It was a fun idea - to have Philadelphia's numerous artist collectives trade spaces and swap shows for the month of November - and the proposal that became Citywide was sure to raise the collectives' respective profiles.
Judging from the brimming trash cans on the stairway landings at 319 N. 11th St. - ground zero for artist collectives in this city - the event, supported by the Knight Foundation and the Samuel S. Fels Fund, got off to a running start on Nov. 1.
But why was I the only person there at 3 p.m. the next day, a Saturday, when you would expect people curious about new art to be prowling galleries? One wonders if word just hadn't gotten out sufficiently. (I was never directly contacted by Citywide and only learned about it in increments, from artists who were involved.)
And the lack of daytime attendance was not limited to 319 N. 11th St. An hour earlier, I was the lone visitor at Fjord, in Fishtown, for almost an hour. On Sunday at 3:30, checking out Vox Populi's show at Space 1026, I was informed that I had been the only visitor that day.
The good news is that there are excellent shows to be seen and there is still plenty of time to enjoy them. Fjord's - pairing works by its members and those of Tiger Strikes Asteroid, and vice versa at TSA - is a standout, mainly of abstract paintings and sculpture. Another is Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art's trade-off with Grizzly Grizzly, and Mount Airy Contemporary's tightly curated show of artists who teach for Marginal Utility. And do not miss Napoleon's extraordinary miniature model of the Traction Company building's interior, made by Napoleon members and sculptors who have work spaces in the former trolley factory at 41st and Haverford Avenue.
On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Moore College of Art and Design, "Navigating Citywide: A Panel Discussion" will be moderated by Richard Torchia, director of Arcadia University's gallery.
When you enter Dennis Adams' exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, walk straight to the back of the gallery to watch his video Malraux's Shoes, which brings a 1953 photograph of Andre Malraux to life. Well, not quite, but it's an incredibly convincing effort.
The photograph, shot by Maurice Jarnoux for Paris Match magazine, showed the writer and art theorist standing in his study looking at the plates he would be choosing from for his book The Imaginary Museum of World Sculpture, all carefully laid out on the floor in an enormous grid in front of him.
Adams' video, made in 2012, features himself as Malraux and affects the style of a French New Wave film. Dressed exactly as Malraux was in Jarnoux's image, he paces the floor in his black suit and black shoes, leans down to touch pictures, mutters angrily, and carries a lit cigarette and a Scotch on the rocks. The camera lingers on his shoes as they move amid the one-dimensional images of sculptures on the floor.
Watching the video, you might wish you knew more about Malraux - for example, that his urge to collect had emerged by age 21, when he was arrested for taking bas-reliefs from a Khmer temple in Cambodia, and that he later theorized that art lives on through metamorphosis, not by being "timeless" as was commonly believed - but Adams' dark performance is so passionate, you get the gist.
"Tagging the Archives," is Adams' related series of ink-jet prints of various types of American and French vintage counterculture publications overlaid with his own choice contemporary aphorisms. It takes up the front of the gallery and struck me as his own Malraux-style organization of multiple images. You could even say that Adams' superimposed meanings help to achieve the metamorphosis of these publications from the 1950s to our present digital age.
Sarah McEneaney's first one-person show at Locks Gallery since 2008 catches her more focused on her neighborhood - variously called Trestletown, Eraserhood, Chinatown North, and Callowhill - than on herself and her domestic interior, but she paints her gritty surroundings with a similar affection.
The Reading Viaduct is a frequent subject, as are the warehouses, streets, and occasional green oases, in which a small solitary figure or animal (or both) may appear, bringing a sense of intimacy to her cityscapes. McEneaney has even painted her vision for a future Vine Street, a dream that should become a reality. Still, her gift for capturing the quietly personal still seems rooted in the private space, as in her painting of her backyard covered in snow.
In addition to McEneaney's show at Locks, a print edition of her painting Trestletown, 13th and Noble (2012), made with students at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where McEneaney had a residency this fall, is available for purchase at the Print Center. All the artist's proceeds will go toward benefiting Phase 1 of the Reading Viaduct Rail Park. (For more information, visit printcenter.org; dolphinpressandprint.com, and readingviaduct.org)