbidden ritual, as people partake in riding a playground swing under the cover of darkness. Adults seek childlike escapism in both videos, perhaps reflecting the current attitudes of Romero’s generation of fully-grown adults, nostalgic for a child-like mentality.
The most cryptic piece in this show was Jay Walker’s wall installation, Theotokos: Ichor. Theotokos is Greek for “Mother of God.” In a mesmerizing grid made entirely of tape, an image of the Virgin Mary appears flat, yet on closer inspection depth and layering emerge. This is most noticeable in the direct center that is covered by the scientific symbol for hemoglobin, as well as in tape that extends to the floor and nearby walls. The installation’s trickery of perception, combined with the religious imagery, raises an observation on religion in the present-day: a person may only see religion objectively, as a flat façade. Others may see religion with depth, looking beyond that façade and feeling a sense of spiritual enlightenment. The hemoglobin symbol itself could represent some peoples’ view that religion requires sacrifice in exchange for that enlightenment. Other elements, like the rainbow colors of the tape and the gridding, may allude to some peoples’ view of religion as a provider of order and harmony. Walker’s piece depicts the familiar virgin mother image in an unconventional material, perhaps representing a skeptical, if not cynical, view of religion through a contemporary lens.
Philip Mastrippolito is currently a junior at the University of the Arts studying for a BFA in Drawing and Painting.