Origins: The Final Frontier by Adam Mazur at Crane Arts

By Kat Zagaria for PaperClips215
POSTED: September 15, 2013

Adam Mazur newest show Origins: The Final Frontier is an exploration of symbols across cultures and time. His beautifully rendered works on paper convey a sense of mysticism and a oneness that encompasses people, animals, symbols, environments, planets, and galaxies.

Geometric outlines find peace overlaying a dinosaur’s skeleton, while a man’s face is obscured by the stars. While a man wears headphones in one piece, a mother-like goddess figure radiates in another. The symbology in Mazur’s paintings on paper span space and time. Many of Mazur’s paintings are inspired by a book he owns on symbology. References to cultures as varied as Native American, African, and modern day can be found.

The name of his show is telling as well. Origins: The Final Frontier is Mazur’s way of looking to the past in order to understand what is ahead. He hopes to connect with his viewer on a spiritual level by incorporating such varied cultural symbology throughout his work. The viewer is able to see his or her own cultural heritage through different aspects across many different works, and yet also can recognize the “other’s” symbology that blends seamlessly with one’s own. At its core, Origins is a show examining the oneness of humanity across certain spheres, which is truly the final frontier that, in Mazur’s eyes, we have yet to conquer.

Continue Reading

Bardo Pond takes over Crane in “Between Two Worlds”

By Chip Schwartz
POSTED: September 17, 2013


Philadelphia’s very own seminal psychedelic/noise rock band Bardo Pond has just begun an artful September in Gallery 105 of the Crane Arts Building. The band members have assembled a group show of their artwork under the banner “Between Two Worlds.” While this title certainly does a fine job of describing the sounds they produce as Bardo Pond, all of the musicians were already busy making visual art prior to forming the band in 1991. As this show proves, their interest in process, experimentation and improvisation is clear in both their auditory and visible pursuits.

The show’s title makes an appearance in an artwork by guitarist Michael Gibbons, which itself is named “Blue Lemur.” Gibbons interestingly chooses to let the text in the piece speak for itself and instead focuses on the image of a crouching, blue-ring-tailed lemur. Placed over a background of gold leaf, the animal’s shape and color demand attention, especially considering that it is entirely without context; there is nothing in the frame beyond the lemur and its half-formed shadow. It peers cautiously to its right, perhaps looking into the distance at one of the worlds between which it lies. Gibbons also includes a number of illustrations depicting so-called ‘personal demons.’ These cartoon-like renderings seem almost harmless to the casual viewer, but to the artist, these creatures could surely represent struggles and personal dilemmas that remain hidden to all but himself.

Clint Takeda includes a wide variety of two-dimensional artworks in CD cases, on wood panels, and on paper, but his most impressive works are generally his 3D manifestations. A twisted, mutilated bust and a dangling, mutant rabbit-like beast are just a couple of his surreal jaunts. Possibly Takeda’s most noteworthy creations are the standing, disembodied pair of red legs that eerily occupy the middle of the floor, and the combination bird/spy plane diving from a wall-mounted pedestal. The former, entitled “Saboteur (Bill Ward’s Ass)” gives the impression that an attendee to the opening departed and absentmindedly left behind their lower half. Think that forgetting your phone or wallet somewhere is a hassle? Try forgetting two of your limbs. “Squawk” is a tiny piece that takes the form of the Cold War-era SR-71 Blackbird, only with an actual avian update: the nose of the plane is actually the skull and beak of a bird. Both a play on the aircraft’s name and a sleek, black form, it is a modest but well-crafted highlight of the exhibit.

Isobel Sollenberger and John Gibbons produce process-based, non-objective forms and textures together under the name ‘Dechemia.’ The objects they construct are smooth in spots, with cracks, canyons and fissures dividing these flat areas or billowing over one another. They explore the natural possibilities of the media they choose, specifically Hydrocal plaster and paper. Entirely achromatic, the pair works in white, black and gray hues, which put the physicality of the material before all else.

A table full of sketches, posters and assorted album art rests in the center of the gallery space, tying the show together through this group’s shared musical connections. There is plenty to see and much to ponder in this space, and as with anything, the characters of Bardo Pond produce, it is as deeply layered and inscrutable as it comes.

Bardo Pond will also play a set in the Icebox Project Space on September 26th in conjunction with the 20/92 Video Screening night.

Continue Reading

Two concerts find harmony in congenial spaces

Source: The Inquirer
By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
POSTED: September 18, 2013

The Crossing choir sang “Canticles of the Holy Wind” Sunday at Crane Arts in Northern Liberties. (MATTHEW MURPHY)

Were you to see and not hear the Crossing’s U.S. premiere of the John Luther Adams choral work Canticles of the Holy Wind, the sight would be mouths and eyes wide open in a state somewhere between rapture and terror, amid video projections of quiltlike patterns morphing into flocks of birds.

And that’s more or less what one heard Sunday at Crane Arts. The music operated at a level of imagination conveying rarefied states of perception – and in complete harmony with Dan Cole’s video in the Ice Box space, a large, blank white room. Singing was a mass of seamlessly harnessed sound, unclouded by vibrato, growing this way and that, sometimes erupting into noises from birds of yet-to-evolve species.

It was hardly a typical concert, but more and more I wonder if there is any such thing. On Friday, a harp recital by Elizabeth Morgan-Ellis included dancers, video projections, and a panorama of images created by shadow puppets at the Maas Building, a former brewery also in Northern Liberties, as part of the Fringe Festival.

Both venues offered basic space with no set seating. At the harp concert, listeners moved their chairs between pieces. At Crane, the Crossing was divided into four choirs (yes, 16-part vocal writing) that changed configurations around the audience in a darkened room. Both concerts were packed. Receptions were attached. Is this Philadelphia? It felt like Berlin.

Repurposed industrial buildings with tabula-rasa spaces allow enterprising musicians to rethink their concerts in ways that make audiences hear more intently – the opposite of a resident-company model where musical content is subtly influenced by the venue’s identity. Here, content (even when it’s nothing radical) appears to dictate the venue.

The Kimmel Center and Academy of Music experiences don’t suffer in comparison – though even Opera Philadelphia is exploring an alternative space in November with Svadba, at the new FringeArts building. But let’s be honest: Video hasn’t often worked well in those places. Screens seem small, are set apart from everything else, and, especially in Verizon Hall, often feel remote, like a drive-in movie. Different elements can seem to fight for attention.

In the two events last weekend, video was projected on the walls. Novelty of presentation didn’t steal focus from the content. Well, usually: Though harpist Morgan-Ellis (a Temple grad) and her chamber ensemble delivered strong-minded, well-rehearsed performances, I was so drawn into Andrew Huston’s shadow show during Anne Neikirk’s locoMotives that I now must revisit the music on its own.

But Andrea Clearfield’s French-impressionist-flavored Rhapsodie (2009) melded effortlessly with Huston’s visual fantasia on Claude Monet lily-pad paintings, morphing into sunbursts and far less-imaginable things, that I heard the music in ways I hadn’t before.

One couldn’t have felt more inside the total sight/sound package at Crane Arts. Objectively speaking, Adams’ Canticles draw on the tight, cluster-y harmonies of Ligeti vocal music and employ the gentle ostinatos and poetically open-ended phonemes of Meredith Monk. The washes of sound were built with distinctive harmonic meticulousness that weren’t traditional but seemed to burrow into your head. Birdcalls were evident, but not in Olivier Messiaen-style flocks; Adams is a resident of Alaska, and his birds are more aggressive individualists.

Thanks to the composer’s clarity of purpose (and vividly titled movements like “Sky With Nameless Colors”), Canticles of the Wind is one of the few new pieces I’ve heard without any cognitive barriers, but not because the music was familiar. Adams hit some sort of basic essence that I might not have felt from performers set apart in a proscenium-stage auditorium.

This is not to say every music organization should find itself a warehouse. These concerts aren’t for everybody. And not every repurposed brewery is going to be as congenial as the Maas Building. At a concert I heard in an Estonian munitions factory, for example, the obvious make-music-not-war message was eclipsed by creature discomfort for both musicians and listeners.

Continue Reading

Review: The Crossing choir in new setting, new work

Source: The Inquirer
By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
POSTED: June 26, 2013


So many artistic components came together in Part 2 of the Crossing choir’s Month of Moderns festival that it’s hard to think of the group as simply a new-music chorus.

