Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barnes Foundation Director Shows @ Knapp Gallery

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karl Slocum
267 455 0279

The Knapp Gallery Presents:
Nicolas King & Petros Pappalas

In Through the Out Door

Exhibition Dates: January 7th – January 30th, 2011
First Friday Opening: January 7th from 6:00 – 9:30 pm

Artist Reception: Sunday January 9th, 2011 (1pm – 4pm)

Philadelphia) – The Knapp Gallery continues its tradition of First Friday openings and welcomes Nicolas King and Petros Pappalas in their joint exhibition, In through the out Door. A dramatic confrontation between divergent processes, emotions and perspective, King and Pappalas share the ring like mongoose and cobra. Complementary in only their bi-polarity, King’s post-impressionist renderings create a traditional portal through which we can witness the bravado of Pappalas’ expressionism. However divergent, a young Pappalas wrestles with age old questions to which a seasoned King invariably has the answer.

Nicolas King enjoyed a unique history with the Barnes Foundation, here in Philadelphia as Director, Curator and Head of Conservation. With inescapable influence, a mastery of the “softened” patina, King’s brush translates remarkable sense of sensitivity and affinity for Matisse. Emphasizing visibility of the canvas as negative space within a complex composition, offering differential materials and surfaces - paint and tooth – challenge resulting texture and light enhancing color and dimension of imagery. King juxtaposes vivid and muted colors; quantifiers and emotional tethers to his imagery, dramatic interplays stretching both depth of field and focus. With unique vantage, demonstrable perspective, King creates unique interpretive windows through which to view his myriad of garden-based situational vignettes.

The brawn of struggle yields honesty in Pappalas’ work. Petros paints in the moment. “I don’t like retracing my steps, cleaning up if you will. In this, I tend to sterilize the nuance with the most value. I need to get in and get out. Timing is everything. ” Fearlessly and aggressively painting offensively, Pappalas abhors the hindsight of defense. Without yielding to the confines of structure and unknowing, Pappalas creates living work borne out of offense, not defense. “Defensive painting, in its passivity, is about fending off fear and death; producing only static product. In tendering dead work, I abrogate my responsibility to the craft.” Kinetics and momentum excite and define his bent on bold and harsh light. Painting from black to light, Pappalas is a proponent of addition over subtraction.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hoiliday Troika @ Knapp

The Knapp Gallery Presents: Meeting the Diversities

First Friday Opening: December 3rd
Exhibition: December 3rd – January 2nd 2011
Artist Reception: Sun. December 5th (1pm-4pm)

(Philadelphia) – The Knapp Gallery continues its tradition of First Friday openings and welcomes local emerging philadelphia artists Salvador Di Quinzio, Kevin Von Holtermann and Gail S. Kotel in our Holiday “Three in One” exhibition Meeting the Diversities. An homage to collectivism, Meeting the Diversity hi-lights the complex melting pot of Philadelphia’s Contemporary Fine Art scene; an artful harnessing of commonality amidst divergent processes, genres and aesthetic. The resulting seamless troika gallery division, normally divisible by two, acknowledges the existing collective thread tethering Philadelphia’s local artists.

Di Quinzio’s timeless display of traditionalism, a cornucopia of non-typical imagery, dispels conventional notions of ethnic–based creativity. A story teller of sorts, Di Quinzio tickles our remembrance with fable-esque yet relevant vignettes; surreal by definition, however dominated by German expressionism. Copious depictions of life within life, juxtaposition of orientation, incongruent image sizes and dramatic perspective shift accentuate his veteran ideals of “drawing outside the lines.” More than collectible, an existing familial and heirloom quality is enhanced by a warm “egg tempera-esque” patina.

Von Holtermann shoots from the hip with refreshing naiveté, energy and abandon bent on investigation. Like in the James Brown song, “Ain’t no static”, and akin to the “Three faces of Eve,” there is a profound visual schizophrenia, albeit with a free ongoing and eclectic conversation. Von Holtermann creates new language. Much about the paint, Kevin’s varied processes, including unorthodox “resists,” yield unpredictable results birthing dramatic and inventive abstraction.

Gail Kotel’s reworked 3D sash arrangements, mounted as 2D wall hangings, present viewers a fresh new vista through a remarkably non-traditional window. Tactile and tangibility mark Kotel’s rethinking of a window with a view. Supercharged, fractured, staggered and structurally altered window panes incorporate mechanics with form, figure and color; unique is her “telling” portraiture shown through the looking glass. Voyeuristic in their intimacy, Kotel’s distorted and haunting “reflections” challenge our isolationist sensibilities. Translucence, ambient luminescence and fragmented shadowing dramatize an innate crispness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sending out an S.O.S.

Got message in a bottle? Actually, more like message in a box? Time and technology changes all things. However you define it, the mystery and magic of the “found” message in a bottle is something that has captivated me since my youth. Forever young, a romantic by nature, I am awed by the limitlessness of the universe. Nurtured on the milk of mystique, venturing in the realm of chance, I am a proponent of casting aside limiting notions of predictability. My mother, a firm believer in reaching for the stars, would say “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Always with intent, the dynamics of releasing a bottle are never isolated. The surrounding circumstance under which a bottled or boxed message is released intensifies the need for a receiver/finder. And, in being rescued, there is a profound resulting relationship established between sender and receiver.

Traditionally, the message in the bottle was sent out of desperation from an individual stranded amidst some unforeseen circumstantial island experience. A cry for help, as it were, is a vulnerable yet powerful acknowledgement of the human experience. Unfortunately, only the daring, those adventurers caught up in the vicissitudes of living life to the extreme can truly understand the undeniable divine appropriated power of the “rescue.” I have firsthand experience releasing the bottled message.

When I was in third grade I released a large helium balloon that I had purchased at the Apple Blossom Festival, back in my home town Bethel, Connecticut. I attached a letter to the string with my return address. Remarkably, a little girl, my same age found the balloon at the edge of a pond near her home in Nova Scotia, Canada! For “Show and Tell”, I was the hit of the school. I went from classroom to classroom sharing the return letter and photo I had received. So, it is no wonder I believe in the unbelievable. Speaking figuratively, I have been releasing balloons ever since. I have developed a way of being and living that challenges life and its possibilities. I make a clear and definitive distinction between my word use of possibility and not potential.

Though often confused and misused as similar ideals, contextually, these two divided hemispheres are opposing and governed by divergent values. Specific laws of physics govern the conditional realm of potential, while its faith-based counterpart, possibility, exists apart from and beyond our ken. Ruled by givens, preexisting variables, parameters and/or experiences, potentiality represents limited outcomes. Conversely, free of fences, possibility heralds notions of limitlessness.

A Jack of many trades, I know little bits about many things, some things more than others. Experientially, I know a great deal about exercising the power of possibility. There is something profound to say in defense On- the-Job training. I am the last person to talk about the “impossibility” of accomplishing something. This word no longer exists in my vocabulary. The totality of my life evidences the veracity of living outside of status quo; perceived limitations and understanding. Along this circuitous and meandering path we call life, I’ve learned with varying degrees of success an alternative reality that challenges standard notions of predictability.

Biblically speaking, the aforesaid circumstantial island experience is akin to the proverbial fighting of David against Goliath. Dogmatically, we are conditioned to accept the linear equation of “what you see is what you get.” Most interestingly, and what is often overlooked in this epic story of “against all odds”, is the overriding circumstance of this confrontation between the giant and youthful contender. Mano a mano, experience against naiveté, everything was on the line; nation against nation - winner take all. We are told that Saul, then King of Israel, had his personal armor put on David. Too cumbersome for Saul’s imminent replacement, David faced Goliath only with what he knew, sling and stone. Living within maelstrom of possibility, facing the Goliaths of the unknown requires an affirmative sense of self. As Director of the Knapp Gallery, amidst a downturned economy, I too am up against my own personal Goliath; the proverbial Philistine army stands off in the distance desiring my demise – winner takes all. With only sling and stone, my confidence in the realm of possibility, I stand virtually naked against the elements. However, this battle is about so much more than the surviving and thriving of an art gallery in a bad economy.

