Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ashley Flynn - Expelled From Eden

Fasten your seat belts! She’s back. Ashley Flynn, a Philadelphia based painter, is my lead off January ‘10 artist and she’s on fire! No need for bringing your hat, coat and mittens, she has brought enough heat for us all.

While I normally preview a percentage of an exhibition’s images, I’m offering up only one appetite whetting rendering; the show card image called Clown. A key image in her show titled Expelled From Eden we are given a quick peek into the duality of her artistic nature; Ashley does photography too. An acolyte of Zoe Strauss, Flynn’s shooter sensibilities stand on their own merit; I am permitting a few prints in the show. Additionally, Ashley has requested a television to play a video that will run on a continuous loop. God help me! I may have to get some relief, take some time off. The last time Ashley came to town, I hid out in the basement. She’s intense. We fought like cats and dogs. She’ll say that’s a lie claiming she didn’t fight; only I did. Ashley will also tell you, in her estimation, I fight with everyone. The jury is still out on this verdict.

To the unfortunates, those that did not see my last Ashley Flynn exhibition, her work all but stands up and talks to you. No, it actually screams at you. I lost a few patrons to her last show due to the graphic and provocative nature of her imagery. There is something to say for spring cleaning. A head count for Flynn’s exhibition shows a close second to my September/October Christopher Callahan Show. This is most likely a by-product of the stellar review by Libby Rosof in her nationally acclaimed blog; Not one to spend too much time in the past, we are anticipating record participation in Ashley’s January exhibit, her second solo show. But just a side note, Ashley was included in the “Liberta 2009 Awards”. .

Early on, when Barclay & Rebecca Knapp asked me to join the Knapp Gallery family, as Director, I was given the keys to the kingdom and only one directive – “Take risks.” Save for the Projects Gallery, in Northern Liberties, The Knapp Gallery is the only Philadelphia non-school establishment that has hoisted the Flynn flag. We are the only Gallery to give Ashley a solo show. Am I calling Ashley’s work a risk? Not necessarily, though in the business to sell art, you know - make the rent, the risqué and in- your-face nature of Ashley’s work, does not lend itself to mainstream sales.

Well, that being said, what are the profile and or demographics of a potential buyer of Flynn’s paintings? Leroy Thompson and Traci Wolbert, of Pfuel, Inc. LLC, art collectors and friends of the Knapp Gallery purchased two Flynn paintings her last time around. Urban dwellers, intense professionals, Black and White, this duo has also purchased three paintings by Chris Callahan, an artist I showed back in September/October. As artists, painters, Flynn and Callahan are at opposite ends of the contemporary art spectrum; Callahan a Barnesian Impressionist and Ashley, well Ashley is Ashley. Ashley despises being categorized in any fashion. What’s my point? Seemingly bi-polar in their tastes Leroy and Traci simply know a good thing when they see it. Ergo, there is only one requirement, maybe two, in appreciating and acquiring Flynn’s work; one must have a sound understanding of great art and a keen sense for opportunity. Yes, opportunity.

Opportunity often disguises itself. I was once told “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Rarely does the same opportunity come around twice. However, here we are again. There are limited opportunities to see an installation/exhibition with the power that Ashley delivers; despite Ashley’s process being a nightmare to a Gallery Director. It took me 4, nearly 5 days to get my walls back to white after taking down her last show. First, she hangs paintings and drawings that she creates in her studio. In some instances she’ll even hang some blank paper or canvas. One might call this first step and result the rough draft. Secondly, with remarkable intensity, Ashley comes behind and paints wall renderings creating interwoven vignettes, visual narrative that ultimately tie all the paintings and images into an interdependent and unified story, a homily, if you will. Ashley is all about the moment, with no concern for the show’s end and the “lost” wall renderings. “I am not making the art as sellable pieces only. The most important thing is always the narrative. The wall affords me the depth I need to create the desired visual landscape. That it is ephemeral makes it seem like a distant memory, creating an intimacy with the viewer that cannot be reached in any other way.”

I had taken down Ashley’s last show; the “Wall art” still remained. A woman came through the door panting; “A friend said I had to see this show. That I’d regret a once in a life time opportunity if I missed it. Am I too late?” As the “Wall art” left voids where the Studio-created art had hung, I was able to piece much of the show back together for her. She was remarkably appreciative.

