Every year, large numbers of artists who submit works to the Woodmere Art Museum’s annual juried exhibition (now in its 78th iteration) are turned down, as they are from all juried shows. Suck it up, right? Not this year.
This time, the rejected ones have mounted a riposte. Artists Virginia Maksymowicz and Simone Spicer have organized a group show of artists who submitted works to the Woodmere annual over the last five years without acceptance.
Conceived in April, “Salon des Refusés Philadelphia” came together faster than Maksymowicz and Spicer thought it would, when iMPeRFeCT Gallery offered them a time slot for June/July.
The two immediately sent out a prospectus in email blasts to local arts organizations, colleges, and museums (including the Woodmere) announcing their upcoming show, not knowing how many responses they would get — or how many works they could squeeze into iMPeRFeCT’s modest quarters.
Turns out they could include works by 23 artists (including themselves) who met the criteria and the deadline.
As might be expected, this is not a curated vision, as Woodmere jurors are wont to offer, but it certainly reveals the diversity of art being produced in Philadelphia.
Mounted salon-style (that is to say, chockablock), the show includes works in all mediums except video. Three that caught my eye were Maksymowicz’s solemn plaster bas-relief of bones and tools, Gina Michaels’ bronze sculpture of a prickly pear cactus with pads in the shapes of human feet, and Burnell Yow’s totemic found-object sculpture topped with an animal skull.
Three other highlights are Spicer’s eccentric found-object “fountain" on the sidewalk outside the gallery, Cheryl Harper’s sculptural send-up of Ivanka Trump, and Tina LeCoff’s brilliantly colored, gestural painting on paper.
Through July 27 at iMPeRFeCT Gallery, 5539 Germantown Ave., 1 to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays (summer hours). 215-869-1001 or imperfectgallery.com.
Speaking of juried shows, Vox Populi’s 15th Annual Juried Exhibition is one of the best iterations of this show I’ve seen in years. Curated by Michael Clemmons and Vashti DuBois of the Colored Girls Museum, it’s titled “VOX XV: What Makes That Black?”
Clemmons and DuBois selected only 40 artworks by 18 artists (from more than 200 applicants), to create a show that is both sophisticated and fairly divided among painting, sculpture, photography, mixed-media assemblage, animation, video, and performance.
Some standouts include Stephen Shaheen’s Bone (2017), an enormous sculptural replica of a bone, carved in Italian marble and presented on a steel platform; Brandan Henry’s charcoal drawings of black men in isolated, distressed situations; and Leon Wen Xu’s found-material “paintings.”
Through Aug 4 at Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th St., noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. 215-238-1236 or voxpopuligallery.org.
The Philadelphia-based furniture-maker Michael Hurwitz is a star in the studio furniture firmament. His wife, Mami Kato, born in Japan and a Philadelphia resident for 30 years, should be better known — and no doubt will be, thanks to Hurwitz and Kato’s handsome two-person show at Wexler Gallery.
“Concurrence and Divergence” offers a perfect example of the ways in which artists who know each other — and each other’s work — play off each other’s sensibilities, even when their art and their objectives might seem at odds.
I’m not sure I would have expected Hurwitz’s supremely elegant cabinets, benches, and chairs to make a natural aesthetic connection with Kato’s semi-abstract sculptures, but they’re surprisingly compatible.
Gallerygoers may have glimpsed Kato’s startling work previously in group shows here and in Delaware, but she has mainly exhibited in Japan.
Her two largest sculptures in this show, Umbilical Field (2011) and Big Knot (2019), are so strangely appealing, with such tactile surfaces, that you’re immediately drawn to them. They may appear to be made of coir, the brown fiber harvested from coconut husks and commonly used for doormats, but Kato’s material is rice straw. She buys it in Japan in rope form, untwists the ropes back in her Philadelphia studio, ties the straw into bundles, and gradually creates a seamless sheath.
A wall sculpture, Closed Beginning Opens the End (2018), is fashioned from dozens of eggshells. Other wall sculptures refer to the heads of animals — they’re lacy, webbed forms made with fabric, toughened with epoxy resin.
Kato’s tubular rice straw pieces are so grounded they make Hurwitz’s delicate Yellowheart Cabinet (2019), with its latticework doors and its graceful curved legs, look as if it’s floating. His Tapered Oval Chair (2019), on the other hand, is solid and self-possessed, made from dark wenge and purpleheart woods with a curved seat covered in burgundy leather.
A red elm bench is a reinterpretation of one that Hurwitz made with the sculptor Martin Puryear for the Glenstone museum in Potomac, Md. It’s the most minimal work in this show, but its curves are subtly sexy.
Both artists share a preference for colors and shapes found in nature, a remarkable attention to detail, a patience for the time a work can require, and an appreciation for the profound silence it can command.