Sunday’s concert began a new relationship with the Crane Arts Center in Northern Liberties, specifically in a former industrial refrigerator known as the IceBox, now a plain white room and an ideal tabula rasa for such ambitious collaborations as the new Chris Jonas piece The Gulf, which made up the program’s first half.

The basis of the festival’s theme, “The Gulf (between you and me),” is a lengthy poem by Pierre Joris, “Love at First Sight,” that uses the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill as a means of looking at what human relationships have come to. Projected across one of the huge IceBox walls were Dan Cole visuals of abstracted swampscapes and Mississippi Delta terrains that morphed into darker colors as the disaster progressed.

Jonas’ five extended musical movements focused more on personalities, especially that of driller Dewey Revette, killed in the platform explosion, in accounts drawing partly from interviews with Revette’s wife. Musically, Jones used a panorama of 21st-century choral-writing techniques, starting with David Lang’s brand of postminimal text-splintering, which quickly evolved into all manner of descriptive effects including an effective Tower-of-Babel moment with the choir reciting masses of unsynchronized words.

Such sophisticated music, combined with the meditative visuals, created a package that was hard to fully fathom on one encounter; too bad no repeat performances are scheduled. The convergence of elements created a near-seamless total effect that brought you infinitely closer to the Gulf disaster, and its implications, than news reports ever could.

After that, Gabriel Jackson’s tonal, chordal Song(I Gaze Upon You), an emotionally unguarded declaration of love, came as much-needed relief for its emotional frankness and simplicity. Concluding the program were two Baltic-authored pieces that took my ears places they’d never been. Lithuanian composer Juste Janulyte’s 2007 Aquarelle was built on minimalist compositional tools, but with fast, narrow repetitions that created two separate pulsating textures, treble and bass, interacting almost in the style of sacred medieval music.

Santa Ratniece’s horo horo hata hata, based on a lullaby of the indigenous Ainu people of Japan, evolved into huge masses of sound that felt like weather fronts, mixed with enigmatic whistling and animal calls that had a way of resolving with an elegance unknown in nature.

Continue Reading

Claire Ashley, Jeff Huckleberry, and The Happy Collaborationists at The Icebox

By Maegan Arthurs
May 23, 2013


Claire Ashley is a Scotland-born, Chicago-based artist who fuses sculpture and painting with a smattering of the absurd. For her latest piece, distant landscapes: peepdyedcrevicehotpinkridge, Ashley has created a series of inflatable sculptures that fill The Icebox Gallery at Crane Arts, transforming the space into a lively and cartoonish environment. Walking around the space, my husband and I decided that the forms reminded us of cloud-watching; the nebulous shapes potentially evoke any number of references. Speaking with Ashley, she confirmed that some of the forms are deliberately naturalistic (horse and cow, for example), while others are intentionally more ambiguous. Even Ashley’s title is meant to be at once both analytical and non-analytical, conveying and inviting any number of possible references.

For Ashley, motherhood is an inspiration
Ashley draws inspiration in part from her role as a mother. In their early iterations, the puffy forms of her sculptures came from Ashley’s protective maternal instincts. Since then, Ashley’s approach has evolved in a way that embraces the energy and silliness of young children. In a personal touch that adds emotional heft to the show, Ashley cuts the forms for each piece from a template of sorts loosely based on the blueprints from her home.

The Happy Collaborationists bring Ashley’s work to life
The dynamic, zany energy of Ashley’s inflatable sculptures is further underscored with their incorporation into a performance by The Happy Collaborationists (“Happy C”), a curatorial collective featuring performance artists Anna Trier and Meredith Weber. Donning two of Ashley’s inflatable sculptures, the pair move and dance around the Gray Space adjoining the gallery to upbeat music.

Ashley’s painting/sculpture hybrids challenge the traditional notion of what defines a painting, an idea Happy C underscore in their performance. Just as a beautifully rendered painting can seem to dance on the canvas, Happy C succeeds in promoting the idea that a painting can literally become a dynamic object while still retaining its beauty as an artistic object.

Jeff Huckleberry explores the challenge of artistic creation through intense yet humorous performance
Jeff Huckleberry’s performance, “8th Rainbow,” follows the performance by Happy C in the Gray Space. Huckleberry, a member of Mobius Artist Group and the artistic director of TOTAL ART, began his performance without introduction; he simply began laying out his various props, which included wooden boards, paint, a belt sander, a box, two cases of beer, and balloons.

What followed from there was a series of actions that, while assaulting the senses in a ridiculous and entertaining manner, seemed also to grapple with the profound challenges artists face when attempting to create their work. This was clearest when Huckleberry filled his pockets with beer bottles and wrestled with an armful of long, wood boards. As he was rolling back and forth through the space, clutching this bulky mass, I empathized with him; Huckleberry seemed to be actualizing the process of wrangling an unformulated creative idea into something tangible and workable – perhaps the most difficult task an artist faces. Huckleberry personified this struggle with humor and whimsy; my husband and I found ourselves grinning constantly during the performance.

The artists create a successful, accessible collaboration
This is not the first time these artists have collaborated and it shows – each piece complemented the other in interesting ways. My husband and I left the gallery that night laughing and chatting excitedly about the show, eager to see more.

It’s wonderful to see art with a jubilant sense of humor that doesn’t shy away from the silly in life.

Continue Reading

Changing Skyline: Retail magic is missing from South Kensington lofts proposal


Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
By Inga Saffron, Inquirer Architecture Critic
April 27, 2013

On paper, the proposed Soko Lofts project promises to do for its South Kensington neighborhood what the Piazza at Schmidts did for Northern Liberties. Like its paradigm-shifting predecessor two blocks south, Soko Lofts would rim its large block with a dense array of mid-rise apartment buildings, smartly broken up into manageable segments. The spaces between the buildings would become passageways, beckoning the public into a landscaped interior courtyard.

It is a pretty good plan, but it is no Piazza.

For all its effort to replicate the Piazza’s first-rate urbanism, Soko Lofts misses the crucial lesson of that project. The Piazza packed its ground floor with shops, galleries, and eateries, especially along its primary frontage on Second Street. Though not all have succeeded, their presence tied the Piazza into the neighborhood. They made what was just another behemoth residential development into a real urban place.

At Soko, the buildings – bounded by Second, Thompson, Master, and American Streets – would be punctuated by a few token retail spaces. The rest would be long stretches of dullness. And American Street, which should be Soko’s front door, would be the dullest.

Soko’s developer, Canus Corp., envisions a seven-story apartment building there. It would be raised on stilts so a parking lot can be inserted at street level. Two wide driveways would further break up the American Street frontage, destroying any hope that the former industrial corridor could evolve into a walkable, residential boulevard. It is not a good start for South Kensington 2.0.

Philadelphia’s new Civic Design Review committee – a product of the revamped zoning code – meets May 7 to discuss the project, and it has a chance to make Soko better. But will it try? Canus’ owner, Paul Rabinovitch, is quick with an excuse for every design mistake, and the committee has so far not demonstrated that it has the moxie to stand up to a strong-willed applicant.

To be fair, Rabinovitch isn’t one of those my-way-or-the-highway types. After neighbors from South Kensington Community Partners complained about the initial design, he sent his architects, Barton Partners of Norristown, back to the drawing board.

Their second version was a big improvement. They started by breaking down the immense scale of the 2.7-acre site. A pedestrian street now bisects the block, connecting American and Second Streets and providing easy access to the interior courtyard.

In response to neighbors’ concerns about the lack of ground-floor activities, Barton added more lobby entrances for the Second Street apartments. They beefed up American Street somewhat by bracketing the building with retail space. Although some residents still had concerns about the streetscape, the neighborhood group signed off on the project.

That doesn’t mean the Design Review Committee should rubber-stamp the neighborhood decision. With 320 units spread over a full city block, Soko Lofts could radically transform the tattered, postindustrial streets of South Kensington. American Street has the potential to become the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare.

It may not seem that way right now. Once lined with factories, American Street is now pocked with empty lots, partly as a result of 20 years of failed city policy to rekindle its manufacturing glory.

