I visited the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts recently to see Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe – Works 1970-2011, which was a real eye-opener. I have to go back and look harder before I can report on it.
But while I was there, I wandered around the 2nd floor galleries in the Hamilton Building, and found several old and new friends. Readers of this blog will remember that I’ve been working my way through Philagrafika’s annual invitational portfolios. As I looked around the gallery, I found work in PAFA’s collection by some of the artists I’ve featured recently, as well as a few new favorites.
First of all, outside on Lenfest Plaza is Jordan Griska’s Grumann Greenhouse, 2011. Griska transformed a de-commissioned Grumman Tracker II US Air Force plane used to track and bomb submarines into a work of sculpture, including working greehouses in the former cockpit. After service by the Air Force, the plane was used by the California Department of Forestry who used it to fight fires. Now the greenhouse is the source of nutritive and medicinal plants, provided by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and food for City Harvest, which feeds low income families in the region.
Judith Schaechter’s stained glass piece, Autobiography, 1999, is another of her gruesomely beautiful pieces. She uses the beauty of her colors and compositions to draw the viewer into her narratives of modern life that rely on stained glass techniques used in Medieval cathedrals, transformed into the language of undergound comics and political satire.
In This Place is Ours, 2005, Jim Houser has collaged acrylic paintings on paper onto a larger canvas, using his familiar imagery inspired by his interest in color, scientific principles, plants, and animals. He’s a contemporary, young self-trained artist, coming from the world of skateboard culture.
I was pleased to see this work by my friend Ana Vizcarra Rankin. I met her a few years ago when we were in a show together at 110 Church Gallery in Old City. She finished her degree at PAFA this year, winning the Judith McGregor Caldwell Purchase Prize from the Pennsylvania Academy Annual Student Exhibition with this piece, Global Optimization Diagram. 2012, Rankin is inspired by the night sky, an experience she nicely captures in this work.