Galleries: String and sponges refined into art

A wall sculpture by Derrick Valesquez, made from vinyl strips over shaped wood supports, at Drexel University's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery.
A wall sculpture by Derrick Valesquez, made from vinyl strips over shaped wood supports, at Drexel University's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery.
Posted: March 10, 2014

It's been hit or miss at Drexel University's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery over the last few years, the former being the terrific and terrifying Wangechi Mutu solo show inaugurating the gallery's new space a little over a year ago, the latter being sprawling international shows that should have been more tightly edited and group shows of local artists whose works were too much alike, having the unfortunate effect of making everyone look generic.

The diversity of materials and processes used by the four local artists who make up the gallery's latest exhibition, "Raw to Refined: String, Tape, Sponges, and Vinyl" is a welcome change, though seasoned gallerygoers will note the show's somewhat tired premise, hard to ignore in an age when literally every material we know has sneaked its way into art, and quite often elegantly so.

Three of the show's artists bring new meaning to refined.

Nami Yamamato's two meticulously tatted filet lace "drawings" in red twine, displayed in delicate freestanding wood frames in the front of the gallery, reconstruct her observations of a redwood grove in coastal California (previously installed within that forest, they "caught" fog as it passed through them). Nearby, glass vitrines hold her careful arrangements of red twine, drawings, maps, and other ephemera related to her project; above them, Yamamoto has mounted a grid of photographs of her redwood site, and showing herself at work outside and in her studio. There is poetry here, but the grid of photos does not enhance it.

Mark Khaisman's perfect recreations of paintings, ads, and film-noir scenes in translucent packing tape mounted over light boxes have been shown at Pentimenti Gallery and the Woodmere Art Museum among other places, and could easily have inspired the show's theme. Khaisman's contributions here, film-still copies that display his usual process, stand out beautifully in the darkened back gallery, but his technique is beginning to seem too practiced.

Hanging dozens of different-colored vinyl strips over shaped wood supports, Derrick Valesquez creates wall sculptures that simultaneously summon thoughts of tribal headdresses and color-field painting.

By contrast, Margery Amdur, a process artist who has made wall sculptures using masses of cosmetic sponges (which she delicately colors in shades of pink), appears more interested in the potential for suggestions of movement and fluidity her shaped sponges allow her than in any kind of perfection or refinement. In fact, she subverts the purpose of a cosmetic sponge. The effect of these aggregations is of a creeping, but ultimately friendly, natural force.

Drexel University's Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, URBN Center Annex, 3401 Filbert St. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. 215-895-2548 or Through March 21.

Where in the world

Since beginning her career in the early 1970s as a member of the pattern-and-decoration and feminist art movements, Joyce Kozloff has exhibited her work all over the world, but her current exhibition at the Rowan University Art Gallery marks her first show in her native state.

Organized by gallery director Mary Salvante, Kozloff's show, "Cradle to Conquests: Mapping American Military History," which focuses on the map imagery Kozloff has devoted herself to since 2000, also is especially relevant to our times.

The show is dominated by Targets, a walk-in globe, its interior depicting all the sites bombed by the United States around the world since 1945. Kozloff is also showing works from her "Boys Art Series," for which she collaged drawings by her then-young son with nautical maps; and Rocking the Cradle, a life-size, 19th-century-style baby cradle collaged with a painted map of Mesopotamia.

Rowan University Art Gallery, Westby Hall, 201 Mullica Hill Rd., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 856-256-4521 or www. Through Saturday.

Loops and circles

There's a reason the swirling, looping gestures in lustrous reds and blues that animate Lisa Stefanelli's large paintings look so streamlined and flowing - she hand-paints them on backgrounds she sprays in an auto body shop. She's also a former figure skater, so repeated loops come naturally.

Stefanelli's show at Pentimenti Gallery also features metallic chromogenic color prints of altered landscapes on face-mounted Plexiglas that look somewhat out of place here, and an enormous, tangly freestanding floor sculpture, A Yellow Wood, that seems to augur a new direction.

Rene Trevino, whose circular, acrylic-on-mylar paintings of celestial and mandala-influenced imagery are so precisely rendered that they're mistaken for digital cutouts, has the other one-person show at Pentimenti. His Tenango Circle (Green) and multi-colored Aztec Rainbow are the most complex and exciting of these works.

Pentimenti Gallery, 145 N. Second St., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays 12 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. 215-625-9990 or Through March 22.

"Galleries" by Edith Newhall and "Art" by Edward J. Sozanski appear in alternate weeks.

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