Galleries: Two mount solo shows at Pentimenti

Edith Newhall, For The Inquirer

Updated: Sunday, May 15, 2011, 3:01 AM

Mark Havens' photograph "Untitled (Displacement) No. 41" (2011), at JAGR: Projects in the Rittenhouse. It's part of a series of images of car decals.

Their art may be visually dissimilar, but Cecilia Biagini and Matthew Cox, who are currently having their first solo shows at Pentimenti Gallery, share an interest in pattern, repetition, construction, and materials. And, like that of many of the artists who've exhibited here, their work is meticulously made.

Mark Havens' photograph "Untitled (Displacement) No. 41" (2011), at JAGR: Projects in the Rittenhouse. It's part of a series of images of car decals.
Flore Gardner's "The Holy Family" is a vintage photograph that she has embroidered.
Cecilia Biagini's wall sculpture "Detail to Detail," vinyl paint on wood. She is also showing paintings.
Photo Gallery: Galleries: Two mount solo shows at Pentimenti

Biagini, from Buenos Aires and now in Brooklyn, shows paintings and wall-mounted sculptures that create a sense of rhythm with repeated lines and geometric forms. In her paintings, thin parallel lines of yellow, orange, and pale blue swoop synchronistically against darker backgrounds, looking as though they're floating in space.

Her sculptures, by contrast, are made up of multiple, thinly cut L-shaped and rectangular pieces of wood, painted in a variety of hues (Gene Davis, the Washington Color School painter, used many of the same ones in combination) and arranged to suggest a series or pattern that somehow has been disrupted. A Fantasy of Discourse (2011), for instance, in which colored rectangles are arranged sideways in row stacked upon row, resembles a shelf of books or CDs leaning this way and that, as if the spaces are where objects were removed. Propelled Desire (2011) suggests the classic circular Rolodex as seen from the side, with some of its index cards askew.

Biagini clearly has taken inspiration from her native country's geometric abstraction of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, and from Latin American contructivism in general. The seemingly oscillating lines in her paintings bring to mind paintings by Eduardo McEntyre and Miguel Angel Vidal, key figures in the Grupo Generativo, while the forms of her sculptures take some cues from the carved wood reliefs of Brazilian sculptor Sergio Camargo, who studied in Buenos Aires. But she has concocted a geometric abstraction that is playful, personal, and very much of the present.

Matthew Cox's hand-embroidered X-rays are creepy fun, transposing colorful, lighthearted tapestries of yellow tulips and smiley faces onto somber gray-and-black images of the human skeleton. His pieces from this year, in which a tapestry area is isolated against an image (not integrated into it as in his earlier pieces, when, for example, a face is half-X-ray, half-tapestry), are the more polished works of his show.

Though it's well done and expresses the same idea of happiness and fear coexisting in one place as his X-ray embroidery pieces do, Cox's large oil painting, Gargoyles #2 (2010), of two such creatures spraying water at two smiling, swimsuited women who seem oblivious to them, comes a bit out of left field.

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

Use it up, wear it out With "Old Souls (Reincarnated Objects)," Wexler Gallery continues its foray into craft-oriented contemporary art, bringing together four young artists who use found vintage materials and objects as an integral part of their work.

Vintage textiles and found linens are the "canvas" into which Orly Cogan, a New York artist, stitches her narratives about contemporary relationships and gender roles. Nude female and male figures are depicted in what appear to be symbolic journeys. Self-taught artist Henry Darger's Vivian Girls would seem to be a touchstone for Cogan.

Of the artists currently using old books as a medium - and there are many - Atlantan Brian Dettmer combines imagination with surgical precision, transforming found illustrated tomes into carved paper sculptures. Though they appear to be embellished with images from other books, each piece constitutes one book from which parts of pages and covers have been removed.

Areas of found vintage photographs are stitched with thread or painted out with gouache by Scottish-born Flore Gardner, who lives in Europe and apparently owns a trove of vintage photos (and magazines and old drawing papers) from which to choose. Gardner's selected prints may be black-and-white or color snapshots and usually convey a feeling of in-betweenness, most successfully in the pictures partially masked with paint.

Chicagoan Jessica Joslin's clever sculptures of imaginary skeletal creatures are intricate assemblages of the stuff she's collected since childhood: antique mechanical parts, brass fittings, animal bones, feathers and the like, and could pass for the obsessive efforts of a mad Victorian. Parts of her sculptures, such as a lower jaw, are designed to be moved. Joslin's aliens are the latest in a line of unsettlingly lifelike, figurative sculptures, both animal and human, shown by Wexler over the past three years, by various artists. All hover dangerously close to kitsch.

Wexler Gallery, 201 N. Third St., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-923-7030 or www.wexlergallery.com. Through June 25.

Up close at JAGR Most of us can recall the advertising imagery of our youth, including the Burma Shave and South of the Border signs that were in place before we were born. Mark Havens' childhood attraction to car decals probably anticipated his aesthetic preferences as an adult, he posits, which is why he decided to shoot them and enlarge them in prints to explore their intrinsic iconic-ness. The resulting series, "Displacement," is on view at JAGR: Projects, and it's likely even the non-decal-centric will be moved.

JAGR: Projects, The Rittenhouse, 3rd floor, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. 215-735-6930.

Edith Newhall, For The Inquirer

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