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Philadelphia art galleries in fall 2018: a Gee’s Bend quilter and more to see

The eye-popping quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph, a new take on the Wharton Esherick studio, and activism via pottery at Clay Studio are some highlights on the gallery scene this fall.

Detail from Mary Lee Bendolph's quilt, "Husband Suit Clothes"  (1990) at the Swarthmore College List Gallery.
Detail from Mary Lee Bendolph's quilt, "Husband Suit Clothes" (1990) at the Swarthmore College List Gallery.Read moreLaura Shea

By and large, this is a season of art for art's sake. Vivid color is in full force, especially in painting, but also in the eye-popping quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph of Gee's Bend, Ala., which have taken over Swarthmore College's List Gallery and McCabe Library.

Activism-motivated art is less prominent than some might expect, considering the events of the last six months, but it's the backbone of the Clay Studio's group show "Making a Difference: Social and Political Activism in Clay" and the heart and soul of Leroy Johnson's large charcoal drawings at Grizzly Grizzly, critiquing the politics of exclusion through images of a feral dog navigating the inner city.

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Curiously, video, photography, and installation art are scarce this fall. One powerfully sobering exception is the multimedia exhibition "Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America," arriving at Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery in late October.

Rochelle Toner: Tying a Knot in a Cherry Stem (Sept. 14-Nov. 10, Print Center). Recent abstract watercolor paintings and collages by a Philadelphia printmaker, as well as installations of objects and ephemera drawn from Toner's personal collections. (215-735-6090,

Steven Baris: Jump Cut (Sept. 15-Oct. 27, Pentimenti Gallery). Colorful diagrammatic paintings that extend the artist's meditation on human-built spaces and their geometries, particularly those of exurban distribution centers. (215-625-9990,

Making a Difference: Social and Political Activism in Clay (Sept. 29-Nov. 25, Clay Studio). Works in clay by artists directly referencing current events, among them Ann Agee, Syd Carpenter, Roberto Lugo, Kukuli Velarde, and the late Paula Winokur. (215-925-3453,

Tal R (Oct. 5-Nov. 16, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts). Brilliantly colored, dreamlike paintings by an Israeli-born, Danish artist who often starts his works from his own photographs or ones sent to him by friends, and whose style borrows liberally from expressionism, fauvism, symbolism, and surrealism (215-717-6480,

 Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America (Oct. 26-Dec. 16, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College). A collaboration between the Brooklyn Museum, where it was on view last summer, and the Equal Justice Initiative, presenting new research on the history of lynching and including video portraits of people whose lives were directly affected. There's also a documentary, Uprooted, and an interactive map and digital platform with information on the more than 4,000 lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950. (610-896-1287,

Becky Suss (Nov. 15-Jan. 26, Fleisher/Ollman Gallery). Recent paintings focusing on woodworker/sculptor Wharton Esherick's former studio and home (now the Wharton Esherick Museum) as a site, accompanied by artworks by Esherick. (215-545-7562,

Leigh Werrell: Out of Place (Through Sept. 28, Gross McCleaf Gallery). Werrell's new paintings, marking her second solo show at this gallery, continue her exploration of the curiosities she observes in her everyday life. (215-665-8138,

Kate Bright: Soft Estate/John Moore: Counterpoint (Through Sept. 29, Locks Gallery). Bright's show features paintings of wild British flora rendered in a lush tropical palette. Moore's works are somber-hued paintings, each of which appears to depict a former industrial site as it really is — but they are, in fact, the artist's composites of various sites. (215-629-1000,

Into the Light: Benefit Exhibition for the Friends of the Rail Park (Through Oct. 5, 990 Spring Garden St.). Works by 220 artists presented by Bridgette Mayer Gallery and Arts + Crafts Holdings, the sales of which will support the expansion of the Rail Park. (

Dogs/Walls/Dark Energy: Leroy Johnson (Through Oct. 21, Grizzly Grizzly). Expressionistic charcoal drawings addressing the current politics of exclusion by a Philadelphia artist known for his reflections on life in the inner city. (

Piece Together: The Quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph (Through Oct. 28, List Gallery and McCabe Library, Swarthmore College). This is the first solo exhibition of quilts made by Bendolph, one of the best-known quilters from Gee's Bend, Ala., organized by the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Included are quilts dating from the 1960s to 2010 and prints Bendolph made in 2005, along with a quilt by her mother, Aolar Carson Mosely, and several quilts by her daughter, Essie Bendolph Pettway. A companion exhibition, "Responses to Gee's Bend," features works by 17 artists from across the U.S. who have been inspired by the Gee's Bend quilters. (610-328-7811,

William Kentridge: Universal Archive (Through Nov. 11, Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania). The exhibit features linocut prints based on the South African artist's ink drawings. Subjects include coffeepots, nudes, cats, birds, and trees, which make frequent appearances in both his art and his stage productions. Here, the depictions gradually shift from recognizable images to abstract ones. (215-898-2083,

Heather Ujiie: Terra Incognita (Through Nov. 17, Rowan University Art Gallery). Textile installations and sculptures inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. (856-256-4521,

Anissa Mack: Junk Kaleidoscope (Through Dec. 9, Spruance Gallery, Arcadia University). The second iteration of an ongoing project that made its debut at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn. In each presentation, Mack, a Brooklyn artist, will reshuffle current and earlier works (mostly three-dimensional) that celebrate America's craft-show vernacular. (215-572-2131,