Yet Rabinovitch is concerned that there is too much industry on American Street. His site now faces a small food processor, a furniture maker, and a glass supplier. That’s his argument for putting cars, instead of people, on the ground floor.>

Continue Reading

Manufacturing A Good Time

Original Article @ Hidden City
MARCH 18, 2013

8409297435_49baa142d0_o-2 Photo: Theresa Stigale

The Crane Plumbing Company imported cast iron tubs from Trenton, NJ by train and stored them on site to be distributed throughout the greater Philadelphia area. The event space known as the Icebox was an open train shed with penetrations for train deliveries. The name Icebox came into use after the Crane company left, when the building housed a seafood company and the products were flash frozen there, in a rebuilt space for that purpose. In the 1960s Random shrimp shells could be found even on the upper floors. The space is now used for weddings, and most notably for benefit art auctions by InLiquid, the arts collective located on an upper floor of the Crane Building. An outside building was used as another distribution center in 1906. In the courtyard, Crane co-developer and Temple University art professor Nicholas Kripal uncovered a sea of Belguim blocks, and used recycled those historic stones to pave the lot.

DSC7163 Photo: Theresa Stigale

The White Space. One block to the east of the Crane Arts, the skyline is dominated by the prominent twin spires of St. Michael’s Church, founded in 1831. In 2011, a development team, including Nicholas Kripal, bought the school adjacent to the church and created art studios and a sunny, flexible open space for performances, exhibits and gatherings, known as The White Space.

Continue Reading

John Cage concert deeply challenging

Full Article @ Philadelphia Inquirer
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer Classical Music Critic

“…At the Crane Arts center in Northern Liberties, JACK Quartet, the best new music group of its kind, played Cage’s Four, Music for Four and Five3. The first piece was a quiet one played in a traditional string quartet configuration; even in a setting where you could seriously listen to it, the piece yielded little to the naked ear. Music for Four was executed with the musicians dispersed among the seating area, and realized with all of the contrasting ideas lacking in the previous work. It was one of the most exhilarating moments in the festival so far.

Five3 also had the quartet dispersed, with the addition of trombonist James Hirschfeld, in a piece examining a range of possible music within extremely narrow bounds, this time utilizing the pitch-bending possibilities of the trombone slide and the violin fingerboard. Unlike much other quiet Cage, this performance was enveloping, prompting the following theory: Perhaps the only way to truly understand any given Cage piece is to perform it yourself – or at the very least, be in the thick of those who do.”

Continue Reading

Lonely Planet: Top 10 US travel destinations for 2013

Original Article @ Lonely Planet
Dec. 5th, 2012
Robert Reid

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Forget the cheesesteaks and tri-corner hat, Philadelphia is becoming known as an art capital. In addition to the world renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, the formerly remote the Barnes Foundation, a once private collection of Matisse, Renoir and Cézanne, has a new central location. And it’s not just the big museums – Philly’s gallery scene is exploding with new venues like the Icebox garnering international attention and turning the Northern Liberties and Fishtown neighborhoods into the new hot arts hub. First Fridays, the monthly gallery open house, long a tradition in Old City, has expanded to the refurbished Loft District, where the party goes on in a host of new bars, clubs and live music venues.

Continue Reading

Soak Up the Art Scene in Philadelphia

Original Article @ New York Magazine
Aug 31, 2012
Rebecca Dalzell

Paintings by Rebecca Saylor Sack

Explore the thriving contemporary-art scene in Northern Liberties and Fishtown, especially Crane Arts, the area’s hub for almost a decade. Formerly a plumbing warehouse, the massive brick building is home to dozens of studios and arts organizations, as well as galleries (open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from noon–6 p.m.) like the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Indigo Arts, and the University of Delaware’s art department. Coming to the area in September is a new outpost of Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward, which offers workspace to artists and art classes to the public.

Devote at least an afternoon to the city’s major museums on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Start out at the new location of the Barnes Foundation ($18), which houses one of the finest Impressionist and early modern collections—181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, and 46 Picassos—in the world. The paintings have been placed exactly as they were in Albert C. Barnes’s Merion home, but the new building, opened in May, has abundant lighting that makes the collection look fresh. Afterward, visit the newly reopened Rodin Museum ($8), where 150 of the sculptor’s works line garden paths and airy galleries.

Watch art being made at the Fabric Workshop and Museum ($3), whose acclaimed artist-in-residence program invites painters, performers, and designers to try new techniques with the help of in-house technicians. The current exhibit by multimedia artist Mark Bradford closes in mid-September, but the permanent collection includes work from big contemporary artists like Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor.

Learn the stories behind some of the city’s murals, of which there are more than 3,500, from members of the Mural Arts Program, which offers weekend trolley tours ($25) to different neighborhoods from April to November. The West Philadelphia route, for instance, stops by the 3800 block of Melon Street, where 30 house façades were painted to draw attention to youth homelessness.

Read The Full Article on the New York Magazine website.

Continue Reading

Girls on Film – Female identity and the media at Crane Arts

Original Article @
August 26, 2012
Mireille Guy
Guest Writer for

Walking into the current exhibition in the Project Space at Crane Arts, a viewer is greeted by bright and colorful portraits that almost look like movie stills. That is because Girls on Film is a study of the relationship between painting and moving images, between pop culture and feminine identity. Artist Kate Perkins used many pieces from her recent senior thesis at University of the Arts, as well as others, to compose this show, and the result is a vibrant and engaging exhibition.

Perkins’ lush and vivid portraits show characters taken from stills of Bollywood movies, Korean or Taiwanese television shows or the Internet. Painted on wood panels rather than on canvas to better reference a flat screen television or computer, the works accurately reproduce the colors and ambiance of the media. Topics covered range from romance to friendship. Perkins explains in her senior thesis that the purpose of the show is to bring together “…images of young women from a variety of cultural backgrounds, in the context of film stills and portraits, in order to explore the female construction of identity in an Internet-driven world.” She is not trying to paint her interpretation of this pop culture and media, but rather to represent it in the most accurate of lights — its immediate perception.

Most notable in the show are four paintings of pop star Nicki Minaj taken from her music video “Superbass.” The works, titled “Superbass #1″ through “Superbass #4,” exemplify all of the themes mentioned earlier: lush colors, pop media, femininity. What makes these paintings even more interesting is that Perkins has created an animated slideshow using a bar code scanning app to make the animation available by smart phone at the exhibit. I simply had to take a picture of the barcode next to the paintings to download the animation. To see Perkins’s animation, click here.

By animating her paintings, Perkins successfully furthers her theme of the high volume saturation of pop culture into art as well as across our society today.

Crane Arts, by the way, which I had not been to before, is a great space for artists, as it has many exhibition spaces as well as studios and creative resources.

Girls On Film is up until August 31. Perkins is also featured in a two-person exhibit with Rebecca Tennenbaum, opening Sept. 7. at Goldilocks Gallery, 723 Chestnut St., 2nd floor.

Continue Reading

Festival will get to the very fiber of art

Original Article @
March 02, 2012
By A.M. Weaver
For The Inquirer

Amy Orr photographed by Akira Suwa
Amy Orr photographed by Akira Suwa

Amy Orr, beaming a kilowatt smile, almost jumps from her chair when she talks about FiberPhiladelphia 2012, the citywide celebration of textile and fiber art she has spent the last two years organizing with Bruce D. Hoffman.

Orr is a fiber artist, Moore College faculty member, and the biennial event’s director; Hoffman, an independent curator, was part of the Snyderman-Works Gallery’s groundbreaking 1998 fiber exhibition, which sparked what has become an event of international scope, stretching from Friday’s opening till the end of April.

For this sixth iteration, Orr says, “we decided not to engage in the ongoing debate about what constitutes fiber art. . . . People don’t want to define themselves as fiber artists, just artists. A call was placed for excellent artwork that made reference to textiles and fiber art – and the results were outstanding.”

FiberPhiladelphia 2012 features several major juried shows. More than 500 artists applied, from all over the world, and 67 were chosen to exhibit at the Icebox Project Space in the Crane Building and at subsequent juried shows at the Wayne Art Center and the Gallery at City Hall.

Partnering with the nonprofit membership organization InLiquid, participating venues – among them the Art Alliance, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Arthur Ross Gallery, and the Wexler Gallery – were cultivated early on. Orr emphasizes that subsequent participation was highly democratic, requiring only a $100 registration fee. After that, each of the scores of venues could do its own thing with the fiber theme.

With the funds collected on an interactive website, a gallery guide and free lectures were organized. Volunteers essentially run the festival, which speaks to the ability of the organizers to mobilize their constituents.

