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In Philly galleries: Top-notch craft art, and a noteworthy solo debut

Gravers Lane Gallery in Chestnut Hill has a winning craft-art show. Patricia Renee’ Thomas has her solo debut at Kapp Kapp.

Detail from Sue Benner's quilt, "Flower Field #6: Remembering Andy" (2017), at Gravers Lane Gallery

Detail from Sue Benner's quilt, "Flower Field #6: Remembering Andy" (2017), at Gravers Lane Gallery .Read moreEdith Newhall

Note: Please check with galleries before you visit to confirm that they are open, given ongoing coronavirus concerns. The Inquirer is keeping an updated list at noting major events that have been canceled in and around Philadelphia.

The Gravers Lane Gallery in Chestnut Hill has typically positioned itself as a gift shop with a gallery space, and the whole place has always been too visually busy for my taste. But its current group exhibition, “Une Exposition d’Arts Obsessionels de la Fibre,” displayed salon-style through the gallery, is so energetically over-the-top, it made me smile.

The show, curated by craft expert Bruce Hoffman, offers works in every imaginable material by craft artists from Philadelphia and far beyond — an impressive 40 of them altogether.

I got in as the show was being installed, with labels still to come, and I loved much of what I saw. One work that caught my eye is Sue Benner’s hyper-colorful graphic quilt, inspired by Andy Warhol’s flower silk-screen prints.

Another standout is Leslie Grigsby’s charming, lifelike sculpture of an ocelot’s head, made with felt, glass beads, and glass eyes over a foam-core support. Melissa Maddonni Haims’ twisted, tubular hand-crocheted pieces are also a delight.

Through April 15 at Gravers Lane Gallery, 8405 Germantown Ave., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wed. through Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. 215-247-1603, or

Patricia Renee’ Thomas at Kapp Kapp

Patricia Renee’ Thomas’ first solo show, “Grapejuice,” at Kapp Kapp, offers an introduction to this young artist whose vivacious paintings are inspired by her fascination with the all-consuming beauty preparations for making oneself, as she puts it, “a presentable black woman.” Judging from the facial expressions on the main character in her paintings — a stand-in for Thomas — she is not on board with the time and labor spent keeping up appearances.

Hair is Thomas’ main preoccupation in these works, which are rendered in brilliant pinks, yellow, and blues. Her character is often surrounded by hair products.

In an effort to mirror the time and labor spent on hair care, Thomas fabricated her own paintbrushes with the synthetic hair used for braids. (The show’s title comes from the grape juice Thomas’ mother gave her as a child when she was having her hair braided at a salon).

Thomas is well-versed in the works of other black artists, particularly in the expressionistic, satirical narratives of the late Robert Colescott, and her debut show is fresh and sharply funny.

Through April 11 at Kapp Kapp, 333 S. 13th St., noon-6 p.m. Wed. through Sat. 215-309-5315 or

Abstracts at James Oliver

“Les Chic,” at James Oliver Gallery, offers brilliantly colored abstract paintings by three women who take their aesthetic cues from pop art and from patterns seen in everyday life.

Amanda Church, based in New York and awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015, is the most pop-influenced of the three. Her paintings of sinuous, likely female forms hint at erotic encounters.

Jennifer Small, a Philadelphia-area artist, first isolates shapes in the environment as camera snapshots, them re-creates them in paint on canvas.

Elyce Abrams, also from Philadelphia, paints grid formations arising from moments in her everyday life, which, to my eye, reads as being hectic.

Through March 27 at James Oliver Gallery, 723 Chestnut St., 5-8 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 1-8 p.m. Sat. 215-923-1242 or