The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Girard Avenue’s Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art is currently showcasing “Dechemia: Outside of Time,” a series of abstract, process-based works by John Gibbons and Isobel Sollenberger. The pair is collectively known at “Dechemia,” and the show at Rebekah Templeton is based in the concept of the end of time. Instead of a global apocalypse scenario, the artists here expand the idea to include the inevitability of change and how it relates to visual art and practice.
Largest and probably most intriguing in the exhibit is “Milky Way 2012,” a giant, multi-paneled installation taking up nearly an entire wall of the gallery. As with much of Dechemia’s body of work, this piece relies on the physical properties of plaster and paper to produce a warped, rippling surface – not unlike a crinkled paper bag or a rustled bed sheet. Upon examination, what one would generally expect to be random wrinkles in the artwork’s surface, it becomes clear that many of these tiny canyons carry over to the adjacent panels. This extension from each square draws the entire composition together, lending some gravitational insight to its cosmic name (although its milky white appearance probably doesn’t hurt either).
Elsewhere, Dechemia utilizes ink with their poured plaster to created framed works which are both static and radiant. Three of these matted, globular works hang as if a triptych, however they are all standalone images as well: “Phobos,” “Deimos” and “Epiphany: Father Time.” The central piece appears more fluid and detailed, contained within a clock-like cutout, owing to its name. On either side, rounder shapes within rectangles orbit the focal point, much like the moons of Mars for which they are named. While their primary content is solid, inky plaster, the pigment has seeped into and stained the surrounding mat board, bestowing the forms with a glowing, orange halo.
Another take on the ink and plaster process is a series of rice paper strips weaved together into a patchy, greenish square of squares. The edges are frayed upward, while the center is thickly saturated with material leading one to believe that the plaster was applied after the weaving. The organic patterns of the dried liquid appear like the surface of a muck-laden pond and seem simultaneously algae-soaked and toxic.
With a focus on drying molds of plaster and slowly absorbed ink remnants, the time element of this show becomes more than apparent. Nothing in “Outside of Time” happens without the natural, time-dependent actions of the materials used and ultimately the artist’s role in the process is finished even before the art is.
One piece takes a pretty hefty deviation from the rest of the exhibit in that it actively changes for the observer through its movement. "Fast as the Sun" is a solar powered turntable-like device that spins a tiny transparent circle slowly around its axis. The circle is interchangeable with a number of patterns including a view of the moon, a spiral and a fly.
The forms at Rebekah Templeton demonstrate change, and by spending a little time with these artifacts by John Gibbons and Isobel Sollenberger, many creative insights can be found in their methods. “Outside of Time” is open through December 22.
Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art is located at 173 West Girard Ave., Philadelphia; firstname.lastname@example.org; rebekahtempleton.com.