And to attract related events: A joint conference of Studio Art Quilt Associates and the Surface Design Association will be held March 30 to April 1 in Conshohocken, and will feature tours of the festival’s highlights.

Why is all this happening in Philadelphia? Orr is ready with the answer, noting that it is a “city with Amish quilts and immigrants with rich traditions in the fiber arts.”

“Also of record was the manufacturing of lace and hosiery. There are dye factories from the 1800s that are still operative. . . . With a huge presence of textiles throughout the arts community in Philadelphia, there is a growing interest in bringing textile industries back to the city.”

Continue Reading

Second State Press printmaking collective

Original Article @
Thursday, Feb. 23rd, 2012
By Chip Schwartz
For Knight Arts

Jake Yeager.

In Gallery 102 of the Crane Arts building in Fishtown, Second State Press is currently displaying prints by 16 of its members. Located in the basement of the building, Second State is a communal printmaking studio that offers members an affordable and supportive network of like minds and equipment to practice their craft.

The members currently showing in the gallery are all part of the Fob Holder Program, which allows unlimited access to the printmaking facilities for individuals who volunteer to help manage and look after the shop. The “Fob holders” hail from all over the country but currently reside in Philadelphia, where they represent a dynamic community of artists at different stages of their careers. Grassroots, member-run organization is the emphasis of Second State Press and the creative energy this approach fosters is its priority.

Jake Yeager has a knack for making monsters that lie somewhere between creepy and goofy in their appearance. They are cartoony creatures reminiscent of some darker version of Maurice Sendak illustrations with crooked teeth and gnarly grins. There are mystical and occult symbols, like mandalas, goat heads and the all-seeing eye of one-dollar bill fame tied into his images as well, making for a curious depth of content beyond the beasts themselves. The style of Yeager’s prints is almost tattoo-like, and they certainly wouldn’t be out of place on a colorful sleeve.

Primates hatching from eggs are the juxtaposition of choice for Josh Danin. In one image, a baby gorilla pokes its head out of a cracked white egg, in another the appendage is a fully grown human hand. The representations are fairly realistic and well-proportioned, aside from the exaggerated size of the eggs (or the miniature scale of their contents). A strong sense of texture is also a major element of Danin’s prints, apparent in the wrinkles of the hands or the cracks of the eggshells.

Lauren Abshire has a series of photo prints of what appear to be surveying flags. The flags stand alone or grouped together in different configurations, their bright colors standing out sharply against a layer of white snow and dim shadows. Like the flag series, Abshire’s other piece is playful and bright. It seems almost like a map, with a round island-like form and an x marking the spot — perhaps using the very same flags?

There are also winding patterns in the abstract biological masses of Emilia Edwards and a surreal object-like quality to the little boxed prints and cutouts by Daryl Bergman.

Second State Press collectively accosts a very large space with its handcrafted prints and offers a good pick of styles and approaches. What is definitely clear is that this is a group with some quality printmakers serious about their products.

Continue Reading

75th-anniversary exhibit celebrates American Abstract Artists

Original Article @
Fri, Nov. 18, 2011
By Victoria Donohoe
For The Inquirer

This is the 75th anniversary of American Abstract Artists, an organization of artists who banded together to create a forum for the discussion, exhibition, and promotion of their art.

One of the few artists’ groups launched in the Great Depression, it had clout from the start, and its effort to build better understanding continues today.

“Abstraction to the Power of Infinity” is its exhibition at the Icebox in the Crane Building, featuring 80 living artists, all New Yorkers except for four invited Philadelphians. The event is curated by Janet Kurnatowski, who directs a Brooklyn art gallery. New York’s O.K. Harris Gallery held a recent AAA anniversary show of similar size, with most of the same artists, but different works.

This display in Lower Kensington also pays tribute to AAA’s first centenarian, painter Will Barnet, a member since 1956. Much appreciated locally as a former teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Barnet here offers a vibrant canvas, Joyous, which he painted in 2006.

In this show, strong colors and vigorous strokes activate spatial tensions and create many energetic compositions. And while some of the other abstractions seem familiar and conventional, the best ones show that skill and artistic ambition can be a combustible mixture. Hybrid species of painting and relief sculpture are few, as are other sculptures.

Outstanding are Creighton Michael’s dramatic photo triptych and Mon Levinson’s white-on-white rotund piece. Also worthy of note are pieces by Richard Anuszkiewicz, Steven Alexander, Martin Ball, Gabriele Evertz, Vito Giacalone, John Goodyear, Gilbert Hsiao, Phillis Ideal, Roger Jorgensen, James Juszczyk, Victor Kord, Ce Roser, Irene Rousseau, Richard Timperio, Vera Vasek, Dan Voisine and Stephen Westfall.

The AAA does not play down artists’ honest struggle and achievement, reducing them to a question of who is “in” and who’s “out,” so it is pointless to stick an easy label on these artists. They share qualities of a spirit of experimentation that values questions more than answers, willingness to risk unusual means, courage in getting “messages” across, and also a strong sense of values. And they must keep growing to brush aside conformity and reach toward audacity. A very rewarding show.

Continue Reading

Pig Iron launches new program for teaching avant-garde theater in Philadelphia

Original Article @
Jul. 18, 2011
By A.D. Amorosi
For The Inquirer

It’s a steamy spring afternoon and members of Pig Iron Theatre Company are in a boiler room at the Crane Arts Building’s neighboring schoolhouse, kicking up dirt.

“This would make a great stage for a performance,” Quinn Bauridel, Pig Iron’s co-artistic director, says at the foot of a furnace straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

Pig Iron and Bauridel have worked at the Crane before. The city’s headiest avant-garde troupe staged the starkly forensic Isabella in the Crane’s Ice Box Project Space on North American Street during the 2007 Live Arts Festival. Now, as director of the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training (APT), Bauridel will be only a few blocks away, at 1425 N. Second St.

So will such teacher/artists as Pig Iron’s co-artistic directors Dan Rothenberg and Dito van Reigersberg, company members Charlotte Ford, Sarah Sanford, and Geoff Sobelle, and longtime collaborator Emmanuelle Delpech-Ramey. APT is a two-year postgraduate program based primarily in the physical pedagogy of the late actor/teacher Jacques Pierre Lecoq, in which Pig Iron specializes; it is an alternative to a traditional MFA program.

“I’m passionate about helping emerging theater artists find their voice to reenergize this art form,” says Bauridel. “It’s important to evolve, lest things become stale.”

On signing its lease in January, the APT became the flagship tenant of Crane Old School, which is not only a game changer for Pig Iron and Crane Arts, but for the surrounding Old Kensington neighborhood.

“It’s a risky venture, which we’ve undertaken in uncertain times,” says Crane Arts co-owner David Gleeson, who, with artist/partners Richard Hricko and Nicholas Kripal, purchased the former manufacturing site that became Crane Arts in 2004 and bought the Old St. Michael’s School on North Second Street in January. With the Piazza at Schmidts, a handful of theaters, and Frankford Avenue’s gallery scene, the neighborhood is blossoming, and the Crane complex – galleries, offices, studios, exhibition and performances spaces – has become central to that.

“Crane Arts liked the idea of bringing the educational and productive sides of performing arts into the Old School,” says Gleeson. “We’re creating affordable spaces for the production of art and creativity products, as opposed to, say, the consumption and sale of art. There’s so much energy here, at both the grassroots and highest levels. We’re on the cusp of a really great wave of creativity, of which Pig Iron’s school is just one wonderful example.”

The 25,000-square-foot Roman Catholic school, built in 1891, had been vacant since 2005 when the Crane group took over and brought Pig Iron into the picture.

“We’d had such a good experience with them when we did Isabella – not every landlord would be so accommodating to a naked-cadaver Shakespeare production – that we jumped at the opportunity to work with them,” says John Frisbee, the company’s managing director.

Gleeson is quick to mention the advocacy of the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (which owned the school), and the project’s lender, the Reinvestment Fund. “With encouragement from those organizations and our desire to see more creative development in our neighborhood, we felt compelled to make this happen.”

So did Pig Iron. After teaching for more than a decade, the desire to develop something deeper than a weekend workshop had grown in Bauridel. He saw his theater students from Swarthmore and Princeton leaving to pursue their interest in physical and ensemble theater at schools in Paris, London, and beyond, and wanted to develop a local program to keep emerging talent closer to home.

