"Here and Now' at the Art Museum (1st review)

Up-and-coming, or already arrived

Tin Wei Lin's 'Eastern Interior' (2010): Somewhere between photography and drawing.
Tin Wei Lin's 'Eastern Interior' (2010): Somewhere between photography and drawing.

The spotlight is on impressive local talent in "Here and Now" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibit, consisting entirely of works on paper, showcases techniques ranging from classic drawing to inventive mixes of photography and printmaking.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is better than some major museums at reaching out to the local community. Art after Five— the lively cabaret that fills the august building on Friday nights with loud, sometimes even raucous music— is so popular it can be hard to move through the crowd.

A much quieter example of community connection now on view in a lower gallery is the small but intriguing exhibit "Here and Now: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs by Ten Philadelphia Artists." It's an appropriate show for a city with some of this country's top art schools within walking distance of the Museum.

The show includes artists who range in age "from 25 to 50"— an oddly arbitrary limitation. A few long-term professors whose birth dates are left off the signage must be the upper limit, but most of the artists are young, ambitious, and very up-and-coming, if not already arrived. 

Tiny creatures

Two of them, Mia Rosenthal and Astrid Bowlby, exhibit regularly at Gallery Joe, the Old City showcase for works on paper. Rosenthal's richly obsessive line drawings, based on Thomas Cole's The Oxbow, pull you in close to hunt among the twists and turnings for tiny little creatures that are either truly there, or that she makes you believe could be there, hiding in fine spidery foliage.

Another Rosenthal drawing plots out the entire contents of a sample size box of Rice Krispies, Krispie by Krispie, in a sinuous necklace of precise clean detail, a conceptual idea that's delightful in execution.

Bowlby, who won a Pew Grant in 2005, is known for pushing past the confines of the wall to create Alice-in-Wonderland-like fantasy drawing environments. Here the examples are fairly tame— only one strays away from the wall onto the floor— but they convey the idea of Bowlby's inky drawing style.

Serena Perrone works large: A mural strip from her Volcano series runs across one wall, and the show includes several examples of her large prints showing children in a coastal jungle. Her unusual medium— woodcut with fine details in gold and silver point drawing— gives the work a ruggedly energetic, yet soothing quality.

Daniel Heyman's provocative drypoints, less sensual but very demanding visually, are art politics in action. They're reportage portraits with the graphic urgency of a newspaper headline, and they were scratched directly into a metal plate (writing backwards) as former Abu Ghraib prisoners related their stories to an American lawyer.

Pastel-toned photos

The photographs in the exhibit seemed more ordinary, but that may be the viewpoint of an observer partial to drawing and the work of the human hand.

Isaac Tin Wei Lin straddled a line somewhere between photography and drawing with his bold ink cyber-patterns in harmony (or disharmony) with pastel toned photographs.

The gallery, across from the gift shop and on the way to the cafeteria, always feels a bit second rank in the grand museum, but the space works well for the work on view.♦


To read another review by Anne R. Fabbri, click here."¨