Never heard of the Hand Drawn Map Association? You're not alone, though dedicated map followers know it well.
Founded in 2008 by Fishtown artist and designer Kris Harzinski, an obsessive collector of ephemera, it is, for the time being, Harzinski's collection of all kinds of handmade maps, from directions from a laundromat to a sushi restaurant, rendered in a few black lines on a scrap of a paper, to a complex map of the Chicago suburbs drawn by an 8-year-old wunderkind. (It's also the subject of a charming new book, From Here to There, published by the Princeton Architectural Press.)
"Art," per se, is not a pursuit of Harzinski's, and though some of the works in his archive happen to be by artists, he sensibly borrowed works from artists and various collections to flesh out his exhibition "Nowhere: Selections From the Files of the Hand Drawn Map Association" at Arcadia University Art Gallery.
A good idea, since these non-HDMA artworks add a level of sophistication and intention to the show, and emphasize the widespread incorporation of the map and diagram into contemporary art.
Philadelphia artists are well-represented. A small but riveting collage formed from sliced-up road maps that Barbara Woodall, the late Tyler graduate, glued to paper in horizontal patterns, is one of the exhibition's most exciting pieces. Other informed additions by area artists include Andrew Herman's fastidiously drawn invented maps that could pass for the real thing, Perry Steindel's fictional maps, and Jennifer McTague's maps of the United States drawn from memory and animated Flash drawing tracing her path through Eastern State Penitentiary.
From elsewhere, the standouts by artists include an ink-drawn map of a Beirut neighborhood by the Amsterdam artist Jan Rothuizen that constitutes a mash-up of his wanderings through that area; a piece by the Massachusetts artist Emily Garfield, who begins her fictional maps by dripping a pool of ink or paint on paper to suggest a body of water, and then draws a city around its perimeter; maps dating from the late 1970s of an imaginary country that Kentuckian Anthony Skaggs invented in 1967, at age 9, and never forgot; and the Arizona-based Gary Setzer's DVD of a 2004 performance in which he drew a line of chalk on the ground marking his four-block path between his home and his studio.
In many cases, works from Harzinski's HDMA archive fit into his exhibition seamlessly.
Yumi Roth, an artist from Boulder, Colo., asks people in various cities to draw directional maps on their hands, which Roth then photographs and prints as folded paper maps (they're displayed here unfolded and framed). The print by Lucas Ihlein of Sydney, which he used as the cover of the Australian art magazine Artlink's issue on things "Underground," is one of the show's cleverest, most visually arresting pieces. A map by Lancaster's Christian Herr, drawn to show his grandmother the incorrect route he took to visit his grandfather in the hospital, captures his frustrating experience in dark, furious scrawls. Krista Shaffer's "Summertime City Map" is a lighthearted doodle of her favorite places to visit in Philadelphia, letting her personal network of interactions substitute for William Penn's original street grid.
This thoroughly absorbing exhibition could have included a few more Philadelphians - Kip Deeds and Miriam Singer come to mind - but I liked the fact that certain artists well known for their uses of diagramming and mapping, such as Mark Lombardi and Guillermo Kuitca, were not; it would have been pushing the theme too hard. As it is, "Nowhere" is a fun, unpretentious, and continually surprising place in which to lose yourself.
It stands to reason that when asked to curate a show, Emily Brown, who paints and draws from nature and often works in grays and blacks on white paper, would have paired the drawings of Michael Moore and Michael Rossman. The surprise is the dialogue she's created between the works of these artists in their two-person show at Cerulean Arts.
Moore, who chairs the postbaccalaureate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and teaches drawing there, is represented by his India ink drawings of dense, merging patterns of lines that suggest rock formations; Rossman, who has taught painting, sculpture, and industrial design at the University of the Arts, depicts representational images in spidery graphite lines, as if they're exploding or caught in turbulent weather. Moore leaves the edges of his paper untouched, which gives his images a feeling of solidity; Rossman's swirling activity seems to want to exceed its paper boundaries.
It's fascinating to see these two artists' interpretations of nature - so alike in their materials, scale, and buildups of hundreds of lines, and yet so entirely different as finished works. This thoughtful show also makes the most of Cerulean's small exhibition space.