The increasing authority its curated "Solo Series" exhibitions of regional art have won for the Abington Art Center is reflected in their progressively more adventurous character.
Abington's current show by four soloists is an excellent example. It doesn't genuflect before tradition, yet in several instances takes as much notice of life as of art. And like its predecessors, it has a good long run of 2 1/2 months, a rarity for contemporary work in our region.
Front and center is Jedediah Morfit, who impresses because he possesses a genuine vision. He shrewdly downplays art as a vehicle for artistic self-expression, preferring to develop, in thought-provoking ways, panoramic scenes of fragmentation - of human figures, animals, and objects - portrayed in white sculptured ceramic reliefs, with achingly exact technique. Mundane aspects of everyday life mix with humor, fantasy, and the surreal. Shopping carts at the supermarket are pushed by an old woman, a gorilla, and a pig, amid mayhem.
In a less vociferous sculpture, Morfit more broadly patterns the image in a direct way, without losing the mood to decorative detail.
Significantly, in addressing directly some of the effects of our shopping-mall culture, Morfit manages to render the topical into the timeless, something very few socially aware artists are doing today. Somehow formats like his remind me of Dante's passage from Purgatory into Paradise, even though it's our 21st-century world that's being portrayed.
Another soloist, Thomas Vance, reanimates abstraction with his richly colorful, geometrically abstract paintings. Their inclusion of wood grain, tree forms, and architect's blueprints suggests a balance between nature and the built environment in paintings nuanced and easy on the eyes.
EJ Herczyk pulls out all the stops with two sets of multi-paneled works combining pixel-based and hand-painted imagery - "landscapes of data" that have a commanding presence. Viewing these glistening wall-size works - one 15-piece set dark and the other less so - we gradually realize that their true subject is the rigorous yet informal balance Herczyk creates with his big, broad paintbrush, even as it meets a certain amount of initial resistance from the pixels.
Eva Mantell, perturbed that people continue to be reckless about what they discard, presents a kind of modest tribute to used paper coffee cups. She associates each cup with the individual who held it, then put it to his or her lips. Individuality is stressed, as Mantell imaginatively recycled a trove of such cups to make her point. Take a look.
John Kane of Erwinna, a former illustrator now concentrating on representational landscapes of Bucks County and a few New York City neighborhoods, shows recent work at Doylestown's Gratz Gallery.
Kane (who also heads the John Kane Trio, which performed at the show's opening) captures everyday scenes rather than creating narratives. His paintings' life-affirming, full-bodied directness and down-homey feel have a winning effect.
Paul King's mystery
In his show "A Beautiful Mystery" at Seraphin Gallery, Paul King of Philadelphia trafficks in the once strictly delineated terrain where painting was painting, drawing was drawing, and they seldom met, much less joined. He smartly combines the two, seamlessly and with ardor.
King's is a type of abstract painting that informs and reveals our humanist traditions as well as the art of painting itself. He's making it work.
Conflation at Drexel
"Conflation," a two-part show at Drexel University put together by Mark Campbell and Blaise Tobia, focuses on disastrously artificial zoning regulations in the suburbs (Campbell) and surveillance techniques carried to unwholesome extremes (Tobia), suggesting that these are among the 20th century's most problematic issues. The show's centerpiece is very real - a glamorous "architectural model" of an imaginary suburb, accompanied by a 30-minute video loop. Developed in collaboration with Peter Rose and Anthony Angelicola and partly funded by the University of the Arts, the large, handsome mock-up is called "Living Above the Store."