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Three shows you’ll want to see in Philly art galleries this month

Clay Studio artists dust off some pieces on storage at the Philadelphia Art Museum. Penn brings in a Spanish sculptor. And a historic Bucks County barn displays contemporary art that's worth the drive.

This Staffordshire pottery from the early 1800s was in storage at the Philadelphia Art Museum. It's now on display at the Clay Studio, paired with a contemporary piece that these figures inspired.
This Staffordshire pottery from the early 1800s was in storage at the Philadelphia Art Museum. It's now on display at the Clay Studio, paired with a contemporary piece that these figures inspired.Read moreClay Studio

For the Clay Studio exhibition “From Storage to Studio,” the gallery’s curator, Jennifer Zwilling, invited current and former Clay Studio resident artists to meet with curators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who introduced them to the holdings from their various departments that were in storage at the museum.

Together, the artists and curators selected pieces from storage for the artists to respond to with their own creations. Pairings of the old works and the new ones are now on display together at the gallery in an absorbing show.

Nick Lenker’s angular ceramic boxers, paired with his choice of two Staffordshire boxer figurines from the early 1800s stand out among the contributions from the show’s 14 artists. As they say, opposites attract.

The same holds true for Yehrim Lee’s choice of a primly decorated 19th-century Chinese porcelain garden seat, displayed alongside her own exaggeratedly drippy ceramic, which looks as if it’s in the process of dissolving. Roberta Massuch’s choppy, hand-built architectural piece also stands in dynamic contrast to its inspiration — a shapely Art Nouveau vase.

Through Nov. 17 at Clay Studio, 137 N. 2nd St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon to 6 p.m. Sun. 215-925-3453 or

A wondrous Spanish sculptor, at Penn

Carefully circling the suspended sculptures in Jaume Plensa’s exhibition, “Talking Continents,” at the University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Ross Gallery, I had the uncanny feeling I was walking on air.

This disorienting sensation was not just because the overhead lights were strategically positioned to illuminate parts of the sculptures, leaving other parts (and the surrounding gallery) in darkness. The sculptures themselves — biomorphic and human shapes with hollow interiors, formed from open fretworks of die-cut steel — appeared to be floating.

In a brilliant stroke of installation magic, the sculptures and I were occupying the same otherworldly plane.

Plensa’s clever atmospherics are just part of “Talking Continents.” The Spanish sculptor, who is known for his use of language, history, literature, biology, and psychology, has more to say.

The die-cut steel shapes derive from letters in the Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, and Latin alphabets. Welded together in unpredictable combinations, they cast shadows on the floor that reiterate their patterns, suggesting a babel of conversations taking place everywhere at once.

The sculptures themselves form inspire wonder — and a respectful silence.

Through Dec. 8 at Arthur Ross Gallery, Fisher Fine Arts Library, 20 S. 34th St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues., Thurs. & Fri., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Weds., and noon to 5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.. 215 -898-2083 or

New works in an old Bucks County barn

Alex Cohen and Clara Weishahn organize October exhibitions of works by contemporary artists in a barn and a former chapel on his parents’ historic property in Bucks County. They call it Art at Kings Oaks, and it’s now in its seventh year.

This year’s show of 28 artists brings in talent from far afield. Works on display include lush paintings of overgrown houses and gardens by Sarah Norsworthy, of Alaska; introspective portraits of women by Naomi Grant, of London; somber self-portraits by Kouta Sasai, of Japan; and landscape paintings by Lois Dodd, of New Jersey, New York’s East Village, and Maine.

Through Oct. 20 at Kings Oaks, 756 Worthington Mill Rd., Newtown, Bucks County, noon to 5 p.m. Mon., Weds., Thurs., Sat. and Sun.; noon to 8 p.m. Fri., 215-603-6573 or