During her relatively short career, Hannah Wilke (1940-93) gained a reputation as a fearless artist who worked in a variety of media and followed her instincts wherever they led her. Less known, perhaps, was her quiet, quirky brand of humor.
The Temple Contemporary exhibition “Hannah Wilke: Sculpture in the Landscape,” at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, offers a first look at a previously unknown body of Wilke’s work from the 1970s.
Prepare for an offbeat gallery experience, because her color photographs here — never before printed or displayed — show petite, vulva-like chewing-gum sculptures that Wilke shaped by hand and then adhered to trees, shrubs, and plants. Here, too, are photos of her ceramic and bronze vulva sculptures, also in outdoor settings.
A 1962 Tyler graduate, Wilke was by the mid-'60s gaining attention in New York group shows. Solo shows quickly followed in respected galleries there and in Los Angeles. Her eight-foot-tall In Memory of My Feelings — layers of drooping latex that resembled labia — was a defining work in the 1973 Whitney Biennial. She lived with Claes Oldenburg from 1969 to 1977 and is said to have influenced his work.
By the 1980s, Wilke was better known as a performance artist who documented her shows with photographs and video. A brutally frank portrait of her battle with lymphoma was her last work before she died.
The color photographs now on display at Temple capture both her offbeat sense of humor and the spirit of the mid-1970s. (William Wegman had recently begun photographing Man Ray, his first Weimaraner, in human poses.)
A red chewing-gum vulva sculpture affixed to a cherry tree leaf brings to mind any number of sexual innuendoes — there is a brilliant-red cherry hanging nearby. So does her strategic placement of a gum sculpture next to an anthropomorphic hollow in a tree.
Her ceramic vulva sculptures look more vulnerable and lonely than her chewing-gum ones, partly because they’re ceramic and therefore fragile, but also because of the uncomfortably exposed places where they’re situated, in one case an empty, dirty flower box on her SoHo fire escape.
To my eye, they seem eerie precursors of the AIDS epidemic and of fellow feminist artist Ana Mendieta’s death in 1985 from a fall from a window in her own loft.
This thoughtful exhibition of surprisingly winsome photographs was organized by Robert Blackson, director of exhibitions at Tyler, in collaboration with the Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive in Los Angeles.
Through July 12 at Temple Contemporary, Tyler School of Art, 2001 N. 13th St., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and by appointment. 215-777-9138 or tyler.temple.edu/temple-contemporary.
The typewriter as muse
Typewriters may strike the Apple-happy as useless relics, but they’re being ingeniously repurposed by forward-thinking artists, as demonstrated in two exhibitions now at the Print Center organized by new curator Ksenia Nouril.
“James Siena: Resonance Under Pressure" is a collection of 10 of the artist’s prints from 2017 and 2018, including some made at the University of the Arts.
Siena first used the typewriter to make prints as a 2013 artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, working with arrangements of palindromes (phrases reading the same from right to left as left to right). His time there is reflected here in the letterpress print Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor, a Latin palindrome for, “In Rome quickly with its bustle you will find love.”
The second exhibition is the group show “New Typographics: Typewriter Art as Print.” It gathers diverse typewriter-involved works by Lenka Clayton, Dom Sylvester Houedard, Gustave Morin, and Allyson Strafella.
Through July 27 at the Print Center, 1614 Latimer St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays 215-735-6090 or printcenter.org.
By Scott, for Cerulean
Philadelphia artist Bill Scott, an abstract painter, has organized a 24-artist group show for Cerulean Gallery of figurative works, including portraits.
Some standout inclusions are Joan Baez’s loopy ink-on-paper drawings, self-portraits by Mickayel Thurin, Gilbert Lewis, and Sidney Goodman — and Serge Krupnov’s portrait of Scott himself, Summer Music (Portrait of Bill Scott).
Through May 19 at Cerulean Arts, 1355 Ridge Ave., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 267-514-8647, ceruleanarts.com.