Far beyond the visible horizon here in Philadelphia, is the writing of history; our viability as a world class “Fine Art Community” is at issue. Despite a remarkable armature and infrastructure in place, a world class Art Museum, The Barnes Foundation, a significant concentration of the country’s finest Art Schools, we are still without a commensurate reputation as a stalwart exporter of Philadelphia made Fine Art. This existing and disproportionate imbalance hinders requisite collector confidence. A resulting and pervasive chronic anemia saps our “body” of its want for oxygen; doubled over listlessly by the side of the road we wait to regain our composure. Meanwhile, the remedy of our sluggishness exists on hand, literally in our own back yard; no need travelling to OZ. We need only tap into Philadelphia’s MFA contingency, which currently suffers exponentially from post graduation attrition. The Knapp Gallery, in its attempt to highlight and harness the power of this fallow resource has launched a contest. Winner takes all.

2011 City-Wide Graduate Student Juried Exhibition/Contest

With quarter final, semi final and final round eliminations, the winning finalist receives:

• post graduation solo show at The Knapp Gallery
• year supply of art materials
• partial living stipend

This high profile competition will afford Philadelphia’s graduating MFA students a high visibility opportunity and platform to jumpstart and promote their careers.

The Knapp Gallery acknowledges Philadelphia’s opportunity and potential as a World Class “Fine Arts” Community. Presently, New York City’s Art Community, because of its concentration of artists, career opportunities and unlimited exhibition spaces keeps the lion’s share of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s visibility and notoriety. Conversely, Philadelphia, obscured in New York’s shadow, is known only for its concentration of the country’s finest Art Schools. And like in a small College town, Philadelphia suffers from significant post graduation attrition. Lacking sufficient career and growth opportunities for graduating students to live and nurture their craft, Philadelphia is left remotely barren and devoid of its growth potential.

Philadelphia trains artists but lacks a suitable continuing support network to retain its young graduating student artists. At issue here is the notion of sustainability. Sustainability requires sowing seeds of growth and nurturing these seedlings through to harvest. The Knapp Gallery believes a highly visible and publicized MFA graduate student juried exhibition/contest will spotlight and quantify the value of the student artist, while simultaneously calling attention to Philadelphia as a viable resource for quality Contemporary Art. A desired by-product of this promotional event is the nurturing, cultivating and creating of a plausible demand for Philadelphia-created art work.

The Knapp Gallery, since its inception 5 years ago, has been a champion for the emerging and student artist. We have sought to edify the Philadelphia Fine-Art Community of its ample student and emerging artist contingency as a significant and pivotal resource. Our efforts are but one cog in the larger gear needed to redirect current post graduation relocation and attrition trends. In providing Grad Students a place to show their art, we hope to entice Philadelphia’s student contingency to remain and develop their careers.

Contestant requirements:
• Graduating from a Philadelphia based MFA program in Spring 2011
• Winning Finalist must remain in Philadelphia to paint their exhibiting body of work.

For entry application contact Tereza at 267 455 0279

This however is only an initial step towards ameliorating said deficiency. Highlighting the value of one life, one artist helps only to create awareness. Retaining Philadelphia’s graduating MFAs requires a significantly larger effort. Accordingly, I have proposed to Philadelphia the following:

The New Philadelphia Fine-Art RegistryLong Term Proposal: Accommodating MFA post graduation attrition

Philadelphia’s significant concentration of Fine-Art Schools lacks sufficient back up in career building opportunities for its MFA graduates. Consequential loss of potential “professional” artists has stymied growth and tainted the reputation of Philadelphia’s “Fine-Art” Community. At street level this translates into limited art buyer/collector confidence.

Remedy:• Establish and promote the “Philadelphia Fine-Arts Registry.”
• Establish and publicize an annual Economic Development Grant funding source-based on a “Training” initiative.
• Create 5 municipally owned or business cooperative “Exhibition” spaces for Registry members called registrants.
• Create a self-contained registrant managed and marketed City-Wide industry with “Genuine- Philadelphia – Made” branding.

Philadelphia Fine-Art Registry is an internet searchable repository of MFA graduates and houses the components of a new municipal self-contained and self-sustained industry. Operating funds from exhibition admissions, membership dues, painting sales and printing sales maintain employment generating opportunities for registrants. The registry increases undergraduate and post graduate art school enrollment.

As an Economic Development Tool, Philadelphia Fine-Art Registry qualifies for federal and or state training funds/grants. Training funds entice relocating firms, offset costs of workforce training, provides registrant employment opportunities and generates municipal publicity.

Registry Galleries guarantee registrants’ exhibition space, employment opportunities, additional municipal revenue, increased First Friday traffic, a wider commerce perimeter and increased tourism opportunities. Alternative Registry exhibition spaces are developed through participating businesses.

Introducing “Genuine- Philadelphia – Made” branding /marketing establishes significant registrant employment /revenue generating opportunities, promotes the MFA initiative, increases municipal publicity and promotes tourism.

Consensus requires collective buy-in. Buy-in requires high visibility. High visibility fundamentally is found at the core of a noteworthy Cause. An altruistic and substantive promotion of a cause requires having a personal stake in that Cause. Nearly thirty years ago, my mother died from complications associated with Lupus. To date, no cure has been found for Lupus, an immune deficiency connective tissue disorder. Like finding the cure for our present Philadelphia Art Community’s anemic condition, I am also an ardent supporter of finding a cure for Lupus, a disease that historically slays women of African American and Hispanic decent. To raise funds for Lupus research and fund our City-Wide Art Contest, The Knapp Gallery is hosting a Black Tie event, a Lupus /Art Philadelphia Fundraising Gala, to be held at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia – At Penn’s Landing, May 21, 2011; Lupus Awareness Month.

Lupus / Art Philadelphia Gala Fundraiser

The Knapp Gallery is partnering with the Lupus Foundation of America in a fundraising Gala to help celebrate Lupus Awareness Month. This $500 per plate “Black Tie” awareness event will be the culmination and Award Presentation Ceremony of our City-Wide MFA Juried Art Contest. With four guest speakers representing the Medical, Business, Political and Art communities, a significant goal of this is to create an inclusive dialogue that promotes within Philadelphia a renewed sense of collective responsibility. Proceeds from this fundraising event, split with the Lupus Foundation of America, will fund the Knapp Gallery’s 2011 City-Wide MFA Contest awards.

Historically, the arts have been solicited to support non-profit fundraising. Ever accustomed to the donated art “for auction” scenario, there exists an inherent and profound acknowledgement of Art’s value. And while we need the help of our non-profit partner to bolster confidence of investors, our larger intent at the Knapp Gallery in partnering with the Lupus Foundation of America is not an attempt to piggyback this sentiment, rather to raise awareness of what we perceive as a life threatening issue to The Philadelphia Fine-Art Community. Like the life threatening affects of systemic Lupus, similar anemic symptoms plague the welfare and growth of Philadelphia’s Fine-Art Community infrastructure.

The Knapp Gallery is currently soliciting Philadelphia based businesses, firms and medical facilities as first and 2nd tier partners. For Gala tickets and/or additional information contact Tereza at 267 455 0279.

Like John the Baptist, preaching the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God, I too have met significant resistance. Two weeks ago, realizing I was going about this in my own strength, living within the realm of potential, it became clear that it was time to release another balloon into the stratosphere. And just that I’ve done. And like sharing in “Show and Tell”, back in third grade, I am letting all who are willing to listen and read that I have sent up another balloon. In this particular instance, however a box, to the White House! Why the White House? In my mind, fundamentally, it represents the infinite and limitlessness of possibility. The larger reason is that First Lady Michelle Obama, as a figure head, represents the idyllic importance of women of African American decent. Never before has such an important woman of color been attached to the need to find a cure for the disease.