Not only did the Pigs seek to pass on what they had learned from Lecoq – his theories on movement, physicality, and “the neutral mask” – with their own diabolical twists, they and Bauridel wanted to teach Pig Iron’s philosophy that an actor is the creator of his/her material, and how to convey that to producers and stagers.

“Actors in Pig Iron don’t wait around for others to cast them in this or that part,” says Bauridel. “They make their own proposals and create their own characters. They are entrepreneurs.”

APT instructor Sarah Sanford elaborates: “It’s not like training an actor to speak Shakespeare or a director to analyze a scene, because each student’s unique theater has yet to be realized. In our classes we combine our own diverse interests as a company – the role of music in theater, what we’ve learned from various collaborators, the vocabulary we’ve developed based on what many of us learned at Lecoq – with the question: How do you teach young theater artists to be creators? How do we forge unique paths?”

Incoming student Alex Bechtel, 25, has a University of the Arts degree in musical theater and acting credits with 1812 Productions and the Walnut Street Theatre. Now, he says, “I’ve begun to make my own work and am at a stage where I’m looking for new ways to do so . . . to honor and follow my instincts, and eventually those will come into a style and technique of making theater that people will identify with me.” That’s the Pig Iron way.

Though Pig Iron received a $150,000 matching grant as part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge, the school is a not-for-profit venture. Bauridel notes that “we’re not forming a separate entity for the school, as we see the mission of the APT and the company as united.”

The company is raising $800,000 to fund the launch and help cover costs for the first four years. The first class arrives in the fall; the second won’t be added until 2013. “This gives us time to really focus on this inaugural class, to learn and process as we go without crushing ourselves in our second year of operation,” says Bauridel.

If anyone thinks creating a school will diminish Pig Iron’s theatrical output, its board president, Scott Reynolds, notes that while developing APT, the company also (among other things) created the new productions Welcome to Yuba City and Cankerblossom, toured its much-praised Chekhov Lizardbrain, developed work with Toshiki Okada, and started rehearsals for Twelfth Night.

Bauridel was looking for a building that houses artists from other disciplines, and he got it: The studios are filled with diverse artisans, from Raices Culturales, a Latino cultural organization, to the visual artists whose studios are drenched in natural light.

“We hope this will spark collaborations and, through osmosis and chance hallway encounters, enhance the student experience,” he says. “The stars aligned on this one.”

Continue Reading

Escape to PHASEscape at Crane Arts

Original Article @
Jul. 13, 2011
Author: Roberta Fallon

With magical treasure maps, Stonehenge-like plinths and allusions to complex non-verbal systems, PHASEscape, a spare show of mostly abstract works, suggests a place out of time.

The sculpture, video, prints and paintings — few in number but several with large impact — occupy the Crane Arts’ Grey Area. This is a cave-like space with smoky grey walls, shade-covered windows and a bare minimum of light aimed at the works. Some art will wither here, but most of the works on view by four Tyler MFA candidates and one recent grad are primal in nature and shamanistic, so they inhabit the hyper-dramatic room with ease.

In the middle of the room, like the brightest star in the galaxy, is Samantha Jones‘ installation of tall nobly and hairy white plinths arranged together in a close circle. Skinny as camel legs and topped with what appear to be perhaps tiny towns for even tinier people, the grouping is Stonehenge-weird. It casts deep shadows, and as if to magnify its mystery and power, it has, hanging above it, a shiny reflective orb that hovers like the mothership in the movie Close Encounters and reflects the piece back as additional eerie spots of white light. Whatever this is about, the piece is captivating, from the shadows to the hovering orb to the nobbly white surfaces that look like curdled white cake icing (probably plaster or resin).

Nearby and seemingly in conversation with Jones’ piece, are three mixed-media paintings by Craig Rempfer that are full of beauty and ornate graphic moves. Like wild style graffiti as if practiced by the Mayans, Rempfer draws shapes and objects that are biomorphic and lines and shapes that repeat in an obsessive and almost ritualistic way. One black, white and grey work in which lines radiate out from a central knot and an “x” seems to mark the spot could be a treasure map — or a warning map. Rempfer’s smaller turquoise, grey and black painting also uses an “x” motif but evokes the mapping of cell division in a petri dish rather than geographical mapping. These works have aboriginal energy and authority.

Erica Prince’s diptych painting involves two cartoon-like kidney shaped windows on boxes. One kidney is white like an egg and the other looks transparent and shows a large number of the same boxes and same kidney shapes inside. Is the white kidney an egg, something innocent and pure, and the transparent kidney the mature, non-innocent and noisy and cluttered version? Whatever the meaning, the piece, with its cartoon affect, seems wrong for this show, as if a Tom and Jerry cartoon had invaded.

On the other hand, Johnny Plastini‘s large intaglio print, which looks a little like a barn on its side with its roof sliced off, is a mystery that goes well. Titled “Gothic Cab Drivers,” the piece, with three dark, hard-edged shapes separated by lots of white space, has little that’s Gothic and even less that’s taxi like. But there is great tension between the shapes and even greater mystery in some repeated white embossed dots that cut like bullet holes into each shape. The piece feels off-balance in an interesting way, and while it hardly seems playful, the work is a pre-verbal puzzle that is interesting to wonder about.

Devin Kovach’s video projection of a building under construction washes the room in pale moving light, and its audio of organ music casts a somber mood over everything. I wanted to be intrigued but this video and the photos of roughly the same subject don’t go far enough to be more than images of building construction sites.

While dramatic, this is a quiet show that grew on me the longer I stayed in the dark room. Some of the work would do well in the stronger light of day (or in a bright gallery) and some would be lessened (Jones’ work in particular). So, see the show here as an example of work that shines in a dark space. More photos at flickr. Read this at Philly Weekly.

Continue Reading

Amie Potsic – Curating Art and Career Development for Artists

Original Article @—curating-art-and-career-development-for-artists/
June 24, 2011
Author: DoN Brewer, Philly SideArts

Amie Potsic believes that you don’t have to be an artist, if you don’t want. “Be an accountant, just be good at what you do.” But, if you want to be curated into a fabulous art show like CONSTRUCT at the Icebox Gallery in the Crane Arts Center, receive publicity and media attention, meet collectors and gallery owners, then you better be really, really good at what you do. As the Director of Career Development at the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, she creates the opportunity for the Fellows, a group of artists not represented by galleries, to exhibit their work in museum quality art shows like the current exhibition, CONSTRUCT, a critically acclaimed installation that exceeds expectations, a quality Amie Potsic looks for in artists.

Photo by DoN Brewer.

Since the Icebox Gallery offers virtually unlimited opportunity to create site-specific work with it’s high walls, part of Amie Potic’s job is to secure the venue, working with the directors and financial team to make something special happen that individual artists could not make happen on their own. Without a set esthetic, she challenged the artists to create new work, site specific installations or show existing work in the gallery; Arden Bendler Browning’s large paintings just barely fit in the gallery at Moore College Art and Design, but in the Icebox her paintings have room to breathe, the viewer can step back and take it all in at once, really see where’s she’s going. For Potsic the challenge is not just putting on a great, cohesive presentation, but creating a conversation with the artwork.

Even after all the planning, mock-ups and editing, Amie discovers connections between individual pieces, such as the dialog between Lewis Colburn’s installation, Doorway and Seat, and the adjacent painting by Daniel Kornrumpf depicting people standing in line, that develops into a narrative expressed throughout the expansive exhibition. Potsic said when she saw them together, after all the challenges and fun putting together the show, for her it was one of those perfect moments when things come together. As a curator, Amie Potsic’s goal is to create perfect moments on a consistent basis.

For Potsic, craft is key. Bohyon Yoon’s elaborate multi-faceted sculpture was delivered in it’s own hand-made crates, Lewis Coburn’s 14’tower, he typed out Tolstoy’s War and Peace perched on top, is impeccably created out of lowly 2 x 4’s, Alison Stigora’s breathtaking sculpture, Whirlwind, shows the pure intention and hand of the artist. Even if the art is made with simple materials, Amie calls them lo-fi, as long as it is taken seriously and purposeful, if it insists on itself, is clean and beautiful creating a tension dealing with issues and ideas, then it is elevated to another level. When curating a space, Amie wants to get it just right, “Work it out, until it sings.”

