Each month, I’m offering a few suggestions about the UArts-related activities I’m most excited about. They might take place on campus and involve students, or they may feature the work of faculty or alumni off-campus. It’s a highly subjective list–hardly comprehensive. You can find a more complete list of events and activities on the UArts web page.
Are you a passionate UArts fan and a devoted follower of contemporary art? Then this month’s President’s Picks is for you.
UArts faculty and alumni are to be found across the city in October–everywhere from tiny spaces run by artist collectives to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Here’s my suggested itinerary for a Saturday afternoon.
Start with ICA. Alumni Jayson Musson and Alex Da Corte collaborated on “Easternsports,” a video installation that features Philadelphia landmarks (e.g. the Mummers Museum) and artists’ works (e.g., those of former UArts faculty member Edna Andrade) lovingly re-created in a three-hour, non-narrative visual tour-de-force. It’s a departure for both artists, who attended UArts together and have been friends for years. Musson’s known as the creator of hip-hop art theorist Hennessy Youngman; Da Corte is a pop sculptor whose work ranges from detailed environmental installations to design artifacts wittily repurposed as sculpture.
Then head over to the art mecca at 319 N. 11th Street in the Loft District. There you’ll find a concentration of alternative art spaces, operated mostly by artist collectives. Napoleon, founded by a group of artists including a number of UArts graduates, is showing the work of founding member H. John Thompson, who earned his MFA at the University and now teaches at Penn State-Abington. John’s installation features two “viewing boxes” containing wooden models of the plane that carried hijacker DB Cooper and the lost ship Edmund Fitzgerald. Beautifully rendered, the models are a paean to unsolved mysteries, to the unknowability of history.
A few doors down, ceramics graduate Nick Lenker has taken over the space at Practice. What’s there are the artifacts used in his performance “Long Hidden Friend,” inspired by a dish he saw at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nick’s neo-hex signs, vessels, and other paraphernalia are beautiful and creepy–a worthy representation of what I can only guess was a heart-pounding performance at the opening.
Upstairs, you’ll find the grandaddy of the collectives: Vox Populi. Alex Rosenberg, head of our glass program, is one of Vox’s newest members. His installation, “Hyperpyrexic,” is a veritable chemistry lab of a performance, in which Alex strips the ink from literary passages (including one from UArts Creative Writing professor Zach Savich) and distills it into an essence through which texts inscribed on glass can be read. Alex performs in the space once a week, cutting up texts and dissolving them in his home-brewed solvent.
Before you go, pop into the new gallery, 319, downstairs. There you’ll see “New Sight,” a terrific show curated by Philadelphia artists Zoe Strauss and Sarah McEneaney that features two alumni: Joseph Opshinsky and Dot Vile. From there, it’s a short jaunt to PAFA, where you must see “Convergence” in Gallery 128, a juried show featuring work from all of Philly’s art schools. I know I’m biased, but I think the UArts students are showing some of the strongest work in the show.
Need a break after an afternoon of visual art? Then check out Joanna Settle’s production of “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at the Wilma. Joanna is the new director of the Brind School of Theater Arts and was tasked with directing the first show of the Wilma’s season. Gina Gionfriddo’s play, about grad school friends who take very different paths, is funny, angry and sad. I can’t wait to see what Joanna’s done with it!
It’s a busy October: lots to do and see. Enjoy!