A City(ies) That Walked, The Archigram Space Program
Through September 29
By Daniel Gerwin
If you’re going to make a last run to any galleries before the September shows close, don’t miss A City(ies) That Walked at Tiger Strikes Asteroid and FJORD. Curated by the indefatigable Rubens Ghenov along with Cooper Holoweski, this exhibit offers one of the most historically rooted, elegantly focused, and fully coherent shows to appear in a Philadelphia collective gallery in years. The combination is deeply satisfying.
Archigram was a group of six British architects in the 1960’s with avant-garde ideas they gave life through a proto-zine produced on their office copy machine. The publication was playful, absurdist, futuristic, and unfettered by the limitations of brick-and-mortar architectural work. The zine featured cities that walked and relocated using balloons. It was filled with collage, manifestos, and bore the influence of the Futurists and Buckminster Fuller.
While a number of the artists in this show are influenced by Archigram or are even in direct dialogue with its history, others were unaware of the group until being asked to participate in the exhibit. However, all the work in the two galleries draws from some of the same wells that inspired the original British collective: collage as a fundamental linguistic mode, Futurist artists such as Malevich and an interest in geometric abstraction, and the Constructivists with their comparable direction in architecture. As a result, everything feels interconnected and shares an aesthetic pulse.
Ghenov and Holoweski have packed both galleries with strong artists, but I have some favorite works. At Tiger Strikes Asteroid, I was especially fascinated by Justin Michell’s collages and a video by Cooper Holoweski, The Good Life (Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream) (2012). FJORD has a powerful painting by Jacob Feige (who is an editor of this magazine), From the Fire Tower (2008), and a stunning cement-and-photo piece by Letha Wilson, Brown’s Park Violet (2013). Also noteworthy at FJORD is a single wall with a perfectly curated trio: Letha Wilsons’ Prism (2009), Kevin Zucker’s http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/search?q=%22abstract+sculpture%22&styp=m&btnG=Search&reps=1 (2010), and Justin Michell’s Alphadelphia (2008).
Daniel Gerwin is a painter living in Philadelphia. His work can currently be seen in a solo show as a Wind Challenge artist at the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, in American Painting Today: Physical and Visceral at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan, and in Broad Spectrum at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art.