The beauty of the CFEVA Fellowship is opportunities for emerging artists to show in superior galleries, corporate offices, public spaces and individualized settings. Amie Potsic says the art scene has changed, there are not as many of the archetypal galleries where an artist is promoted with openings and dinners with collectors. “There is kind of a glass ceiling in the art world.” Now, what is expected is that artists go beyond, “Lot’s of people think the work just has to be good. It has to be fantastic.” Artists that are dependable, easy going, responsive to calls and e-mails and can express themselves about their own work coherently is the new normal. Self-promotion is important but Potsic believes in doing what you do best. If you need graphic design work done, find a designer that will work with you even if you have to trade. So that when the opportunity arises you will be confident your sales materials like cards and artist books appear professional. In Amie’s experience, there’s nothing worse than an artist apologizing or explaining what they meant to do.

Amie Potsic feels a strong responsibility to say all the things about an artist that they won’t say for themselves, introduce them to people, help them develop portfolios and RFPs and gain confidence. CONSTRUCT is the culmination of Amie’s fine editorial eye, she’s a great photographer in her own right, hard work and the compelling content of the art she has chosen for the show. But the current group of CFEVA Fellowship artists exceeded her expectations, too, allowing Amie Potsic to curate a warehouse-sized gallery with many, many special moments.

So, if you don’t want to be an artist? Then, don’t. Do whatever you want. But, if you want to be a professional artist, talk to Amie Potsic, she has good advice. “If you believe in yourself and your product, then sales is easy.”

Artists exhibiting in CONSTRUCT are: Noah Addis, Arden Bendler Browning, Lewis Colburn, Don Edler, Laureen Griffin, Jordan Griska, Ana B. Hernandez, Mami Kato, Allison Kaufman, Daniel Kornrumpf, Maggie Mills, Tim Portlock, Alison Stigora, Jennifer Williams, Kimberly Witham, and Bohyun Yoon.

Continue Reading


Original Article @
June 27, 2011
Author: Alison McMenamin, InLiquid

Giving artists ample space to work and an open theme, Construct, curated by CFEVA director Amie Potsic, is broad enough to encompass the foundation’s diverse roster of fellows. On view at the Crane Icebox, Construct is one of the exhibition opportunities that CFEVA artists received as part of their two-year career development fellowships.

Like her performance video, “Dancing with Divorced Men” from 2008, Allison Kaufman continues to set up situations of forced intimacy with the previously married. In Trust Falls, a series of four videos featuring Kaufman and male divorcees, the artist and one of the men perform the relationship-building exercise. Other tasks include mirroring each other’s actions, attempting to maintain the precarious balance of a hammock, and grooming each other. While the initial videos deliver an awkward humor, the final videos of grooming offer a true feeling of intimacy.

Daniel Kornrumpf’s paintings resemble the work of Alice Neel and share the artist’s interest in expressionism and psychological intensity. Despite being seated, the figures do not seem relaxed, but filled with a sense of anxiety, and bear forlorn expressions.

Using natural materials like rice stalks from the artist’s native Japan, Mami Kato’s sculptures reference organic forms. Her entwined mass “Umbilical Field” seems to grow out of itself, suggesting a perpetual motion or cycle.

Hovering in vacuous landscapes or disjointed from their surroundings, the children and adolescents in Maggie Mills’s paintings seem uneasy in their environment. Many of the figures are plagued by natural forces or placed in situations beyond their control.

Laureen Griffin’s inclusion of modern figures in a black and white tableau questions long held expectations of race and gender. With a mash-up of disparate activities, like wearing sparkly heels while reading the sports page, the work questions ideas of gender roles and identities.

“After the Artifact (Waiting Machine)” from Lewis Colburn provides a space to contemplate Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. The sculpture’s partially opened door resembles a time-traveling portal, but it only leads to a generic waiting room. For Colburn, the astrophysicist’s seminal text avoids the stereotypical depictions of time-travel in culture and is the greatest source of theoretical knowledge concerning time travel. Also on view is the fifteen foot tall tower, sprawling scroll of paper, and typewriter, which Colburn used during a performance in which he typed excerpts from War and Peace.

Alison Stigora creates an ordered arrangement of charred branches that evokes a mental image of fire. The sculpture’s upright character and the carefully nestled branches suggest a ritualistic burning.

The markings and partitioned sections on Jordan Griska’s oil barrel make the sculpture resemble a grenade and point to an impending danger. The barrel is not air tight with slits along its sides, and the oil inside becomes a hazard to the surrounding environment.

With building materials impaled in a television, Don Edler’s sculpture suggests an environment filled with instability and chaos. Blades of grass are visible under growing stations, bringing to mind an artificial environment where life has difficulty existing.

The other artists on view are Noah Addis, Arden Bendler Browning, Ana B. Hernandez, Tim Portlock, Jennifer Williams, Kimberly Witham, and Bohyun Yoon. With artists exploring a variety of ideas, Construct gives its fellows an opportunity to showcase their diverse talents. The exhibition is open until June 29.

Continue Reading

CONSTRUCT, from CFEVA, at the Ice Box

Original Article @
June 24, 2011
Author: Libby Rosof, ArtBlog

Big is what the Ice Box exhibition space requires. CONSTRUCT, CFEVA‘s show there, delivers the goods.

New York artist Jennifer Williams’ installation photographs splayed on the gallery walls are spectacular. The one resting in a corner delights with the way it engages the viewer physically in its vertiginous urban spaces, delivering a sensation of instability, and at the same time trumpeting the architectural triumphs of the cityscape. The cityscape is a big theme in this show, from Arden Bendler Browning’s now familiar mural-size urban swirls, to Tim Portlock’s digital urban disaster zones, to Noah Addis’ Trump Plaza towering over urban decay (a straightforward photo).

The vulnerability of buildings becomes a metaphor for the vulnerability of living things in this show. And that’s part of Allison Kaufman’s subject–the human need for companionship and loving care, in a series of five silent video loops by the New York artist. Her horizontal lineup of the video screens add up to a strong presence in the Gray Area foyer to the Ice Box. The tactility of a man braiding a woman’s hair or a young woman shaving an elderly man deliver the intimacy between people and show up-close people’s physical and emotional vulnerability. The intimate scale of the videos seems just right given the subject matter–at home with our good friend the telly.

Death and denial are what make Kimberly Witham’s beautiful still-lifes serious. Previously I had dismissed them as slight, based on Internet images. But with a look in the real world, I’m all aboard. These C-prints of road kill in decorative settings hark to the Vanitas tradition and William Harnett’s dead-critter still-lifes all gussied up with Ann Craven-like wallpaper paintings. The fiercest of Witham’s photos, Still Life with Steak and Fox, conflates beauty with bestiality, the red meat a perverse splash of delicious red caught on a hook!

My other favorite of hers is a pair of squirrels floating in front of a blue sky filled with a pattern of white puffy clouds. The giddiness of the squirrels dancing in their blue heaven almost–but not quite–overcomes the questions of how dead the squirrels are–and how far we can delude ourselves as we enjoy their–and our–dance of death.

Installation and lighting conditions in the Gray Area take a toll on two video pieces. I had trouble seeing Bohyun Yoon’s marvelous Sound of Helmet Instrument, a video of a sort of tea ceremony with glass teapot-helmets, and Ana B. Hernandez’s Still Life With Figs, a projection of a performance with a lineup of sexy fruits.

Others in the show are Lewis Colburn (I missed his performance), Don Edler, Laureen Griffin, Jordan Griska (his Oil Barrel), Mami Kato, Daniel Kornrumpf, Maggie Mills and Alison Stigora. The exhibit had a full house opening night.

Continue Reading

Sixteen display their work in the show “Construct.”

Original Article @
June 24, 2011
Author: Victoria Donohoe, For The Inquirer

‘Construct” at Crane Arts’ Icebox Project space is a show to see and savor. It features 16 artists living within a 100-mile radius of Philadelphia, including several gifted New Yorkers. All are Career Development Program fellows of the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA) on Rittenhouse Square. The viewing experience of the show, curated by the center’s Amie Potsic, is greatly enhanced by the Icebox’s capacity to display both small and huge works.

Arden Bendler Browning, drawn to urban imagery, paints fleeting, largely abstract impressions directly on Tyvek. It’s her distinctive wide-angle way of responding to the environment she portrays, painted (I like to think) as if at the wheel of a careening car.

The exhibition shows its more socially aware side in the changing streetscapes and bleak juxtapositions of Atlantic City documented by photographer Noah Addis with awesome subtlety. The unpeopled images form a cohesive group, reflecting concern, sincerity, and, perhaps, hope.