I am not the best businessman. Running an art Gallery is not what I do. I am a furniture maker by profession. The Knapp’s knew this when they installed me as Director. They did know that I possess a tremendous capacity and desire to win. And while winning is not everything, a significant portion of my character MAKE-UP is driven by a desire to win. I have not done a lot of winning yet. Fortunately, I am still above ground and while breath remains, I will press towards the mark. Winning in this instance would be to have Michelle Obama as my Keynote speaker at our LUPUS / Art Philadelphia May 2011. So, I sent a letter to the White House attached to a painting donated by Philadelphia artist Alfred Ortega in a custom built crate; the aforementioned message in a box. This is how much I believe in Philadelphia and its Fine Art Community. Despite significant reticence, I have been able to get others on board with my vision like Jane Golden of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. My hope is that an involvement by the First Lady will cause a rallying around an event/cause I believe to be of historic proportions.

First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

October 26, 2011

Dear First Lady,

My hope and prayer is that this letter finds its way safely to you. Like a message in a bottle, albeit with an address, I release this correspondence out into the ocean of hope. Anointed with love and faith, this letter represents a life lived with a fundamental belief in miracles.

I need your help. Philadelphia needs your help also.

Nearly thirty years ago, my mother, Marie C. Slocum, died from complications associated with Lupus. An African American woman, a pioneer in Head Start and Special Education in Fairfield County Connecticut through the late 60s and 70s, she blazed a heroic trail laden with travail and resistance. Like you she epitomized integrity. Despite her personal health struggles, she fought for the lives of her special needs children. She will always be my first lady, my example of courage, selflessness, fortitude and life’s limitless possibilities.

In my attempt to raise awareness and funds for Lupus research and a special arts-based need here in Philadelphia, I, too, have met significant resistance. A voice crying out in the wilderness, few ears are open to my call to arms. The economy has preoccupied us with needs closer to home.

Lupus, an immune deficiency tissue disorder, slays predominantly female victims of African American and Hispanic decent. To date, there is no cure. Despite recent Public Broadcasting Announcements, there has been limited high visibility of an African American or Hispanic Woman associated in promoting research towards finding a cure. Now, you are the most prominent black woman in the world. My mother would be so proud of you and your work.

Tangentially, the Philadelphia Fine-Art Community, weakened in its trend of post graduation MFA attrition, suffers dramatically in part to its close proximity to New York City. Promoting a City-Wide MFA art contest, I am attempting to raise funds to for the contest winner (a living stipend and year’s art supplies) and also raise awareness of the substantive art community that Philadelphia itself has offer. The contest winner will receive their first post- graduation solo art exhibit at Knapp Gallery, in Old City, nearby the Betsy Ross house where you visited last year. I was in the crowd for your arrival.

Partnering with LUPUS, the LFA “Philadelphia-Tri-State Chapter” has approved the motion to participate; I hope to align the seriousness of our art community “anemia.” Traditionally, the art world has been solicited to help raise money for non-profit fundraising. Now, with a personal stake also, I solicit the “high visibility” help that a Lupus fundraising event can bring.

Your participation as my keynote speaker at a black-tie event planned for May 21, 2011, Lupus Awareness Month, would ensure success and convince prospective patrons “buy-in” to our vision.

Please afford me the opportunity to discuss my vision with you and your people in its entirety. I would be honored to travel to DC and meet with you. I am convinced, within a short lunch, you will discern my sincerity and commitment to both of my causes. Of course, if your lunch schedule is impenetrable, the telephone could work, too.

Please accept this painting as a token of our thanks for your consideration of our invitation. This is the quality of art and life of an artist that we are attempting to promote and preserve. Born in Philadelphia in 1956, Alfred Ortega studied painting and sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Ortega’s work is currently represented by the Atlantic Gallery in Nantucket and the Knapp Gallery here in Philadelphia. Ortega has exhibited at the Woodmere Museum and Twenty-two Gallery in Philadelphia. The artist’s work is represented in the permanent collection of the Pennsylvania State Museum and in private collections.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.

With my fondest regards,

Karl Slocum, Director

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Center City Opera Theater - Danse Russe

Center City Opera Theater invites you to attend

“A Collaborative Inspiration”

The conception, process and reception of Danse Russe

Danse Russe is a new one-act, vaudeville-style opera, with music by Paul Moravec and libretto by Terry Teachout. It tells the story of the creation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring through the eyes of its creators: Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Monteux and, of course, Stravinsky. As we prepare for the April 28th premiere of Danse Russe as part of the 2011 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, we are eager to invite you to a related fundraising event!

WHAT: Dessert & Dialogue with Paul Moravec and Terry Teachout

WHEN: Friday November 5th, 2010 at 8PM - till

WHERE: The Knapp Gallery, 162 N. 3rd Street

TICKETS: Starting at $59 (General), $99 (VIP), $250 (Partner). Seating is limited! Available on-line at

On the eve of the premiere Danse Russe workshop, join Pulitzer prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout as they discuss the “the creative process” –not only its materialization as the subject of their new opera, Danse Russe, but its relevance to the opera’s current status as a work in progress. The discussion will be moderated by PIFA Artistic Producer, Barbara Silverstein.

* The event will feature delectable desserts and beverages provided by LeBus Bakery, The Arbol Café, and Franklin Fountain.

Grigonis & Kurtz: Found But No Less Valued

Dualism, the state of being two parts in one, often describes our dichotomous human nature. Some call it Yin and yang; others deem it a war between our coexisting egos and will. However you define it, looking down through the corridor of time, man has struggled within himself coming to terms with his two divergent natures; bipolarity to a degree. This innate duality, a built-in safety- mechanism keeps man in check with himself. Good art is about duality also. Maybe it is personal choice, likes and dislikes, but my synapses fire when I find strong tension in artwork; the balancing factor. An artist’s keen ability to apply bi-polar weight, creating a conversation through extremes, maybe even answers to questions, is a skill reserved for talented artists. This evident sophistication is the great divide between “fine art” and “art”. In the spirit of this lifelong conversation, the two man art show has always offered a challenge but also significant reward to art directors, artists and patrons; finding divergent but complementary themes and processes.

Katherine Kurtz and Marjorie Grigonis, in Found But No Less Valued, have created a grouping of paintings that begs investigation. At interest are their approaches, philosophies, mediums –the paths taken to achieve desired end results; minimalism countered by liberalism. The resulting visual aesthetic of the two extremes hanging together, in one space, is in itself an art form. Consequently, the painted works by Kurtz and Grigonis exist under the larger umbrella labeled Dualism; paintings within paintings.

Grigonis responded to pre-existing stimuli, while Kurtz, from her passion for the organics of fresh gesso began with the “fertile void”. Grigonis’ foundation material is a man-made semi-translucent film; Kurtz cotton duck. It became impossible not to consider the remarkable balance and possibilities. To the point of seduction, I have romanced notions and memories of infamous duets. Most artists want to fly solo. Change of faire also assures a healthy diet. Beyond the allure, in all fairness to Marjorie’s contribution, half of the paintings to be shown are also oil on canvas. By choice, not to diminish her complementary canvas work, I am only sharing about the work created on found material.

Beyond the mystery of two opposing worlds in one creating tension, I like it that the artwork stands on its own, pure cut – straight up major league hacks at the ball. I’m excited at what Marjorie and Katherine have done. Far beyond the simple notion of putting two artists together in the ring and for them to slug it out, we enjoy the choreography as a viable genre. Our two- man show, presented with intent is about so much more. I can’t sing a note, even if it were to save my life. I can however look at two artists and their work and weave a tale of connectedness. I am drawn to parings. Back in Aug ’09, I hung an awesome show with R Michael Walsh and Brian Smith. My group- show hanging presently, with the exception of two paintings, is a premier of my 2011 calendar. While there is a harmony throughout the work, demonstrative of our sound vision, tension remains the preferred faire.

