Much as I love walking into the Barclay - or through any of Philadelphia's surviving elegant hotel buildings - few of the shows I've seen at the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, on the former hotel's third floor, have had the magnetic appeal of the center's current two-person show. Not only are the projects by Jeffrey Stockbridge and Mark Khaisman beautifully conceived and developed, they're eerily attuned to their venue.
Stockbridge, a young photographer who has been showing his color prints of the interiors of run-down Philadelphia houses in galleries and museums over the last two years, has found the perfect subject in the city's long-shuttered Divine Lorraine Hotel, at Broad Street and Ridge Avenue. Given access to the building a year ago, when it was in the process of being dismantled, Stockbridge was able to capture each of its 10 floors shortly before they were gutted.
Where many of Stockbridge's earlier portraits of shabby interiors have a disquieting, sinister character - it's not hard to imagine a decaying body or something similarly gruesome hidden somewhere - and tend toward darkness, these luminous images of dilapidated rooms and corridors suggest an invisible inner life, as if the soul of the building was drifting up and away as Stockbridge was shooting (a not altogether impossible phenomenon, some might say, considering that the hotel's most fabled owner was the charismatic Father Divine, who turned the erstwhile luxury hotel into housing for his followers).
Khaisman, who has been a practicing architect for more than two decades and launched his career as an artist only a few years ago (he, too, has shown his work in galleries and museums), is emerging by definition only. The gallery space itself has been integrated into his installation, which depicts images of Louis Quinze-style furniture rendered to an almost photographic perfection in transparent sepia-colored packing tape applied directly on the wall (he is also showing individual folded-tape works that are mounted on Plexiglas and lit from behind).
Once you get over Khaisman's amazing agility with tape, you realize the images he's created are of a kind of furniture that might well have inhabited this gallery at some time in its hotel-room past, and that like Stockbridge's photographs, they speak of the things we might not actually see but sense intuitively about a room or type of architecture. With Khaisman's individual tape pieces previously seen only in lightboxes, this site-specific installation shows him working in a more expressionistic, spontaneous manner and rising to the challenge with ease.
See this show before it closes Dec. 13.
"Vast Beautiful System (barely holding together)," organized by the painter Alex Kanevsky for Jenny Jaskey at Tower Gallery, brings together the diverse efforts of seven artists. It's not a smooth, polished show - shows curated by artists rarely are - and it's fun to figure out how Kanevsky made his choices.
The artists, whose works unquestionably suggest an infinite but tenuous system, are Rebecca Saylor Sack, whose two large paintings of abstracted landscapes look like those passages of wetland one sees between and remarkably close to major metropolitan centers, as though they were nets supporting them; Richard Taransky's beautifully crafted bass wood sculptures of surreal encounters between people and their surroundings; and Austin Heitzman's wonderfully loopy constructions of found, bound-together materials.