Being surrounded by Rose Wylie's huge, messy, colorful paintings is exhilarating, especially if you've heard that Wylie, a British artist, has just turned 78 - and even more so when you notice that most of the work in this exhibition at University of the Arts' Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery dates from the last decade.
Wylie lives and works in a village in Kent but her images come from all over the map. Movie stars, fashion models, British royals, cats, dogs, footballers, a robin, and giant supermarket flowers populate her paintings. She often paints parts of sentences across her canvases in large capital letters that suggest both tabloid headlines and ransom notes.
In her diptych painting Lords and Ladies (2006), a male figure in Elizabethan dress dominates the left side of the painting; on the right, a white ghostlike female seems to be swaying to music. Across the top of the two panels Wylie has written "FOR BETTER FOR WORSE DIVORCE IS ALWAYS STRESSFUL BUT" and at the bottom left, under the male figure, "PRINCE Philip." It's about the divorce of Charles and Diana, one assumes, presented as an archetype, a contemporary news event, and a mystery.
Wylie's works on paper tend to be on a more intimate scale, and often comprise several pieces of paper arranged in a hodgepodge. As in her large paintings, she makes tapping into her psyche look as easy as pie. Or baked goods. Dream, Yellow Bricks, biscuit-head (small), a watercolor from 2009, shows a woman crawling on her hands and knees along a yellow brick road with a separate piece of white paper collaged over her head, on which Wylie has painted a black-and-white cracker (American-speak for biscuit). "DRE" and "AM" are painted along the bottom as separate words.
Some critics have compared Wylie, who has a degree from the Royal College of Art, to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Donald Baechler (the latter is the more apt), but she likely developed her faux-naif style on her own, across the pond.
UArts' Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, 333 S. Broad St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. 215-717-6480 or www.uarts.edu/about/rosenwald-wolf.
Window dressingSometimes a new home can make a real difference.
Certainly it has for Eileen Neff's color photographs, which look uncannily like views through windows and doors as displayed on Bridgette Mayer Gallery's walls, an effect I never noticed in any of Neff's shows at Locks Gallery. Partly it's the houselike dimensions and proportions of Mayer's gallery, the redesigned parlor floor of a late-18th-century house, which makes one believe that additional windows and rooms could exist there. But it strikes me now that Neff's work was always too uncontained by Locks' wide-open, high-ceilinged spaces. Here, you are drawn into her images of rooms, sultry sunset skies, cloud formations, landscapes, and spaces with objects. They control the space in ways they were not able to before.
As it is mounted on the back wall of the back gallery, Neff's largest photograph, Here and There (2012), which shows a straight-on view of a room with various objects in it, could easily pass for an actual room beyond the gallery. Good Night Rain (2012), of a sunset as seen through a rain-spattered window, offers a similar illusion.
Neff's clever Postcloud (2012), a postcard rack filled with multiple ink-jet prints on cards that make up one large image of a cloud, offers its own poetic stand-alone illusion within the gallery.
Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-413-8893 or www.bridgettemayergallery.com. Through Saturday.
Home cookingGallery 339 was thinking about putting on a group show of photos of architecture, but the concept seemed a little dry. Then came an epiphany by way of the Talking Heads' 1978 album More Songs About Buildings and Food.
The result is "More Photos About Buildings and Food," an exhaustive look at arresting contemporary shots of the former by Andrea Modica, William Christenberry, David Graham, Neil Winokur, Zoe Strauss, and a host of emerging photographers. Strauss' images of two "half-houses" in Philadelphia are among the strongest in the show.
Gallery 339, 339 S. 21st St., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-731-1530. Through Dec. 22.