Interestingly, Marjorie is a deconstructionist. She likes to put material on and take it off. These new paintings called her out of her comfort zone, even to the point of paralysis. Painting on unfamiliar material, semi-translucent vellum, an evident tension shows up in visual operatic balance – a melancholic yet
gay waltz between the painted and the unpainted. We, Marjorie and I, both capitalized on a God-sent opportunity to share some new material for her to paint on. I am the foremost blessed recipient of this miracle. I’ll stop with the mystery, I feel like telling a story anyway.

One late evening, walking to the corner market, I found a roll of vellum /Mylar with printed architectural / topographical elevations on them; nearly 20 twenty 36” by 48“sheets. There were some larger sheets also. Clearly, for an artist, this was a veritable gold mine. The wanna-be part time painter that I was at the time saw this as a gift from heaven; a new intriguing material to paint on. I imagined the blending of the organics of paint with this semi transparent rigid and rendered material. There was something slick about it. Outside of normal conclusions, I carried my new found quarry home and dreamed of the possibilities. .

Excited, I called Marjorie to come see the “find.” She was equally stoked. She blessed me for the find however making we swear with reverential deference that I would set the Mylars off to the side. Readiness would require a significant dose of
patience. I agreed, it was best to let things lay for a bit. At the right time, a positive direction would reveal itself. They, the Mylars stayed rolled up under my bed until about 8 months ago. Wanting for a greater appreciation of Life’s simple things, I was cleaning out the extra, the stuff, the dross in my life. There is always a physical act in exercising our internal slag. I was downsizing, simplifying, living with less. I called Marjorie to come get the Mylar.

Marjorie was already slated for the November slot with Katherine. We had already discussed the plan to act aggressively. I had already given Marjorie the “I want you used up when we get to show-time” speech and saw this as an opportunity to get Marjorie to shift gears and give me a body of work on the mystery vellum material. She was quick to jump in. She bought her Husband Jim over to the gallery pick up the stuff. We were all excited at the possibilities.

Consequently, this is an extra special exhibition. We are generating new energy in our troika of giving –a three-in-one-collaboration. “Gifted material – gifted material gifted to artist – gifted artist gifting transformed material into gifts for viewers”. Witnessing this dramatic progress and giving the first “amens” has truly been a remarkable and special gift. Like witnessing the birth of a child, this is one of the many blessings we get in life when we trust enough to treasure relationships. I treasure my relationship with Marjorie and now also her husband Jim.

On many occasions, Marjorie I have gone to see performances of the Dumpsta Players , at Bob and Barbara’s, a unique gathering of souls at 1509 South St. This sharing has brought us close together. We had met nearly a year ago through the gallery and developed a wonderful liking of the other. Calls from Marjorie are uplifting, her impromptu gallery visits, the same. So, from time to time, I had fielded questions about the vellum/Mylar. From questions to a visible answer; here we are. Beyond my hallelujahs, without blasphemy, I want to call this experience magical; I do believe in miracles. My sister says I have a unique gift - I think about things and they happen. They manifest the
mselves in many forms, a fore-thought scenario, a want or need materializing at the right time; even mystery vellum material as the foundation of a cooperative exercise. I am not surprised by what has occurred. A die-hard romantic, I love the drama of this story; “Abandoned material is born again”. I believe in “one horse –one rider”.
That’s Karl’s way of saying things work out if destined; a divine tethering. There is a lot of faith behind that.

Now, looking at Marjorie paintings, I am appreciative of her precise yet free dissections of the printed components of the Mylar’s into definable and substantiated elements. She has gracefully even instinctually created a system of valuation for the elements. In her simplicity, yet with an accompanying maturity, she affords us clarity into the gross value of these renderings, despite their devaluation from the abasement of their abandonment. The act of salvaging and restoring the Mylars adds dimension to the work. Our human want and need for salvation and redemption is manifested the- the proverbial second chance, is at issue here. The Mylar’s have been redeemed. The reborn and redefined net value is edified in the rescue.

Assimilation may best describe Marjorie’s unique skill of spooning alongside the parameters and constructs set by the architectural and topographical renderings; far afield from her accustomed way of being. Beyond a Tour de Force, Marjorie redefines her ability to assess the value of external stimuli while countering with a complementary contribution. Stepping lightly,
she has co-created with a sense of invisibility. I hate words that sound fancy. Synergy, however, is a word that comes to mind, but describes well the evident symbiosis between material and artist. Marjorie excels at being open in her search for growth. We are far away from where I met and developed my initial relationship with Marjorie – man it doesn’t get any better than this. This is what I seek in my selection of art, a nurtured intimacy through relationship.

As Head Chef, here at Chez Knapp, a select cut of intimacy spiced strongly with tension and a side of “edgy” is my house special. See, this is getting down to it. My job is to set the banquet table from which my owners and patrons will feast. Nuisance, purpose and presentation must all work together. I am very specific in my decision making. Any artist that I hang, even those that don’t, will tell you I’m not always the easiest to get along with. As much as the process will allow, however daunting, I am about knowing my artists and my art. Artist - Art Director relationships can get tough. I have turned away good art lacking for opportunity to develop relationship. This is the art that I am hanging. This is art that I know. In defense of this need to know and experience my art, I’ve even made a studio visit to Brasil, on my dollar.

It is beyond explanation. Great art does that to you. Here is a test, “How far are you willing to go to get a good body of work?” Considering budgetary constraints … the whole nine, great art will take you out of your comfort zone. Since my installment in the Director’s Chair back in April-March ’09, everything has changed. The wicked learning curve has chipped away at the rough edges of my preconceptions. Including perspective and even my temperament, I am a different cat. I’m not saying I have the answers, I don’t. I’ll tell you what I have. I have art that talks; art that tells story. At one level, under scrutiny from both intimate encounters and also a bird’s eye view, I know the story of art being produced in a few small but significant pockets of Philadelphia’s “fine art” community.

My relationship with Katherine is remarkably different, not as intimate, and infinitely more intellectual, opposite of the spirituality shared with Marjorie. Just the other day, I heard the expression opposites attract. Eu concordo (I agree). Somehow, the balance shows up in the middle.

Katherine and I both enjoy the “studio visit”. Beyond sharing great art, the quality discourse is a remarkable attractant. Katherine, a practicing Gestalt Therapist, liking the clinical participation of painting as a tool, enjoys feedback. She doesn’t talk much about her art, desiring a work-based and demonstrably driven definitive efficacy. In the end, therapy is about results, specific results; increased quality of life. Art as a tool
to effectuate change through the clinical process is a conversation worth having. “…we let go of our own proscriptive thinking and then make possible the exploration and creation of new ways of being or dealing in the world… we access extra-cognitive information, melding feeling, sensory data, and imagination with thought into new ways of being. Gestalt therapy’s respect for images, dreams, nightmares, and humor is legendary, so it is no surprise to me that in my work as a clinician and in my life as a painter, I find much that overlaps.”

In an article I read, Katherine refers to the “fertile void” which is the repository of creativity and its possibilities that dwell deep within us. Including our problem solving potential, she applies gestalt therapy to the hurdles and obstacles that prevent us from accessing this place of plenty. Direction is a commodity, albeit intangible. The likes of Katherine will say that “direction” dwells in the fertile void. Getting to it is key and fundamental to our discussion. Finding direction in one’s creativity bank through clinical applications, like finding a pile of Mylar in the trash is beyond valuation. Found But No Less Valued is really about redefining our prescribed nomenclature in applying and affixing value to those things beyond our understanding. Art is beyond our understanding.

The “gestalt” for Katherine, beginning with elements of preparation through to completion of a painting is about problem solving; isolating truths form lies – the interference and even the demons that sap us of our productivity and sense of self. Overcoming creative paralysis, through learned behavior, is an acquired skill. All artists encounter paralysis at some point in their career. Overcoming the paralysis separates the successful from the rest. In this pairing between Katherine and Marjorie, if there is a point of commonality, a shared experience of the human condition, is our collective propensity to hit the proverbial “wall”. Marjorie too was paralyzed by the dictates of the Mylar. Katherine’s cognitive gestalt response to paralysis is very much a part of her creative process. Process oriented, seemingly religious in its receptiveness, Katherine’s clinical approach to life, her practice and painting is evident in the final product.

