The first time I saw Jon Manteau's current exhibition at LG Tripp Gallery, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work making up his latest one-person show there, "Philadelphia Historical Artifacts."
Almost anyone and anything you can think of that has had a major impact on this city's history and stature in the world has been transformed into a Manteau artwork of one kind or another.
William Penn is reimagined as a lifelike child in a life-size sculpture; house paint is artfully poured onto a scan of a photograph of Grace Kelly; a cast-concrete sculpture of a soft pretzel (also poured with latex) blown up to mega-scale perches on a pedestal, in the spirit of Claes Oldenburg.
An installation of Manteau's abstract, poured latex paintings on plywood from 2003 and 2004 with various found Americana (iron works, stoneware jugs, baseball bats) mimics the "ensembles" of the Barnes Foundation's gallery walls. Having known and liked his poured-latex paintings in the past, I mostly limited my focus to his newer poured paintings on huge swaths of carpet that hang on the wall and roll out majestically onto the floor (they look surprisingly like tapestries). A show made up entirely of paintings like these - one per wall, ideally - would have made me happy.
A second visit left me with an entirely different impression of his show - that it has to be the over-the-top carnival it is to juggle the diversity it contains. (There are poured-resin works included here that easily predate his poured paintings of 2003, qualifying this show as a mid-career survey of sorts.)
The second time around, I accepted that I could not take in absolutely everything in this show and that allowing for the occasional serendipitous encounter might be the best approach. The individual works that make up wall-mounted rows of dozens of postcard-size painted digital scans of Philacentric photographs, which at first I'd found almost off-putting in their multitude and abundance of Philly references, turned out to be consistently clever and affecting. I came across my favorite pieces (besides the painted carpets) on the wall of the back office: three ink-jet prints of views of Philadelphia from the 1970s (I.M. Pei's Society Hill Towers among them) poured with house paint that simultaneously reminded me of Gene Davis Franklin's Footpath, painted on the Parkway in 1972, and Brian De Palma's Blow Out.
So, Jon Manteau can do it all, like Robert Rauschenberg before him. But I'll hope for a future show of big paintings.
Begun in April 2012, Kocot and Hatton's "Axis" series paintings at Larry Becker Contemporary Art have no right angles; are made in two sizes (about 19 by 20 inches and 13 by 14 inches and vice-versa, depending on how they are mounted); and their colors are applied according to a medieval heraldic color code that the wife-and-husband artist team discovered 25 years ago. (For example, the structural code for blue is represented by horizontal lines or strokes, and the red code by vertical ones.)
That said, these nearly square oil and oil stick monochromatic paintings are done in the richest colors imaginable, from such metal-based pigments as cadmiums (red, orange, yellow, and green), cobalt (blue), and manganese dioxide (violet), and the nubs in the linen they're painted on give them a similarly rich texture.
The collaborators have also produced solidly white (titanium oxide and zinc oxide) and gray (titanium oxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxide) paintings in this series, but they make a lesser impact than their works in color, possibly because the intense color of the other works exaggerates their off-kilter shapes and also suggests a windowlike view to another dimension.
One week left to catch Phillip Adams' show at Seraphin Gallery.
Adams has shifted his focus from large charcoal-and-graphite drawings of his contemporaries (recalling early Chuck Close portraits of his fellow artists. but with no discernible attitude, unlike Close's arresting, in-your-face Richard Serra), to studies of isolated mountainous landscapes, beautifully rendered, with odd, unexpected human interventions, such as a flagpole, a water tower, or a silo.