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.