The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
At Pentimenti in Old City, six local artists display work that exhibits an understanding beyond the scope of Philadelphia – although that's where the logical starting point is in “Global Conscious, Local Artists.” Shaina Craft, Tim Eads, Tim Portlock, Raul Romero, Emily Schnellbacher, and Jay Walker present a range of work from digital landscapes to installations, tape art, and even the documentation of the waste contained in landfills.
The work of Tim Portlock faces that of Raul Romero in the gallery space and acts as a sort of polarity for the show. Portlock constructs detailed computer-generated landscapes of urban wastelands in stark contrast to Romero's digital videos. Setting his short films atop a rusted, grown-over, abandoned Philadelphia train bridge, the individuals in Romero's footage revel in the experience of industrial ruin by exploring and swinging on tire swings suspended from high, metal overpasses. As an antithesis, Portlock provides digital renderings of a dilapidated cityscape that in many ways resembles Philadelphia. The orange smog, packs of stray dogs, and complete lack of people appear post-apocalyptic but seem heavily rooted in the present, perhaps as some sort of alternate reality. Whether a scene from the future or a greatly exaggerated here and now, their squalor contrasts the improvised fun of tire swings and ambient soundtracks amidst crumbling structures; two opposing takes on the contemporary urban jungle.
Tim Eads exhibits photos and the book that accompany his “Taxonomy of Trash” project. Eads heads to area dumps in order to sift through refuse for the fascinating forms buried within. Old Nerf guns, broken water coolers and rolls of bubble wrap demonstrate the extent of the stuff we consume and throw out, while also recovering beautifully imperfect treasures from one of the humblest locations.
Just beside this wall of debris is an area of criss-crossed, multi-colored tape applied directly to the wall. Tape is often used to repair, join or delineate, as opposed to landfills, which serve as destinations for things we deem unrepairable. Jay Walker creates a Madonna figure that bursts through this bright plaid pattern as more idol than artifact, and this mural seems very aware of its transience. Its religiously inspired title “Theotokos: Ichor” hints at humanity's hopeful and tenacious demeanor by way of the spiritual and ideal.
Emily Schnellbacher fills the project room with leaky-looking PVC pipes, water stains and plush water droplets, which cover the floor and run down the walls. Water has always represented life (for good reason) and on a planet booming with thirsty humans, the mechanisms for supplying enough clean drinking sources are certainly taxed. Schnellbacher seems intent on making this looming crisis clear through a deluge inside the gallery.
Shaina Craft goes directly to the source by focusing on the individual. She utilizes close, personal portraits to turn the gaze toward self and neighbor. Double vision pervades both images and the figures depicted appear ambivalent, dazed or mystified. In such a fast-paced world, it's often easy to find oneself in a haze of opinions, standpoints and ideologies.
All of these local artists tap into the human condition which moves far beyond the boundaries of the city they share. Through focusing on individual experience, our collective global impacts or our self-made environments, these few speak volumes to the world that seems constantly in motion, even when that motion is one of shrinking. “Global Conscious, Local Artists” will be on view through July 13.
Pentimenti is located at 145 North 2nd St., Philadelphia; email@example.com; pentimenti.com.