Ours is an accelerated society, and Richard S. Ranck knows it. As if in response, this painter/sculptor, exhibiting at Rosemont College's Lawrence Gallery, finds inspiration in work by aboriginal artists in Australia. Is he a serious artist? Absolutely.
A Wayne resident with a studio in Bridgeport, Ranck has the determined seriousness of the primitive artist. Now in midcareer, he's an academically trained painter with a great love of the history of art. For a decade, he's been exploring the relationship between early man's view of nature and the emergence of religions and mythologies.
He is quick to point out, "My thinking is by no means definitive, nor built on a platform of thorough study, or particularly supported by current theory. Rather, it reflects what I think is essential to art: wondering and solving by making."
What strikes me about Ranck's idea of trying to get back to basics is that he may (inadvertently or not) have hit upon what could be the "next big thing" in new art. That is, provided other artists, if they become interested, also delve into the subject as deeply as he has. We live in an age when the need for reform is a battle cry for many - in the Middle East, in statehouses, in public schools, in Congress. Art, too, could greatly benefit from reform that goes beyond a few tentative steps.
Ranck admits he doesn't have all the answers. But his explorations here make a valiant try. Academic institutions often choose "safe" exhibitions rather than the kind that could vitally stimulate new kinds of inventiveness. So Rosemont College is to be commended for choosing the path less traveled.
And look closely. Though inspired by it, Ranck's work cannot be mistaken for aboriginal art. His display The Company I Keep (when I am alone) captures his own rigor and authenticity.
Seeing the 'Invisible'
Ron Tarver, in his new photo series "Invisible" at Sande Webster Gallery, zeroes in on things in our everyday surroundings we might look at a lot, but don't necessarily see. He photographs many of these, then scans the images and prints them again. The images of familiar Philadelphia sites and landmarks are surprising in the way they capture significant detail, even at a distance, while omitting most other detail - to the point where some viewers may even wonder if these are watercolors.
What makes a lasting impression with the pale, luminous photos isn't so much the style Tarver, an Inquirer staff photographer, has developed, or the subject matter itself, as the personal mode of feeling that somehow holds style and subject in a single affectionate unity. It's this that remains most emphatic in photos of a signature City Hall window seen from below, a major Germantown Avenue intersection, or the berthed and rusting USS United States.
Can Tarver be described as having in a certain sense "reinvented" photography, because he has created altogether contemporary work that invites us to go for depth as we look around us? Only striking feats of skill could have captured some detail while suppressing others. Moreover, by printing these photos on rice paper or silk, Tarver seems interested in setting things down with tender exactitude.
Also at Webster is a lively, heartfelt exhibit, "The Tiberino Family," featuring artwork by Powelton Village matriarch Ellen Powell Tiberino, husband Joseph, and their artist offspring Raphael, Gabriele, and Ellen.
All in at the Abbey
Easy on the eyes is Daylesford Abbey's juried 39th Annual Art Show, its main event featuring nearly 500 paintings, sculptures, and crafts. This classic highlights a multiplicity of possibilities regional artists and hobbyists are addressing in their artwork. Passion for art is evident without reflecting a specific sensibility. What intensifies the mood of the display is its location in the tranquil abbey setting, which helps unify the show's diversity as well.
Artists creating a pleasing path to experience here through extensive passageways include Princess Grace's niece Susan vonMedicus, whose icons in the Eastern Orthodox tradition are meticulously rendered and possess a humble yet rarefied beauty. Others are Ray Schorie, with English and Welsh landscape and boating scenes, and work by Kathleen Friedenberg, Bob McGovern, Nancy Barch, Helen D. Brancato, and Tom Hopkinson. New to the show are 28 artists.