Galleries: Doing honor, sedately, to alma mater
Much is expected of those who earn their ceramics credentials from Alfred University, and the individual works that make up "Conversations, Coincidences, and Motivations: The Alfred Experience" are beautiful and conspicuously well made. But the
Much is expected of those who earn their ceramics credentials from Alfred University, and the individual works that make up "Conversations, Coincidences, and Motivations: The Alfred Experience" are beautiful and conspicuously well made. But the show, organized by recent Alfred graduates at the invitation of Snyderman-Works Galleries, strikes a subdued mood, even though many of its pieces are colorful. This is generally not eccentric or humorous work. There are no Robert Arnesons here. It's occasionally playful, more frequently elegant and mysterious.
The exhibition's 19 artists are all graduates of Alfred's acclaimed M.F.A. program in ceramics. Eight of them - four from the class of 2008 and four from '09 - acted as the show's curators and chose earlier graduates of the program. Not surprisingly, each curator's selections reveal some common ground with his or her own work.
Experience evidently makes for better ceramics.
For the most part, the standouts here are those of the invited artists: Judith Salomon's architectonic constructions of white earthenware glazed in strong, Fiestaware hues and reminiscent of modernist buildings; Josh De–Weese's wood-fired salt/soda stoneware platter with its drippy, painterly green and turquoise glaze; Sanam Emami's four trivets, subtle takeoffs on traditional Islamic tiles; and William Brouillard's red earthenware platters made using majolica techniques and depicting the larger-than-life faces of a machine-age Jolly Roger and a Tin Man. Of all the show's artists, Brouillard veers closest to eccentricity.
Jason H. Green's glazed terra-cotta pieces look like thick, shiny abstract paintings on bricks, but also bring to mind the lovely, worn terra-cotta decoration common to some of New York's older subway stops.
And Lee Somers' fanciful, multipart, vaguely Asian landscape of stoneware, porcelain, and glass is very much in step with a strain of contemporary painting practiced by Jackie Tileston and others.
Fine for photography
If JAGR Projects' first exhibition, of the handsome, elegiac photographs of Michael Collins, is any indication of its future shows, it looks as though Philadelphia may have another photography gallery, or at least an art gallery that will look kindly on photographs.
In any case, the exhibition space (JAGR Projects also comprises a new furniture and design business with its own showroom), once the dreary hallway formerly occupied by the Philadelphia Art Alliance's Satellite Gallery, is a good one for photographs and other kinds of work that will not require a long view.
Collins' large, straightforward, unaltered color photographs of aging British industrial and manufacturing sites are inspired by the images of the Record Picture photographers, journeymen photographers who took their aesthetic cues from the British army's mid-19th-century survey photographs. But their color and large scale put them more in the realm of the work of such contemporary German photographers as Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth.
Everything in O Zhang's photographs at Drexel's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery seems so energetically wholesome and sweet at first. But then you realize, fairly quickly, that anger with - or at least long-simmering ambivalence about - her native China fuels these images.
In photographs from her series "The World is Yours/Ours," Chinese tweens and teens are posed in T-shirts bearing Chinglish pronouncements. They look loyal and happy in bucolic scenes in Chinese cities that resemble 1970s travel posters, with translated slogans from the Cultural Revolution at the bottom of the pictures.
The other body of work here, "Daddy and I," of American fathers posed with their adopted Chinese daughters (why no mothers?), is clearly intended to register as creepy, and it succeeds.