Katherine is liberal with her paint, building layer to layer – always layering with remarkable foundation and under-painting. Katherine’s overlay of the strong under-painting leaves a most desirable interfacing at the negative space line; nothing short of luscious. Early Diebenkorn –esque in the outcome, Katherine is not shy about saying she is a fan. I like that. There is no fear in influence. Strong lines move you around the canvas, strong in shapes of color- her pure abstract works hold a firm declarative territorial line, however sometimes softened with a blending of color and light.

Visiting Katherine, she showed three strong yet divergent paths of work. Traditionally, I would have chosen a definitive path, set and selected a number of paintings and went about my business. I liked the relationship between the works and opted to serve limited tastes of her three faces of painting.
Oddly, it is clear that with all my painters, I don’t subscribe fully over to their complete visual landscapes. However, with some painters I can go across the board with their work. This is a big point. Full disclosure requires I divulge my bent towards the controlling; at least in my want for certain selection autonomy, both with my owners and painters. Being able to serve up faire pleasing to the bosses has its rewards. Being able to discern taste is not a simple task. The Knapp’s give me a long leash. Sometimes I think I’m pulling hard by the tension I feel on my neck. That maybe my orientation only, nose to the ground, hot on the scent of growth.

Recently, with a small part played as MC in the Murals Arts Month - 4th Wall Arts Salon “Boutique” Salon, held on Saturday, October 9th, I said openly,”we may not make the most amount of money at this most difficult time in our economy, but we will not compromise. We will legitimize the Philadelphia artist and afford them increased opportunities to hang their work”. Barclay and Rebecca’s commitment to Philadelphia art is unrivalled in my first hand opinion. With historic proportions, the Knapp’s commitment to Philadelphia art, while serving in a different capacity, is equaled only by the City’s Mural Arts Program; Philadelphia’s most significant source of employment for Philadelphia artists. Jane Golden, matriarch and guardian of the world renowned Philadelphia Mural Arts Program may know more about Philadelphia artists than most aficionados. There is something more to say for intimacy.

This notion of artist-patron intimacy, at a very different level, has more value than all other conversations. 4th Wall Art Salon Co-founders Elijah Dornstreich, Keir Johnson and Alexandria Bradley Visual Art sponsors for the aforementioned Mural Arts “Boutique” Salon, share similar sentiments regarding their artist-patron relationships. It is more than having a finger on the pulse. Trying to get talent to the right places is not always an easy task, especially in Philadelphia. Our attention is divided. As Art Gallery Directors, Visual Art Sponsors and Art Program Directors, our collective responsibility and goal in dispelling unsubstantiated foreboding myths of Philadelphia’s artwork being of lesser quality is heralded by Jane’s seemingly single handed efforts to rid the city of graffiti. Naysayers have capitulated to the reputation of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Jane Golden has put Philadelphia on the map in a worldwide way. Her voice, albeit from a small frame, is clear and resolute, commanding respect, admiration and awe.

There is momentum mounting. Along with me, there are clearly others also believing in the possibilities of Philadelphia Fine-Art scene. It may be the intimacy that we have with our artists, our relational knittedness here in the city that shapes and substantiates our “wholesale” value as a fine art community; the overriding reason that Philadelphia rightfully owns a place at the table of success.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Still Life#1-Skulls, 40 x 37.25, oil, wax on canvas

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karl Slocum
267 455 0279

The Knapp Gallery Presents
R. Michael Walsh: Recent Works 2010

First Friday Opening: September 3rd
Exhibition: September 3rd – September 26th
Artist Reception: Sat. September 11th (6pm -9 pm)

(Philadelphia) – The Knapp Gallery continues its tradition of First Friday openings and welcomes R. Michael Walsh in his second solo show at the Knapp Gallery. The Knapp Gallery’s “house” painter, Michael has completed numerous commissions for Knapp gallery owners Barclay and Rebecca Knapp. A veteran painter, Walsh graduated from The Tyler School of Art.

Solid and definable work best describes a low-key cat that can paint his ass off. With astonishing pointedness, Michael guides viewers through his mythical and labyrinth-ical world. Recent Works 2010, including a few self-portrait-esque images, Michael takes of the kid gloves and brandishes the bare knuckles of a youthful pugilist. At fighting weight Walsh is razor sharp. Recent Works 2010 is near intimidating, challenging us with combating elements - the creature and the creation. Balance and harmony counter a demanding imbalance. Causality is brilliance.

An author through imagery, Walsh weaves tales of forbidden ecstasies, wrestling with issues of morality and or immorality, adolescent naiveté and decay. Of all my painters, Walsh paints with the hardest edge. Contemplative by nature, Walsh investigates below the surface - questioning the root cause of our yearnings. Classical tone and composition, solids and stripes, Walsh’s pale and matte palette enhances his quietly dark dramas; absolutely dark in their absolutism. With no middle ground, Walsh’s paintings are about life and death; albeit served with a side of satire.

No bones about it, Michael’s work is a heady psychedelic representation of an archeologist’s dream while on acid. An in depth study in the “still life”, Walsh will tell you that a bone is as still as it gets. Skeletons and skulls, beyond human infrastructure are things of beauty; their core value outweighing their inherent morbidity.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just in Case

I am off to Brasil in the morning. My last trip was the worst flight ever. More like a roller-coaster ride. My faith sustained me. I return home, God willing next Thursday. On the outside chance I don’t make it back, I wanted to make sure I left some lasting words.

What an awesome opportunity it is to participate in the Philadelphia “Fine-Art” community/family. There is some wonderful stuff happening here. While I beat up hard on the infrastructure, I am smitten with Philadelphia and what it offers. I am blessed to have been invited to the party.

I stand by my belief in Philadelphia’s ability to grow into a “World Class” Fine-Art community.

I want to be clear. There exists a significant contingent of serious tradesman in Philadelphia. That has never been my issue. Lacking a City-Wide reputation for excellence, we are unable to generate a satisfactory response to our professionals and their artwork. All of my efforts, whether understood or not, have been to reverse this attitude and trend. Considering and promoting infinite possibilities is the supporting dogma of my doctrine.

We’ve created a few different avenues of contributing to the Fine-Art landscape here in the city. Our 2011 events include:
• PIFA - Pennsylvania International Festival of the Arts.
• LUPUS Foundation of America/Knapp Gallery Fundraiser
• City-Wide MFA Graduate Art Contest
• Submitted proposal creating significant employment opportunities to MFA graduates.

My 2011 exhibition calendar is stellar. I’ll share in a minute. Before I close I wanted to make a few acknowledgements:

Awesome folks Philadelphia has in Barclay and Rebecca Knapp. Thanks for everything; for the freedom, patience, belief and faith in me. Your vision for Philadelphia is pure. I’m proud to know you as friend and employer; Proud of seriving on your team.

Thanks to Christopher Callahan. Meeting Chris, sharing his art and life has been a thrill. Vicariously, Chris’s art has satisfied places that escaped me in my own artistic quests as a painter. Like a pheromone, Chris’s love for the craft permeates his product. I treasure my personal collection of Callahan paintings. Imagine that, I have a Callahan collection to bequeath to my kids.

Tom Brady may be Philadelphia’s best kept secret. Command, color and control come to mind when thinking about Brady’s work. Solid process – field sketches-to pastel -to paint. Remarkable freedom - abstract landscapes that redefine the genre. Form and figure shaped by the moment. Brady’s work holds history sacred while outreaching cosmopolitan constraints. He is present in his work.

Michael Walsh –Thanks – you are a good cat. I enjoyed our pilgrimages north to the boss’s house. Paint your way free. You’ve got all the stuff to be with the greats. Don’t settle.