Photographer Tim Portlock wears his technique rather than his heart on his sleeve. He photographs abandoned buildings within a 20-block radius of his West Philadelphia home, then uses 3-D animation/special effects software to develop his single images into empty virtual cities that convey a sense of foreboding and a strange emotional power. Also a studio painter and muralist, Portlock has long been interested in linking place and identity.

Laureen Griffin, working in multimedia, continues her “Gender Portraiture Project” in a design setting that emphasizes her adroitness, while Daniel Kornrumpf, with his deft, roguish, supple handling of oil and brush, offers saucy informal portraits of friends and family. Kimberly Witham’s cheery still-life photos – combining objects, flowers, and vegetables from her garden with dead birds and small animals found at the roadside – tremble on the edge of something more edgy and gothic.

These and the other artists constitute an overall impressive progress report on CFEVA’s elite corps of fellows.

Continue Reading

Music from the rebels of mid-20th century

Original Article @
June 07, 2011
Author: Daniel Webster, For The Inquirer

A richly curtained proscenium would have been all wrong, but the long, white, high-ceilinged room – once a fish refrigerator – was a provocative setting Sunday for the JACK Quartet’s survey of the intricate, still music of the New York School. The players, ringed by listeners, played music by Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, John Cage – and Anton Webern – in the second American Sublime festival event, at the Crane Center in Northern Liberties.

The program summarized the revolutionary thought of the mid-20th century, when composers rebelled against every element of Western music. And, because Feldman, Brown, and Cage were paracletes at the altar of Webern, who removed all traces of narrative, reference, and tonal imperatives from the European tradition, his Six Bagatelles were played as a touchstone, almost as a classic.

The New York School valued music’s fluidity. Scores had interchangeable pages. Players decided the order of performance so the music never sounded the same. Scores were written on graph paper, or encrypted to avoid repetition. Nuance was the music’s lexicon; silence a goal. But players’ virtuosity was assumed.

The JACK players, deep into the technical demands of the program’s terse works, freed the power of miniature touches and implied rhythms. In the whispered brevities of Feldman’s Structures and Brown’s Quartet, the still details made pizzicato sound like a percussion section.

The beauty of the intimate setting let listeners see the scores on the stands, but also the violinists touching strings with the bow’s hair, then the wood, then both. They could see the playing below the bridge, savor the different tunings that asked fresh ears.

Feldman’s piece was played twice, to open and close the program. Its hushed, luminous touches, quick patterns, and witty arpeggios affirmed its title. There are tiny structures in there, flashes and clouds, transparencies and moments. Its atmosphere was so taut and coherent that each performance ended with listeners hushed.

Brown’s String Quartet accepted as a tenet Alexander Calder’s mobiles, works that, by constantly moving, are never seen the same. Brown gave his players choices within a shadowy form. The music proved expressive, mystical, superbly shaded and joined. Brown’s vocabulary is enormous and his power of suggestion, with these four instruments, mesmerizing. The ensemble fits details together neatly without losing the spirit and wit that shines deep within the writing.

Cage’s Quartet in Four Parts offered larger sounds and some echoes of early formal training. Nevertheless, in 1950 it must have seemed iconoclastic and baffling. In this reading it sounded a bit like an American classic, for many of its ideas have been absorbed into the language. Its quickness and refusal to suggest sentiment seemed a portrait of the composer’s mocking grin.

And Webern? In this white-walled context, it sounded like old Vienna. The music’s strong forms, the order of its detailed sounds and bold slashes, and the lack of repetition and reference asserted its monumentality. This was the start, its daring now part of every composer’s language. The performance was touched with gratitude.

Continue Reading

Chickens, sirens, at new Old School Studios

Original Article @
April 22, 2011
Author: Libby Rosof

The chicken was a thing of beauty with a long speckled neck and banded body. She settled next to a small cement mountain. A blue neon light served as a negative sun. A photographer, Mike Kopena, there to document the installation, walked away from his tripod to the other end of the room to alert the two artists: The chicken had dropped a load on the floor–and was sitting in it. Aargh.

The collaborating artists, Jacque Liu and Mike Ellyson, were two of 10 artists invited to create temporary installations at the Old School Studios, the Crane Art Center’s newest project. The event served as an inaugural celebration of the opening of the building. The rooms, most of which used to be classrooms, are slated for occupancy in May, mostly as studios. In the interim, on a warm spring Second Thursday night (April 14), the pop-up invitational exhibit–Experiential, Environmental, Educational–popped with the two-fold excitement of both the art and the promise of the Crane’s expansion.

Getting back to the chicken, Ellyson (one of the Grizzly Grizzlies) and Liu seemed unperturbed. A few minutes later, Ellyson, dressed in white, paused from reading his Bible, gamely scooped up the chicken, and began teaching a Bible lesson in chicken-squawk-ese.

The installation, which is timely and layered, is called An Education with Congressman John Lewis. Lewis, who as a child preached to the chickens in the chicken yard, had this to say about the House Republicans (see full quote on Daily Kos):

I’m convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the 40s and the 50s tended to listen to me much better than some of my Republican colleagues listen to us in the Congress today…I think some of those chickens were probably a little more productive. At least they produced eggs!

The show was curated by Jerry Kaba, who included a swell installation of his own. Kaba’s centerpiece was a cooling tower form from floor almost to the ceiling, emitting flashing beams of light along with sirens that cycled on and off, bleeding into all the other installations (the one that suffered most was Katya Gorker’s video in the next classroom). Kaba’s floor of chipped tires created a no-man’s-land disaster zone even though it was fun and springy to walk on. A pair of facility workers in white hazard suits, gas masks and dunce caps wrote their lesson–”I promise to find a better way.”–a kajillion times on the blackboard.

The topicality of the nuclear meltdown turned out to be a double-edged sword–providing delight for relevance to current events, but at the same time overwhelming the nuances of the piece.

Artist Ryan W. Kelly looked like a bobble-head doll, wearing a giant Teddy Roosevelt head and holding a teddy bear in front of what I took to be a national park scene on a stage backdrop. I loved the theatricality of the props and costume creating a scene in the country, and the scale shift of head to body.

The three pieces were a nice sample of the kind of performances that have been increasingly shown in Philadelphia’s off-the-grid galleries. I’m thinking of works I’ve seen at Extra Extra, Bodega and Little Berlin for example. Tim Eads’ slot machine economy flow-chart gizmo seemed somehow of a different ilk. It was not so much a performance but an interactive piece. When I stood frozen before his toy slot machine (I really dislike gambling), Tim must have sensed my distress and kindly gave me some coins to put in the slot. I lost it all, but then discovered the machine spun without money added. (Tim said I wasn’t supposed to discover that. So now I’m feeling really lucky, as if I won a secret). This piece was rich with content about life and risks and of course money, needing it, recycling it, grabbing it. The visuals could have been a little stronger, but the ideas were pretty great and seemingly limitless.

Afterwards I bumped into artist Nancy Agati happy to be carrying a tree branch with flower souvenir she took from Joanie Turbek’s porcelain tree installation (taking was encouraged). Others with installations were: C. Pazia Mannella, Daniel Ostrov, and Jessie Hemmons.

To view by appointment, contact Kaba at But the show is best served by having seen the performances, and not just the installations.

Continue Reading

Business & Arts Award for InLiquid & Crane

Original Article @
May 14, 2011

Since the spring of 2006, Crane Arts LLC has partnered with and supported the nonprofit arts organization InLiquid by providing generous in-kind donations of space for exhibitions and events. Over the past two years, InLiquid and Crane Arts have especially collaborated on new initiatives aimed at promoting and sustaining the New Kensington area surrounding Girard Avenue and American Street – not only to create a new destination for arts and culture, but to benefit and enrich the lives of the neighborhood’s residents. Examples include the “Second Thursday” series of coordinated gallery receptions and the first annual “CAFé,” a community festival that brought together a large, culturally diverse group of the city’s best arts and environmental education organizations for a family-oriented day of activities and performances. By providing InLiquid with a recognizable “home base” Crane Arts has given InLiquid the opportunity to strengthen its identity by carving out a tangible physical presence. In turn, Crane Arts has benefited from the visitors at InLiquid’s events introducing a wide and diverse audience base to this new venue. Most importantly, the partnership has resulted in the revitalization of the image of the New Kensington area, instituting a central venue for a neighborhood that is emerging as an exciting new arts district.

