It has long seemed that Philadelphia’s cultural community was destined to exist forever in New York’s shadow. Though it has had through its history great flourishes of home-grown creativity from Thomas Eakins and Frank Furness, great institutions like The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and collections like the Barnes Foundation and the Annenberg. These were still not enough to overcome its “second city” status to its neighbor up the Jersey Turnpike.
But now Philadelphia seems to embracing its outsider status as an anti-New York where artists and can actually afford to live and start up collective galleries and exhibit spaces.
There is a month long exhibition on some of those organizations called Citywide that features an array of independent art groups currently active in Philadelphia. Citywide will be on view through the end of November and to get a good idea of the arts in the city visit 319 North 11th Street building where two spaces, Vox Populi and Napoleon have on diverse but compelling exhibits. Vox Populi gallery, itself a collective exhibit space is showing other groups including surveys of Termite TV which has been in existence for 22 years and Space 1026. In the small Napolean gallery the space has been give over to a real life version of Being John Malkevich with a 1/16 scale model of Tractions enormous collaborative work space at 4100 Haverford Avenue in West Philadelphia (which is itself hosting an exhibition for CItywide “If I told Him: A collated Portrait of Picasso”). The Traction model is not to be missed experience and brilliant bit of workmanship by the fourteen member collective of artists and craftspeople.
Then across town in West Philadelphia, on Walnut Street is Slought (v) Foundation that has been curating—under the direction of founder and director Aaron Levy—a totally unique definition of cultural production and art making since it was founded in 2002. The Foundation’s space is currently showing the artist Knut Asdam who has created a sound and film projection Egress that explores transformation-social, economic, linguistic, psychological, and “identity related and architectural processes of change.”
Then across Walnut street Slought has installed a chain link sculpture of intersecting panes on the McHarg plaza in front of PennDesign and the Frank Furness designed red stone Library. This architecturally defined space if a perfect for Asdams work which asserts “place is not only understood in terms of of generic urban surroundings, but also in relation to distinct histories, demographic conditions and architectures.” The Asdam show closes December 2 when Slought will undertake a public destruction of the sculpture.