I am privileged to have these painters in my stable.

The remainder of ‘010 and next year’s 2011 Knapp Gallery exhibition calendar validates our commitment to seek out the best available artwork: Special thanks and prayers to our December Trio as they continue to carve their way higher. Competing with Christmas, December is a tough month to hang.

One last thing - most important. Special thanks to Tereza, my personal assistant / Assistant Director. Tereza - thanks for everything. I know who you are now. You are the angel sent down from Heaven. God bless you and yours. I leave you the gallery table.

Thanks gang.


August 2010 (Solo Show)
• Chris Callahan - current exhibition -

September 2010 (Solo Show)
• Michael Walsh –

October 2010 (group show)
Alfred Ortega
Marjorie Grigonis
Umberto Nigi
Tom Brady
Al Razza
Chris Callahan
Jim Bloom
Matt Baumgardner

November 2010m(Solo Show)
• Marjorie Grigonnis – Abstractionist – Philadelphia painter -

• Katherine Kurtz – Abstractionist –Philadelphia painter-

December 2010 (3 –man)
• (Kevin Von Holtermann)- www.kevinvonholtermann -
• Gail Kotel -
• Salvador Di Quinzio -


January (Two Man Show)
• Nicolas King (Ex-Barnes Foundation Director- Chris Callahan Barnes foundation corroborates Chris Callahan’s Barnes Foundation story.
• Petros Pappalas. Young cat strong hand. Represent/Abstract figure –

February (Solo Show)
• Margaret Zox Brown – New York City painter. Journeyman. Strong color, bold figure, strong composition, well painted, “Philadelphia” connections – brings good new blood to our family.

March (Solo Show)
• Mark Bullen - PAFA Graduate – Portrait artist – representationalist with a twist. Bullen is strong.

April (Solo Show)
• Humberto Nigi - Brazilian painter –

May (Solo Show)
• Al Razza –Florida Painter. Razza is custom painting our Lupus event promotional artwork. He is auctioning the original painting at the LUPUS Fundraiser. His show at the Knapp Gallery is the backdrop of the “Gear Theme” throughout the body of Work. A “LIVE” Choreographed dance piece is one of our entertainment components for the LUPUS event.

June (Solo Show)
• Tom Brady -

July (Solo Show)
• Alfred Ortega – PAFA graduate. House full of art.

August (two man Show)
• Michael Walsh –
• Jim Bloom-ultrasound outsider artist -

September (Solo Show)
• Chris Callahan – Chris paid the rent last year -

October (Solo Show)
• Matthew Clay Baumgardner – We have been working on a show for two years – A SERIOUS PAINTER- I have known Matt for nearly twenty three years. A New York painter, once a dweller in New Jersey, now residing down south – An internationally recognized painter.

November (Solo Show)
• Clintel Steed – Awesome abstract painter. New York City - Represented by Lynn Dunham

December (Solo Show)
• William Knight – may be New Jersey’s best kept secret-

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

John Abner - Philadelphia Journeyman Painter

Diligence has its rewards. The Bible confirms it, “… knowing that He rewards those that diligently seek Him.” This is a universal law. Pursuing diligence has a measureable payoff. To survive and thrive as an artist in Philadelphia an artist must be diligent. Today, I am compelled to acknowledge the fortitude of one such diligent Philadelphia artist; John Abner. There are many others. Today it’s about Abner.

As Gallery personnel, on a regular basis, we look at lots of art. Whether during studio visits, CD requests in the mail, online, at opening receptions, the museums, the street artist, art related events, we see tons of Artwork. Bombarded with imagery, we are often “Art Drunk” and numb to the incoming stream of imagery. Consequently, we must rely on varied innate mechanisms to trigger our synapses and cut through the numbness. It takes strong artwork to get the synapses firing.

There are times when something strikes us hard but is not long lasting. At other times, we like and appreciate something that carries us down the road much farther. The keepers grab us and don’t let go of us. Unfortunately, finding everlasting like is the exception and not the norm. Keeping score is difficult. There are many ways we categorize our varied artistic tastes. From a business perspective, “Strong” work generates confidence in trading. This is the artwork we see and return to as the “givens” in our equations of acceptability. This is artwork that holds up on its own across the board; stands up critically against mush of the contemporary work that’s out there. This is the level of artwork that keeps your attention and demonstrates professional confidence. This artist, having put in his time, paid his lumps has learned the many sides of the art business. Many call this the work of a journeyman. Their vision is clearly presented with confidence; their work commands respect.

Recently, I ran into some strong artwork by a mixed-mediast. I’ll be honest, I was caught off guard. My usual bent for the “straight” painter was eclipsed by the power of Abner’s work. I yielded to its strength. Asked to present the artwork on August 28, 2010 at “The fourth Wall Salon”, at the Trinity Center for Urban Life, (South) 22nd & Spruce Streets, I met with Abner to preview the work to be displayed. As a side note, Abner, having studied "stain glass", serendipitously became part of the team that rei-installed the stain glass windows at the Trinity Church.

The work came to me! Almost like a reminder of why I am here, the reason why I am fighting for the Philadelphia artist, I was sent prime examples of the awesome “Fine-Art” that exists and is being created here in Philadelphia. Abner, born and raised a Philadelphian, a product of Temple University's Tyler School of Art, beyond his painting talents is a remarkable resource of Philadelphia art history.

Accredited accolades validate his prominence as an accomplished artist, activist and educator. Having coordinated several projects with the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, he has also exhibited his artwork in juried shows locally and nationally. Abner has been published in several publications including Roll Call: A Generational Anthology of Black Literature and Art by Third World Press.

I am not normally given to spelling out the nomenclature. In this instance, I think it is important to share the caliber of artists that have remained in Philadelphia carving out career paths despite a “Fine-Art” community that has not responded in-kind. I am compelled to share John Abner’s work despite my full calendar here at Knapp. I am convinced similar acknowledgements will bolster my argument of Philadelphia “possessing” the power and ability to nurture and retain solid professional Fine-Artists.

Maybe that’s what I need to do-dedicate a portion of my blog to acknowledging Philadelphia’s journeymen.

Abner has been diligent in designing and creating this contemplative body of work. His work is challenging and will give you pause. With sophisticated and innovative vision John’s imagery is “hooded” or veiled by a barrier, a bold black matrix-esque gridding. Requiring intuitive skills, the viewer is forced to fight through the barrier like a combatant. In time, the viewer’s senses align and discern an appropriate way to focus around the obstruction; solving the puzzle.

The resulting phenomenon: The gridding seemingly dissipates, becomes less combative and falls submissive to the now dominant de-puzzled imagery. Abner showed me a series of these medium-sized mixed-media studies that he will now enlarge into larger works.

Thumbs up!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chris Callahan - He’s back.

Return artist exhibitions, RAs, mark anniversaries. It has been nearly a year since Chris Callahan was here last at Knapp. My excitement has not waned since hanging the show and enjoying Chris’ Artist Reception held last Saturday on the 7th. Chris’s latest selection of paintings Below See Level is a celebration of confidence, color and commitment.

The opening reception was awesome. We had a wonderful turnout with about 60% of Callahan’s buyers from last year attending the event. Leroy and Traci were absent. She did however stop in earlier in the day and loved the show. Leroy and Traci, overall, were my most committed collectors from last year. Refer to my November 12, 2009 blog: Traci and Leroy – Old City Collectors. Come to think of it, I’d like to photograph the bather painting the dynamic duo acquired last year with this year’s current bather painting as a comparrison of styles.

Throughout the night, collectors gathered at my PC sharing and comparing images from last year’s show and acquisitions. It was remarkable as they walked back and forth from pc to new paintings to compare changes from last year. There was lots of excitement. Donald Carter, long time Knapp Gallery patron and Philadelphia Art historian exclaimed “more than a social affair, this is what an opening is supposed to look like, people gathered around in front of paintings and talking about the work. You don’t see a lot of that these days.”