Continue Reading

Orange Tree At Bronx Museum

In 2010 Alexander Arrechea was commissioned by Crane Arts to create Orange Tree. Once created, Mr. Arrechea’s sculpture was on view in the Icebox throughout February. The project was made possible through a collaboration between Magnan Metz Gallery & I.C.E. We are excited to hear that Orange Tree will be on view at the Bronx Museum from October 28th, 2010 through June 6th, 2011.

More information about his current exhibition can be found on the Bronx Museum website.

Continue Reading

Crane Arts Goes Solar, For Free

Original Article @
March 14, 2011

The historic Crane Building at 1400 N. American Street is home to four floors of artist studios and suites, the Crane Arts community. The 105-year-old warehouse is now a Philly community of artistic productions, showcase spaces, established artists and creative resources. All four floors of rentable studios are currently occupied and things are on the up and up for Crane, who can now boast they have Center City’s largest solar install.

Solar States developed the project and G.R.A.S.S. and Helio Power Systems installed the 81-kilowatt install of 444 solar panels. Solar States installs these panels for free (they sell back the electricity at a discount) and Crane will still be using a mix of solar and electric power, but the electric bill will be at least a fifth of what it was. Crane Arts was already respectable in our book for their renovation of the building and their incorporation of green space, but this just solidifies them as a smart-thinking company that will hopefully inspire other building owners to think outside the box.

Continue Reading

Italian Video Today + Myth/Memory

Original Article @–MythMemory-113086444.html
Jan 21, 2010

Crane Arts holds a Second Thursday reception tonight for two new exhibits. Showcasing the work of 12 Italian filmmakers, Italian Video Today surveys diverse accounts of social and individual identity. In Lago Morto, Nico Vascellari – the lead singer of hardcore punk band Lago Morto – examines underground youth culture surrounding his band as they perform at 15 unique locations around Vittorio Veneto; in The Empirical Effect, Rosa Barba articulates Italy’s uncertain political climate by identifying it with the volcano Vesuvius. Offering an expansive portrait of a nation in flux, the 12 films address issues of immigration, colonialism, labor, and bourgeois decadence. In Myth/Memory, the idea that materials embody the values inscribed from their historical uses is investigated by Philadelphia-based artist Melinda Steffy. Presenting simple materials such as tarnished copper, spice tumeric, and burnt paper, the fragmentary textures and pieces tell stories of sustainability, numerology, entropy and improvisation.

Continue Reading

Solar States Solar Array To Power Crane Building

January 1, 2011

Solar States announces plans to power Fishtown’s Crane Arts Building with Philadelphia’s largest solar array

$500,000 in private investment and match grants from city and state partners bring this 81kW system to the Crane

Philadelphia—Solar Power generation firm Solar States announced today a plan to power Fishtown’s Crane Arts Building using center city Philadelphia’s largest rooftop photovoltaic solar array. The 81kW system will make Fishtown’s premier arts and business haven one step closer to energy independence, using all energy produced by the array on-site. According to the EPA, On-Site energy usage and generation are the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly ways to power your home or business.

Designed and installed by consultants Rene Ermilio and Greg Katz of Helio Power Systems; and Pat McDonald and Howard Steinberg of G.R.A.S.S., Solar States plans to add 450 solar panels to the Crane’s 20,000 sq. ft. roof. The project would not be possible without the amazing leadership team at the Crane Arts Building; David Gleeson, Richard Hricko, and Nick Kripal. This addition will save the Crane 25 percent over PECO’s ever-increasing energy rates. Solar States will own the array, selling the power back to the Crane at a reduced rate and funneling any additional power into the local power grid. With power purchase agreements in hand, $500,000 in private investment and match grants from state and federal partners, Solar States began construction on the array on December 20, 2010.

Continue Reading

The Dog’s a Vapour

Original Article @ Culture Catch
Author: bradleyrubenstein
December 23, 2010 – 09:44

The duality of human nature is that we exist between two poles of existence; the need for redemption and the desire for retribution. In Michael Zansky’ exhibition The Reincarnation of Michael Vick (As a Dog), at Ice Box, in Philadelphia, we are shown the Eagle’s dog-murdering quarterback in a state of reincarnation; in the process of, if not quite achieving, redemption.

Continue Reading

Network for New Music, JACK Quartet

Original Article @
Author: David Patrick Stearns
Nov. 23, 2010

Music is often a refracted reflection of the world from which it came. What if that world is consciously researched – like anthropology, but with less objective distance? The validity of that process arrived in several forms in a series of premieres Saturday by the JACK Quartet at Crane Arts, and Sunday by the Network for New Music at the Ethical Society.
In a season titled “Trade Winds,” the always well-prepared Network unveiled the latest by Philadelphia composer Andrea Clearfield based on visits to remote parts of Tibet, where she recorded hundreds of songs and chants in danger of being lost, plus new works by other composers inspired by her field recordings. The most compelling moments veered furthest from the source material, or so it seemed to the naked ear.

Continue Reading

I Can’t Believe It’s Non-Classical!

Original Article @
July 2010
Related: Crane Arts and Nonclassical present: GéNIA, Joby Burgess & Gabriel Prokofiev

Let’s get this out of the way: Gabriel Prokofiev is the grandson of the great Russian composer. It was all that the articles about him could talk about after he launched Non-Classical, a London-based label and monthly club night, in 2004. Quite apart from his lineage, though, the DJ, composer and expert in African music is worthy of attention. Both his label and club night pair classical music—well, not Mozart and Beethoven, but they’d recognize the instruments—with DJ’d sets of dance music and remixes of the classical-styled source material. Prokofiev writes in traditional genres – the string quartet, for example, or the piano etude – but his approach demonstrates considerably more flexible thinking and an openness to other influences—more BPMs than Brahms. On Saturday, he brings two of Non-Classical’s all-stars of the label’s lineup, percussionist Joby Burgess and pianist GéNIA, to Crane Arts as part of a North American mini-tour for the label (NYC and Baltimore were the earlier stops). They’ll play his music, among those of other non-dead composers, and he’ll spin between sets. It’s not the gala at the Academy of Music, for sure. I talked with Prokofiev about the right way to make a remix, selling an orchestra on a concerto for turntables (seriously), and getting classical music on this continent out of the concert hall and into the clubs.

Continue Reading

A new Prokofiev is helping classical music rediscover itself

Original Article @
July 23, 2010
Related: Crane Arts and Nonclassical present: GéNIA, Joby Burgess & Gabriel Prokofiev

Try to picture the great Russian pianist and composer Serge Prokofiev visiting an artist’s studio to hear his piano music played. Then, in an even more unlikely scenario, imagine that musical legend deejaying other composers’ works between sets.

This exact formula will be followed tomorrow night by Prokofiev’s grandson, Gabriel Prokofiev, insistent that his generation respond to classical music in more informal venues.

Some of the 11 pieces from his Piano Book 1, released on the Nonclassical label, will be played by the talented pianist GeNIA (pronounced GHEN-ya). She’ll also perform excerpts from her first CD, “John Richards’ Suite for Piano and Electronics.”

Continue Reading

Mr. Broadway Storms Capitol Hill

Original Article @
Wed, April 7, 2010

Rocco Landesman, in Philadelphia, with David Gleeson of Crane Arts, center, and John Carr of Milner and Carr Conservation, which is restoring this gilded Joan of Arc statue by Emmanuel Frémiet.

The above image by Ryan Collerd was featured in The New York Times on April 7th, 2010. Read the full article here.

Continue Reading

Starving artists

Original Article @ Philadelphia Inquirer
Author: Stephan Salisbury, Inquirer Culture Writer
Tue, Mar. 30, 2010

Starving artists
Support – federal or state – for individuals has all but ended, an unspoken issue when the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts came to town.

Continue Reading

Changing Skyline: Phila. architects offer some homegrown ideas

Original Article @ Philadelphia Inquirer
Author: Inga Saffron
Oct. 9, 2009

It’s not a new story, but the biggest and best architectural projects in Philadelphia always seem to end up in the hands of out-of-towners. The Barnes Foundation has a New York firm designing its new home. The Art Museum went to Los Angeles to snare Frank Gehry for its underground expansion. Even Drexel University chose a Minneapolis outfit to retrofit Market Street’s iconic decorated shed, the ISI Building, one of Robert Venturi’s important early works.

Continue Reading