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Penn students display photos from China

"East West South North" at Addams Gallery.

A dozen budding photographers who want to get into the fray and take us along are exhibiting new work at the University of Pennsylvania. All the photos in this large display - "East West South North" - were taken this spring in China during the university's first-ever, two-week Howard A. Silverstein and Patricia Bleznak Silverstein Photography Studio Abroad.

This adventurous new "studio abroad" opportunity for qualifying graduate and undergraduate Penn photography students is modeled on a similar program serving architecture students. It will continue in alternate years for five years.

Outstanding in this strikingly varied and lively show are several large "aesthetic documentary" photos by Tetsugo Hyakutake that explore economic development's impact on Chinese society, especially in the run-up to last summer's Beijing Olympics. One exceptional result is Hyakutake's creation of broad, mural-like images that brilliantly capture the sights and qualities that characterize Beijing.

All the tensions of Kira Simon-Kennedy's persuasive pieces about protecting the lives of China's baby girls are built right into her work. Nsenga Knight uses her own religious roots as a point of departure in haunting photos of an old Islamic worship site in Beijing.

Antonio McAfee pursues personality-cult portraiture, inserting his own likeness, while Jessica Clauser gives that idea a different spin: Her games (jumping rope in Tiananmen Square) aren't so much playful as ironic gestures, artistic extremes of what's "natural."

Nick Salvatore, wearing shades, initially was mistaken by passersby for a celebrity. So he reinvented his intended project on the spot. Quickly embracing Beijing as Party Central, he assumed rock-star "identity" and assailed the senses with his attention-getting portrayal, cameras running, throughout his stay.

Some of the show's best moments capture buildings going up or coming down. This became a very compelling subject for Matt T. Cianfrani, Artie Vierkant, Leigh Van Duzer, and Elizabeth Hoy, often with noteworthy results.

Jesse Harding searched for art ideas to equal his knack with computers. As the Chinese proverb says: "The journey is the reward."

Plein Air Festival

The third annual Plein Air Festival show at the Wayne Art Center confirms the renewal of modern appreciation for paintings done in open air, a popular East Coast trend. Thirty painters from eight states made it through Wayne's jury; out-of-town artists were guests of local families upon arriving to paint locally.

Fast workers, they completed the nearly 200 works on view here; Wayne's rail station and Ardrossan Farm were among favored scenes. The knowledgeable handling of nonexperimental media is this show's strongest claim. Savor the sensuous feel, the marvelous experience of paint in work by Tim Bell, Stewart White, David Lussier, and Robert Thoren, among others.

Lisa Pauciello Rowe

Lisa Pauciello Rowe is a professionally trained Lower Merion artist showing paintings, drawings, sculpture, and pottery at Tyme Gallery, often portraying a female face and figure. Most interesting are the images painted on clay raku-fired slabs, as well as her functional clay pitchers and vases. Her own involvement in process, as opposed to tidy craft, is particularly American. Rowe's best pieces have lyrical color and a loose naturalness of expression that convey her sensibility. It's her personal mode of feeling that somehow holds style and subject in a single affectionate unity.