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Delaware Center builds worthy show

"Under Construction" comprises three solo, three group exhibits.

The Dufala Brothers' "Ductwork Shelter" of salvaged materials has a balcony and a curtained window: Comical but anxiety- producing. Above, Erin Murray's "P.O. Box," graphite on paper, in her "Municipalia" show of public buildings.
The Dufala Brothers' "Ductwork Shelter" of salvaged materials has a balcony and a curtained window: Comical but anxiety- producing. Above, Erin Murray's "P.O. Box," graphite on paper, in her "Municipalia" show of public buildings.Read more

Three solo and three group shows hold sway currently at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, in a roundup featuring many Philadelphia artists.

A degree of spontaneity stamps the double shows "Under Construction, Parts I and II," which display work by 10 regional artists currently involved in combining various aspects of construction, architecture, design and sculpture.

Some use ordinary building materials, others construction-site discards. Especially compelling are robust sculptural works Acanthus Model and The Movement of Objects by Wilmington's Joe Netta, both subtle essays in texture, structure, and composition - energetic, evocative pieces that establish definite mood and atmosphere. Also strong are the varied, inventive bangles of Joshua DeMonte of Towson, Md. They relate handsomely, and historically, to architecture and the construction industry. (Part I to June 3.)

Although "Under Construction" claims to cherish ordinariness, it does make exceptions, those bangles being one of them. In other examples, in Part II, it allows a speck of glory in the earthbound construction scenes in painterly lithographs by Yoonmi Nam of Lawrence, Kan., and reticent etching/monotype Eternal City by Philadelphian Alexis Granwell, which seems airborne and possessed of spooky emotional power. (Part II to June 10.)

Rebecca Murtaugh, a 1995 Penn State grad now in New York, takes construction materials in another direction in her solo show "Intimate Constructions." Using house paint, Styrofoam, and Thermoplastic, she makes an ethereal, whimsical wall-size installation from intricate packing cases. Her zest for paint shows itself strikingly in the way this installation prods rediscovery of what we're indeed seeing. Lots of incident is meant to entice the viewer from a distance for a closer examination of multilayered detail.

Murtaugh's capacity for intimate description disguises a more private vision. But the richness of her handling of such a wide range of pastel colors is her signature. I believe this solo offers a direct contact with an artist who is on the move in shaping abstract painting today. (To May 20.)

It is in Philadelphia that the Dufala Brothers, Steven and Billy, found their voice. They gather recycled materials for design and fabrication, approaching their art with a bucking, headstrong energy that gets things done. And they've been rather successful at combining such work with a humanistic imagination.

There's something visceral and bold about their latest piece, a site-specific towering "sculpture" made from salvaged ductwork and adorned with a balcony and curtained window. And there's something grotesquely comical about such an abode's cramped quarters. The Dufalas are onto something edgy here, in their reticent, guarded way. For as we look into the lower window, everything that meets the eye is imbued with a curious air of anxiety. Is this tower an alarming testament to our comfortable times? (To May 13.)

Erin Murray shows meticulous oil paintings and graphite drawings of public buildings in her solo "Municipalia" show, which focuses on the early 1950s. Is she aware architecture had reached a low ebb just then in this country? The American dream of the rose-covered cottage collided with earlier Bauhaus toughness to produce buildings that seemed more like the creations of graphic designers than humanistic and permanent city structures. American architects were trying to learn how to make monumental buildings again. So it's a bit strange to see Murray's otherwise impressive drawings striving to monumentalize typically taut, tensile '50s buildings in Philadelphia and the region. The pristine, empty subway passageways her oils portray certainly predate the '50s. And the "utopian ideals" and "faded romanticism" she sees revealed in these varied city structures belong to another era, not the 1950s. There's ambition here, with overreach. (To June 3.)

Last, DCCA offers "Contraption: Devices in Art," a display of 3-D participatory works (to June 24) that shrieks its message about the dead-ending of art in a form of entertainment. Featured exhibitors include four Philadelphians - Tim Eads, Tyler Held, Lauren Ruth, and Joanie Turbek - together with C. Grant Cox 3d, Tracy Featherstone, and Cynthia Norton. "Contraption" puts an end to all forms of art we've known. Your reviewer is a holdout against post-art, keeping an eye peeled instead for art's rebirth as artists again work in their studios, producing genuine new work, which often takes the form of a combination of avant-garde and traditional approach. Such work is often referred to as the New Old Master Art, and probably will be seen, eventually, at DCCA.