Having launched my press release in Philadelphia Independent Media Center, I’ve already been contacted by interested radio host to do a live broadcasted interview with Ashley. Link to Ashley’s press release- See you all on the 8th.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tamara Giesberts - Foreign Faire

Amazing is the experience of stepping off the plane in a foreign land. Though oftentime we miss some great stuff, as we are doing our best to drive on the right side of the road, let alone grabbing at nuance and experiencing the joy of a new and different place. Everything is different. Always on the run, rarely are we afforded the luxury of time to relax during travel. Briefly, we waft at the food and wrestle with language. We avoid the politics. We are wowed by the history, the age of the land and the Lore. We romanticize with foreign lands; like ships, we are just passing through. At best, if we bring back a solid memory, we've done good.

This month, this holiday season, Tamara Giesberts brings foreign faire to Philadelphia. The Knapp Gallery is thrilled to share in some contemporary Dutch tradition. It has been a while since I’ve had to say the artist for my current show is not from PA., that I was not promoting a Philadelphia talent. This departure from my dogma is not without its costs. Fundamentally, though, it’s about the art, the talent and giftedness of an artist. After all, I am about my Gallery; doing whatever it takes to move it forward. Sure, holding the banner high for the cause of Philadelphia artists, as a concurrent endeavor, has significant value. My primary function as Director is to grow the Knapp Gallery.

Acknowledgement is a dynamic thing. Now, I am free to exist in a space governed by “art for art” sake. Released momentarily from my pro “Philly First “mentality, I am caught up in the heaviness of Tamara’s imagery. I like it heavy, like being wrapped in a handmade quilt of emotion. Facts are facts. My emotional chord is my trigger. You get me through my heart. Another acknowledgement; straight up, I have to say, I could not turn away from these paintings. Immediately, I was taken with the overwhelming sense of desolation, the missing human element.

Tamara’s paintings strike a chord that visually articulates an emotional condition with which I am quite familiar. Certain boyhood memories come racing to the surface having seen this distinctive body of paintings. Her dark haunting images of vacant, dark and mysterious homes and houses, interiors and exteriors, conjure up latent emotional memories of my grandfather’s patriarchal home at 62 Ashland Avenue, in East Orange, New Jersey. An old three story home, “Six and Two” Ashland Ave., known for its dark hallway and stairs to the rear entrance of the kitchen, held secrets of the ages. Dark by nature, the house would talk to you. Listen closely, in the wee hours of the morning and you could hear the stories of my father’s youth.

Tamara Giesberts’ paintings harness the power of memory.

I’ve waited patiently to hang these paintings, believing the holiday season, when our dwellings are bursting with activity, to be the perfect time to unleash the profound, powerful and dramatic nature of Tamara’s work in My home is my Castle. Hailing from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, now residing in Fanwood, NJ, Tamara is a long way from home. A foreign trained architectural designer, Tamara transcends theory into art and demonstrates her painterly understanding of “the dwelling” with a profound confidence in perspective, line and light.

Tamara’s ability to summon the tradition of Dutch masters’ depicting time of day by quality of light rounds out the resolution of this work. “Light typical for the weather and the hour of the present moment points to a context of ongoing time, subtly making temporariness tangible.” With a firm hand, Tamara leads the viewer around in her paintings. There are demonstrative triggers that she employs. Big on convergence Tamara leads you into her web turning you here and there, hither and yon. Remarkably, we can feel ourselves being manipulated. Bold vertical and horizontal line guide us like compasses. A near photographic depth of field, Tamara artfully waltzes us with color and stroke. Delicate in its dispatch, Tamara the technician unleashes raw emotion, some of it chilling.

Technically perfect in perspective, Tamara’s tool box is deep. Above all things, she is the Queen of Light. Tamara’s genius is her instinctual and dramatic use of light. With fervor, Wyeth, Mondrian and Diebenkorn show up. Oddly enough, there is a smattering of Lichtenstein in The Projector. Like religion, there is always heavy light, light through windows, doors and veils. There is reflected light, from icy smooth and silky to some pasty.

A master of emotion through light, Tamara massages her vignettes with identifiable moods. We are caught up in awareness. The overt shift away from human dominance dramatizes the environment; the dwelling and its bareness. Interestingly, Tamara identifies the Dwelling’s life by what we as humans have left behind, a "temporariness"she talks about. We are lost in the images. In our experiencing loss, we find ourselves. Simple.