Just north of Vine Street, in a jumble of warehouses, tunnels, and soon-to-be condos, sits a long-standing warren of artist collectives. It is home to such memorably named conglomerations as Grizzly Grizzly, Vox Populi, Marginal Utility, and Tiger Strikes Asteroid. You'll know it by the full bike rack out front.
This month Tiger Strikes Asteroid will be hosting a full-wall effort from New York-based artist Gary Petersen, called "zip line tow rope." One side of the room is now corn yellow and cut across with a network of multicolored bands that expand, contract, and branch off of one another. It's an airily mesmerizing effect.
"Usually you think of geometry as very orderly, almost spiritual," says Petersen. "I take that notion of geometry and endow it with a '60s pop sensibility. There's a slightly aerodynamic feel to it. When I work there is no sketch or plan. I respond to the space on sight."
He painted the west side of the room yellow on Sunday and, on Wednesday night, was putting the finishing touch (a purple one) on the piece. "zip line tow rope" is his largest painting, 14 feet high by 19 feet wide. It will be on display for the month and then painted over on Aug. 31. The eastern wall will be inhabited by a few of his smaller exhibitions.
Petersen is a Staten Island native who lives in Hoboken and paints in Manhattan. His previous work follows a similar tack, but on paper and wood panel, featuring vast expanses of barely contained, variously hued chaos.
The New York City of his youth - he was born in 1958 - will be familiar only to those millennials who have seen The Warriors. Petersen shares the standard, and well-warranted, fear of those who were around for the fiscal crisis and Richard Hell: Today, too many people are being priced out of the city. The art scene fueled by cheap rents and a 24/7 subway system will soon go the way of CBGB.
Philadelphia has both the cheaper rent and, at least for this summer, the all-night subways. While Petersen refrains from echoing Patti Smith's recent call for artists and musicians to flee New York in search of cheaper real estate, he says, "The energy that's bubbling up in Philadelphia is a really good vibe. I think there's a good scene here that's really happening."
Zip line tow rope