Chris has hung a remarkable show. The work is confident with a definably new palette made up of blues and greens. Earlier this year, Chris and I got together and swapped materials for some paintings. Included in the pile of paint was a 200 ML tube of Lukas 1862 Prussian blue. Well, I must say, he worked the snot out of that tube of paint. - Chris knows how to move me around when necessary. Sometime last year, Chris needed paint and materials. I had tons. I am not painting right now and could afford to let a quantity of material go to a good cause, in trade. It was a “good trade.” I’ve made similar trades with my other painters. I am aware that in my line of work, it is in my best interest to keep fresh quality materials around. Some of my best art has been acquired through trade. Now, I have a sizable Callahan painting collection.

In this new body of work, Callahan challenges us to travel back and embrace the freedom and power of our youth. Including a painting titled Me and My Chuck Taylors, Chris identifies with his core youthful force. This minute iconic detail, magnified by the title, in its minimalism breaks through the cacophony of color claiming its validation. Chris is defiant in the moment, knowing his strength and faith in taking on the challenges of his craft. Chris propped a youthful photograph of him at 7 years old in shorts and black hi-top Pro Keds on the Gallery side table.

I was so moved by the piece that I went out and bought a pair of Chucks. I have not owned a pair of All Stars in 34 years. Interestingly, I did not buy the traditional canvas high black so prevalent today. I opted for a current and cosmopolitan version with lined canvas and padded ankle support; old men like cushion on their feet. I am wearing them right now. In my chucks, like Chris, I am invincible. I am light with a fearlessness that claims dominion over life’s challenges and embraces its infinite possibilities. I called the sales and promotion department of Converse Ltd.; invariably they send you to an answering machine… “We’ll get back to you blah, blah, blah... My message was brief but shared the power of Chris’ paintings (there are a few paintings that include his hi-tops). I told them I wanted a truckload of black Hi-Tops for the opening reception. Apparently, they did not share my enthusiasm; they did not get back to me.

In my mind, a gallery filled of patrons being fitted with Chuck Taylor hi-tops would epitomize the art of Chris’ transcendent message; a real-time installation that spontaneously generates mass freedom, mass invincibility, mass fearlessness.

Walking in the confidence of his two shows last year, Chris introduces an abstract-landscape series of paintings that scream “I am here.” The show moves with a rythym, in and out of definable genres. Derivatives of last year’s Impressionist renderings are infinitely looser; leaving us room to fill in some of the blanks. While Chris’s figure and form representation is decisively Callahan, much of what we see is from the hand of a new painter.

Unique to Chris’s latest body of work is a study we might dedicate to the American painter. Fundamentally a depiction of God’s honoring of His creation and the creature, we are offered an introspection of Callahan’s subconscious. Thematically, Callahan has created an interplay between homosapien and the surrrounding creation; man’s lonely existence portrayed and juxtaposed to the forces of nature. Including titles Moonlit Camp, Lone Camper, The Poet and Truce, Callahan’s Ode to folk painting avails us to the painter’s nuts and bolts; the mechanics.

Callahan, enamored with the historicity and traditions of the American painter. Traveling north in summers, idealizing the landscape as spiritual metaphors, Callahan explores the symbology of his redefined iconography; the fire, hatchet, smoke, the stag. Taming the frontier of our inner selves and harnessing our desire for freedom, Callahan paints out confining societal constraints. Transcending our horizontal existence, Callahan’s romantic notions of self sufficiency acknowledges of our vertical spirituality through spiraling of smoke. “Day to day - moon to moon” Callahan visits Native American notions of air, fire, water and earth.

Meeting and exceeding all of my expectations, Chris has made good on the expectations of those that have passed on; one-time collector of Chris’s watercolors and pen and ink drawings, Violette de Mazia, one time Director of the renowned Barnes Foundation. Corroborating stories hold that when de Mazia’s personal effects were sold at auction, a box labeled "Callahan" was included. Beyond this historicity, I have seen the stack of drawings from which Miss de Mazia extracted her collection. With a remarkably confident “one-line” sense of purpose, Chris’s drawings excel as intimate gestures.

Chris’ dynamic history with the Barnes Foundation is nothing shy of book worthy. Interestingly, he downplays the significance of his intimate knowledge of what many consider the world’s foremost collection of post impression paintings. Chris wants to be known soely for his paintings and commitment to his craft. Nicolas King, Ex-Director of the Barnes Foundation sent me a letter last year, long after the Callahan exhibitions had come down:

“Karl, after several calls I have finally had a chance to see your blog. Your very kind, and astute, comments regarding Chris Callahan's paintings were welcomed. I would venture to shed more light on the relationship of Chris and The Barnes Foundation. Chris was hired as a Gallery Assistant (not a custodian) by me as Superintendent of the Collection. His duties were mainly assisting me with the care and preservation of the collection. This included the assembling (daily) of the average of 35 works of art from the galleries 96 walls and over 100 for the first-year class of Violette de Mazia. This practice was finally abolished at the urging of the National Gallery of Art for 10 years in 1991. Chris did however have an absolutely intimate relationship with the masterpieces in that collection. He further assisted me with the conservation and preservation of textiles (Navajo blankets, oriental rugs, tapestries, silver, furniture, and decorative objects in the collection (not paintings or works on paper).

The watercolors of Chris came to the attention of Violette de Mazia who avidly collected them herself but also promoted and sold them to the Seminar students (4 groups 50 in each group) at the Foundation.

In 1991 as Director of the Art Department, Director of the Arboretum, Head of Conservation (for the insurance values of the 82 paintings on the world tour [3.2 billion] and the inspection of the unpacking and packing of each item at all venues), Archivist, and Teacher of the First-Year Art Appreciation Class, Seminar and ever-expanding educational outreach programs and VIP programs I desperately needed help and asked Chris to return. He immediately endeared himself (again) to all who knew him with his capacity for hard work in his research and his intimate knowledge of the collection. His lectures for the docent program students (most had been students of Violette de Mazia) were not only respected but cheered. We were, and are, very proud of Chris. He is a remarkable man and I applaud your efforts on his behalf.

Thank you and wishing you, and Knapp Gallery, the very best.”
Nicolas King

I need to stop and share an important aspect of Chris, his paintings and our meeting. I’m in the mood to tell a story. Last year, Chris Callahan was delivered to me and the Knapp Gallery doorstep by the hand of God. It is clear that happenstance, serendipity or coincidence had nothing to do with our profound meeting. I believe in miracles. God, the author of miracles, loves Chris Callahan. He loves me too. Initially I was overwhelmed by the notion that such a remarkable and solid body of work not only existed but was also unknown. “Faithfully believing ‘the Lords will be done’, Chris painted patiently waiting for God’s plan and will to unravel. Nearly in a vacuum, Chris painted for 20 years in solitary; waiting and never perusing notoriety.” Until the Knapp gallery, Chris never showed nor sought gallery representation.

The tragic death of Chris’s stepson, Asher, raised from a young boy, knocked the stuffing out of him. Grief stricken and beyond depression, Chris sequestered himself and shut down his studio. Out of concern, a lifetime friend, Edward (Eddie) MacDougal physically put Chris into his car and drove him down to the door of the Knapp Gallery. I was closing and had the key in the door! As they say, the rest is history.

Only after I had offered Chris an exhibition slot, had hung Chris’s first show, had the First Friday opening did Chris share with me his Barnes Foundation story. Chris, desiring an acknowledgement based on a meritocracy, withheld his Barnesian connection. I actually found out through a friend of his that showed up at First Friday; an ex-Barnes Foundation student.

