Musson's fabric 'paintings' at Fleisher/Ollman

Jayson Musson's diptych "Sherrie," of mercerized cotton/lycra stretched over cotton, is an amalgam of images of works by contemporary artist Sherrie Levine.
Jayson Musson's diptych "Sherrie," of mercerized cotton/lycra stretched over cotton, is an amalgam of images of works by contemporary artist Sherrie Levine.
Posted: January 20, 2013

Previously best known for his entertaining YouTube skewerings of the art world, "Art Thoughtz With Hennessy Youngman," Jayson Musson, now having his first show with Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, has since become an official member of that sector. He's been cutting up Coogi sweaters (the colorful patterned cotton knitwear sported by Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show and more recently by various rappers) into strips of fabric that he assembles and stitches into patterns of his own. Pulled over stretchers, the finished tapestrylike works look as though they must be based on particular paintings, and their titles hint at such connections, but Musson's fabric manipulations are so subtle it's difficult to pinpoint specific forebears.

Many of Musson's fabric "paintings" do clearly reference particular artists' styles and works, though. His Pygmalion VI, of wavy horizontal patterns fashioned in an unexpectedly pale, neutral palette of Coogi colors, looks vaguely like a Marsden Hartley or a John Marin seascape.

How Do You Get From Here to the Rest of the World?, which at nearly 6 feet by 8 feet is the show's largest work, is reminiscent of several paintings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Francis Picabia's La Source (The Spring), and Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?.

Kazimir's Folly and the diptych Sherrie are amalgams of images of works by Kazimir Malevich and the contemporary artist Sherrie Levine (whose appropriations of works by Walker Evans, Marcel Duchamp, and other artists are, in fact, copies).

Standing back from Musson's works is the obvious way to recognize their myriad hints and clues. They come into focus from a distance. But that makes what I consider to be the overriding reference almost hard to see. And that is that Musson, who is black, is using materials and techniques - cotton and sewing - that have a long association with African American art and crafts, from the quilts of Gee's Bend, for instance, to the works of such black contemporary artists as David Hammons and Nick Cave. This is an especially compelling aspect of Musson's new work and it requires the closest examination of his efforts.

Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut St., 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 215-545-7562 or Through Saturday.

Inspired by Laos

Snyderman-Works Galleries has devoted its upstairs gallery to recent paintings and works on paper by Larry Spaid that were inspired by a trip he took along the Mekong River in Laos in 2008 while on a research leave from Temple University (Spaid is now a professor emeritus at Temple's Tyler School of Art).

Spaid's paintings on raw canvas are the stars of his show, depicting faint lines that might be river grasses, ripples in water, or the textures of fabrics and papers he saw in villages along the river. Occasionally, a misty area near the bottom of a painting obscures such markings like a morning fog. The simpler this work is, the more poetic and meditative.

Spaid has created a tribute to the late sculptor and printmaker Bill Walton in a glass vitrine in the back of the gallery, of small objects that combine two or more everyday materials. They look like Spaid's work and quite unlike Walton's sculptures - they're colorful, for one thing - but they have a similarly talismanic quality.

Snyderman-Works Gallery, 303 Cherry St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-238-9576 or Through Saturday.

Art reached via bridge

Artists Timothy Belknap and Ryan McCartney have curated a second show in Crane Arts' Icebox space (the first was "Refuse Reuse: Language for the Common Landfill") that takes up less space than any show I've ever seen here. For this new effort, "Winter Down," a five-person show, Belknap and McCartney have constructed a 10-by-10-by-10-foot gallery in the middle of the immense Icebox space that can be entered only by crossing a suspended wooden bridge.

It's not a very long bridge, but it's swaying and creaky enough to make you want to spend some time in Belknap and McCartney's mini-gallery. If the thought of walking the plank again doesn't prolong your visit, the art, which is excellent, will.

The Albert Barnes-influenced, salon-style presentation of paintings by Becky Suss, Amy Lincoln, and Beth Livensperger; the painted wood objects by Douglas Witmer; and the mechanical sculptures by Mike Stifel are all pure fun, as is following the numbered, perfectly rendered diagrams that Belknap and McCartney have provided for identification of the artists' works. Actually, that bridge is fun, too.

Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American St., Noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. 215-232-3203 or Through Feb. 10.

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