Seen in photographs, Chris Burnside's paintings are linear abstract compositions vaguely reminiscent of those swirling, perspective-altering paintings that Roberto Matta turned out in the 1940s, but pared down to lines on monochromatic fields. Seen in person, in his first show with Gross McCleaf Gallery, the Brooklyn-based artist's pieces are something else again - part painting, part sculpture, part jigsaw puzzle.
Some of Burnside's works begin as paintings on rectangular pieces of plywood. He cuts patterns into the paintings to underscore painted gestural marks - effectively using a saw to "draw" lines - and glues the pieces back together.
He also cuts and reassembles unpainted plywood; one such piece, composed of four panels, is the show's handsomest work, at least partly because the acrylic paint used in three painted works is too matte, too uniformly applied. As this work demonstrates, plain plywood is full of nuance; it also readily connects the unpainted constructions to buildings and furniture, a reference that seems intentional when you see a selection of Burnside's nearly abstract photographs of sections of walls and houses.
It's easy to imagine Burnside's cut pieces on a larger scale, like the one site-specific work here, a composition painted directly on a gallery wall in which his acrylic paint glistens like shiny paper ribbon. The others seem to want to sprawl, as this work gets to do.
Along with his photos, Burnside's small ink paintings on paper are the whimsical, unambitious pieces of this show. They also hint at a playfulness in his cut pieces that isn't immediately apparent.
Sue Spaid, a nationally known art writer and independent curator, has assembled a three-artist exhibition for Locks Gallery that bucks at least one prominent art-world trend.
As Spaid puts it in her essay for "Microfibers," the works of Danielle Bursk, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, and Laura Watt aren't of the "slice-and-dice" or randomly assembled persuasion, but born of intention. They're carefully, almost obsessively made.
That said, Lathan-Stiefel's netlike constructions of found materials and pipe cleaners, Bursk's drawings of forms built up of thousands of splintery marks, and Watt's vividly colored paintings of kaleidoscopic patterns, are much larger and more forceful than you might expect.
Spaid's identification of an art of infinite parts makes an intriguing theme. I wish it had been fleshed out with a few more artists.
Fleisher Ollman Gallery's seventh annual survey of Philadelphia artists is the quietest iteration yet of this more typically raucous yearly invitational of emerging Philadelphia-based artists.
Not a creature is stirring, really, in "I Don't Watch the Internet" except the computer hard drives that whir in Ashley John Pigford's appealing mad-scientist kinetic wall sculptures concocted from obsolete parts he rescues from the trash. And their sound is so low-decibel it doesn't intrude on the space of nearby works. (The exception, but only very briefly, is Knock Knock, which has electromagnets but no hard drives and whose wooden balls knock against pieces of wood when you push a button).
The near-silence emanating from Cari Freno's two videos from her "Pocahontas State Park" series, one in which a man has partially inserted himself into a crevice of a tree trunk and remains there, and the other showing a woman gripping a protrusion from a tree and swaying gently, enhances the less-is-more humor of these works. Listen carefully and you might hear a rustle of dry leaves.
James Johnson's tiny monastic rooms built inside a temporary wall and his tongue-in-cheek, Naumanesque neon sign that reads "Stop Following Me," lying inside an open cardboard box on the floor, speak loudly of a wish for silence.
Besides the unsettling quiet, there are aromas of gasoline and birthday cake wafting through the gallery.
Jordan Griska's rejiggered vintage gas pump, whose present collapsible, accordion-like lower structure was inspired by origami folding techniques, stands alone, like an ancient relic. The gasoline scent, impossible to eradicate, is the baby boomer's guilty pleasure and an ecological nightmare in one.
The sickly sweet perfume of stale cake emanates from two of Jay Hardman's tabletop sculptures made from cake, frosting, and wood, one modeled after a retaining wall, the other a city block featuring a gaping excavation and a building under construction. Like his cake pieces, Hardman's renditions of an upside-down warehouse ceiling and a motel sign that apparently survived its advertised lodgings, are the embodiment of solitude, decrepitude, and loss.
You leave this show, which also includes works by Gabriel Boyce, John Broderick Heron, Sarah Laina Koljonen, and Sebastien Leclercq, thinking its artists must have sensed the recession ahead of everyone else.