The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
At the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, three artists join forces under the banner “Otherness.” The Knight Arts grantee displays a varied fare of painting, prints, jewelry and assorted objects, which share a common thread in their occult and darkly romantic themes. Margaux Kent, Paul Romano, and JL Schnabel bask in the doleful and supernatural while also clinging to their seeming presence as outsiders or, as the exhibit's name implies, 'others.'
The series of Giclee prints exhibited by Margaux Kent are as chilling as they are beautiful. In some untitled works, stone-cold faces stare directly at the viewer – one inexplicably wearing an animal mask which resembles a donkey. The backgrounds are all flat black and the convex glass coverings of the antique frames reflect the visage of oneself back, forcing visitors into odd company with the characters in the pieces while also warranting self-reflection amidst the dusky scenes. Elsewhere, a scrawled message reads “Take Your Time Loving Me,” which doubles as both heartfelt and as a warning familiar to anyone who has ever fallen precariously in love. In “Incunabula,” a woman in a white slip walks unheeded toward the ocean, as if never to return. Her immaculate dress lies stretched out on the beach free from the violent waves into which she is headed with abandon...
Paul Romano adds to the macabre seaside scenes and portraits with a series of heads emerging from a variety of blossoms – a sunflower and a calla lily in this instance. They are titled as “The Fool” along with an identification of the flower in question. These heads seem weak and tired; their eyes are barely open or entirely closed and appear either asleep or dead from exhaustion. In the calla lily piece, a reddish root structure emerges from the disembodied head's ear, as if a hopeful acknowledgment that, despite the trials or pains of individuals, life goes on.
By far the greatest quantity of work in the show is provided by JL Schnabel. Creating boxes, necklaces, earrings and other small jewelry-like objects under the moniker Bloodmilk, Schnabel's aesthetic is heavily based in the imagery of the supernatural, surreal and pagan. A box whose black top doubles as a Ouija board, sterling silver medallions shaped like talons and crescent moons, and a pair of earrings each in the form of a longsword are just a few of the many inclusions by this talented and enchanting jewelry maker.
Like a metaphysical assortment of spell casting paraphernalia and scenes of despair, decay, and barren, romantic idealism, this show is a heavy hitter in the realm of that which burrows deep into one's being. Whether the march of mortality, the mysteries of the supernatural, or the pleasure and pain of love, the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym expands into the territories most enigmatic and challenging to the human psyche.
Philadelphia Sculpture Gym is located at 1834 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia; firstname.lastname@example.org; philadelphiasculpturegym.com.