Nicolas King, ex-Director of the Barnes foundation, installed at two different times, once by Violette de Mazia and the other by Richard Glanton was Chris’ first boss at the Barnes. King’s visit to Callahan’s show and subsequent letter validated and corroborated Chris’ story. However, the story does not end there. Nicolas King, an accomplished painter in his own right, along with Petros Pappalas will be showing his work here at Knapp as my lead-off painter in January 2011. Just last week, Chris and I went to Dover, Delaware to make a studio visit to check on Nicolas’ progress. The reunion was emotional, tearful and dramatic. Listening to these two old friends talk about the “old days” at the Foundation was priceless. My photograph of Chris standing in front of Nicolas’ paintings reveals an irony that is beyond words; two old guard Barnesian survivors.

Chris’s body of work is about so much more than the Chuck’s. Foremost, we need to accommodate the frame of mind and reference regarding his work. For Chris Callahan, there is nothing else. There is only painting. I know this guy, good bad or indifferent. Whether you like it, understand it, believe in its authenticity or whether it has lasting value; this is all there is. For good or for worse, Chris’ contribution to humanity will be gifted through his painting. While he may have to do additional things to pay the bills, somewhere and somehow, by day’s end, he will be in front of the canvas. Of his viewers, buyers and collectors, Chris demands a commensurate commitment; having little patience for those of a lukewarm persuasion.

For me, Chris Callahan exemplifies and represents infinite possibilities. Having created, nurtured, cultivated and harvested this new Callahan crop, we believe that our 2011 calendar, made up of predominantly new artistsis is demonstrative of similar possibilities. We have sought out powerful art and artists from many sectors, states and countries. We are confident our 2011 crop will yield a few more relationships like Callahan’s. In the midst of my optimism, I am also realistic; 12 for 12 seems unrealistic.

Rarely am I satisfied. Short lived are my victories. I quickly turn to newer and higher goals. My goals vary in nature. My goal and commitment in representing Chris Callahan is to earn him just rewards for his dedication. Clearly, as a reminder to my previous blog entry, I want to accomplish this while Chris is yet living and above ground. I want somehow between our website, blog and gallery to generate universal confidence among collectors’ inquiries; eve from around the world. However, I’ll start with Philadelphia.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sell some non-Callahan paintings from my own personal collection. I had some paintings that I brought back from Brazil. A guest / collector at my home for dinner, I enjoy cooking, fell in love and had to have these four paintings by Humberto Nigi, my April 2011 painter. In this transaction I experienced a remarkable satisfaction in being able to share my artistic likes with a savvy collector. Agreement is a remarkable tool of validation. Consensus has its rewards. I’ll explain. I know my Artistic palette has value. When first saw the four Nigi paintings, I had the same reaction. Despite Nigi’s reticence to part with the treasures, “I had to have them.” Overwhelmed by my enthusiasm, Nigi packaged my quarry and I was on my way back home. Likewise, despite my reticence, Doug Webster left with my Nigi’s and a monster smile. Doug also loved the idea of being the first in Philadelphia to own Nigi’s paintings.

If agreement is the fundamental notion of sharing perspective and opinion, then non-agreement, conversely, is the absence of consensus. Much of my job unfortunately is spent seemingly speaking into non-agreement. In my attempts to offer fresh-new perspective, I am met with significant resistance at every turn. The wear and tear of being an educator at times has me throwing my hands in the air mimicking Roberto Duran in his display of “no mas, no mas.” Representing hope, confidence commitment and longevity, the Chris Callahan’s keep me in the game.

Just for the record, I am on my way back to Brasil next week to pick up the first half of the Nigi paintings for his April 2011 show. Having generated some significant interest, I am making the work available for some pre-show sales. I am a huge fan of preexisting red dots at an opening reception.

Gauging success is difficult. Discerning and selecting appropriate language that appropriately conveys the essence of this illusive vista is not without its challenges. Last year, my two Callahan exhibitions made up for the lion share of my sales. Significant is the idea that his artwork spoke and continues speak into agreement. In this business, multiple sales are the evidence of agreement. Last year we sold 8 or 9 paintings by Callahan. I don’t like that it distills down to the transferring of currency. It is what it is. To a great degree, we all enter this arena knowing that ultimately, this is about commerce. Beyond that, while paying the rent, we as a gallery exist as the means of continuance; the negotiating vehicle that assures future possibilities. I am here fighting for the survival of my painters; this as real as it gets.

Let’s stop and define fight. Placing myself in harm’s way for the benefit of another is a satisfactory explanation of love. Sacrificing self for the greater good, staking ones reputation based on the efforts of another requires substantial commitment. In selecting my painters now, I must consider these variables. I am willing to risk reputation on Callahan. I once told Chris, before I had sold one of his paintings; Any art dealer, if they concentrated their efforts of just his work, they could make a satisfactory living.

Look at a man while he is yet living. Here is a guy that handled the "dead guy’s" paintings on a daily basis. If we are to glean some knowledge and wisdom from the dead guys, let it be "invest in the living." Interestingly, I'm convinced the dead guys want their influence to have infinitely more value than unobtainable purchased prices. We are doing the lives of our master painters and their processes a significant disservice when we fail to investigate and acknowledge the living by-product of their influence.

Not too long ago, I received some feedback about a particular blog entry “be careful to keep my words soft and sweet as many have to eat them. “ At the time, I thought it was cute. I was showing Jim Bloom at the same time “Picasso” was showing at the Art Museum. Today, my tune and message has strayed little. I was selling wolf tickets, “I’m not afraid of the Art Museum – we just have different addresses.” The quote was something like that. The short of it is, I’m proud of the artwork that I show and promote.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Solicit Your Help!

Hey gang,

I need your help. Petros Pappalas, my Jan 2011 lead off painter has suffered an injury that prevents him from working his job as a waiter.

Setting precedent, I am reaching out to viewers in an attempt to market some of Petros’ painting via my blog to stave off the wolves banging on his door. As He is dire financial straits, I am in a position to leverage this need and offer some of his work at significant savings.

Should you see something that you like contact me directly at 609 402 5917 and I will make it happen. I have more images.

Thanks for your consideration in this matter.

With my fondest regards,


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chris Callahan 3rd Solo Show on 3rd St.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karl Slocum
267 455 0279

The Knapp Gallery Presents
Chris Callahan in Below See Level.

Exhibition Dates: Aug 6th – Aug 29th, 2010
First Friday hours: Aug 6th from 6:00 – 9:30 pm
Artist Reception; Sat. Aug 7th, 2010 6 pm – 9:30 pm

(Philadelphia) – The Knapp Gallery continues its tradition of First Friday openings and welcomes back Christopher Callahan in his current body of paintings Below See Level. Callahan, a Narberth, PA resident returns for his third solo exhibition with the Knapp Gallery.

Enjoying a unique history with the Barnes Foundation, Callahan is privileged to have handled the masterpieces making up what many consider the world’s foremost French post impressionist collection housed in Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation. Callahan’s unique opportunity with its historical influences has flavored a recipe that is decisively Callahan.

Reviewed for his last solo show by Victoria Skelly in the Broad Street Review , Callahan continues to gain attention for his unique adaptation to Barnesian teachings: “Callahan possesses the focus of a true artist— what I would call the quintessential Barnes Foundation insider. Through years of attending classes, working with Barnes’s acolyte Violette de Mazia, and ultimately teaching in the Barnes docent program himself, Callahan absorbed the Barnes principles so that now he applies them subconsciously to his unique painting style.”

A self-taught “outsider” artist, Callahan creates imagery from an authentic inner discipline. Relying on giftedness and innate yearnings, Callahan’s vignettes depict slices of obscure reality; spiritual glimpses gleaned at a glance. There is an ensuing visual and colloquial language.

Callahan is about color, composition and complexity. His joyful and bright palette belies an intense, contemplative and sometimes dark persona. Callahan presents complex faire through simple marks, shapes and iconic imagery. Composition is uniquely gestalt. Simplicity of elements supports complex makeup of an organism as a whole. Overlaying abstraction with form and figure, a similar effect to overlaying transparencies, the observant viewer can detect a melding of genres. With keen sensitivity, Chris develops a definitive rhythm through this body of paintings. Below See level is heady, sophisticated and challenging like Callahan.