Face Value at the Main Line Art Center

21st-century portraiture

One of the best and most au courant art exhibitions now on view in the Philadelphia area is at the Main Line Art Center in Haverford. It features three artists: Nick Cassway, Mark Khaisman, and Steven Earl Weber. The more than 38 portraits in the show add a new dimension to traditional portraiture and demonstrate different ways to depict faces. It is 21st-century art, hard to find in most galleries, and a joyride all the way.

“Lauren and Marilyn” (detail) © Mark Khaisman 2014

Mark Khaisman creates portraits with translucent packing tape in light boxes as well as taped directly on windows in the gallery. These portraits seem to capture the essence of the individual, with the exception of Lauren and Marilyn — their faces have become masks, as if to protect their privacy. “Faces from Miami” is a series of nine portraits taped directly on windows in the gallery. They represent all the stages of life. My special favorites are James and Ursula, #6, which was the most revealing of the individuals, and Smiling Man from Miami 2. Khaisman’s adoption of packing tape as his special medium has proclaimed his 21st-century dedication to a new means of expression. It works for him. Bravo!

Steve Earl Weber works with individual faces as they are reflected by mirrors and panes of glass. (Do you remember how you created silhouettes as a child?) The image can seem to be an illusion or a real drawing on the surface, but look again. I Need to Get Well (1) appears as a shadowy image of reality in a muted light. These are fascinating views of a portrait that you think you can touch, but then it disappears.

Nick Cassway’s portraits refer back to the Civil War era by employing contemporary means. He combines computer-cut stencils with traditional colors and metal leaf to create emblems of that era, minus later stylistic developments. Despite the stiff figures and traditional subject matter, the portraits still proclaim this century: The Old Confederate General (latex and metal leaf on panel) betrays real emotion. Look again and see.

Face Value was curated by Amie Potsic, executive director of the Main Line Art Center and is presented in partnership with the Pentimenti Gallery in Old City Philadelphia. It should wake up all those galleries in Philadelphia that are still showing 20th-century art as if it is contemporary. Come out to the Main Line and get with it.


Above right: The Old Confederate General © Nick Cassway 2014

Our readers respond

Pasquale Cuppari

of Roselle Park, Nj on October 28, 2014

I sincerely enjoyed your review of the exhibit "Face Value." In particular, I appaud you for the sincerity and the courage to tell it like it is. Galleries and artists, it's time to get with the 21st Century!

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