Memorable two-person shows shouldn't be rare, but really - how often do you encounter match-ups in galleries that seem almost uncanny, in which the two artists' works might even be radically different but seem attuned to a similar harmonic underpinning of some ineffable kind? This month offers several such pairings, among them the following three two-person shows, which must have been arranged during an exceptional alignment of the planets.
Known for his energetic baseball scenes, Max Mason has now turned his eye to Philadelphia's outdoor sculptures, monuments, and fountains. His new plein-air paintings at Gross McCleaf Gallery capture such familiar sights as the Washington Monument (in the Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art), Lenape chief Teedyuscung (perched in full headdress on a bluff in the Wissahickon), the Swann Fountain in Logan Square, and the Dying Lioness sculpture at the Philadelphia Zoo. Mason's deft, painterly brushwork and affinity for the expressive qualities and musculature of human beings and animals makes them seem eerily alive, as though posing for their original sculptors.
After studying the small details in Mason's paintings, Evan Fugazzi's bold paintings of thick, curvaceous black strokes on white rectangular canvases, displayed in Gross McCleaf's back gallery, come across as details writ huge. Humanly made monuments echo in these, too. I thought of Romanesque architecture and Roman aqueducts, the way one might see such structures silhouetted against the midday sun's blinding light. His shapes also suggest medieval iron hinges, chains, and locks. At the same time, his deliberately rough paint application reminds you these are abstract paintings, descendants of Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell.
Through Oct. 29 at Gross McCleaf Gallery, 127 S. 16th St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Information: 215-665-8138 or www.grossmccleaf.com.
In something of a rarity, Snyderman-Works Gallery has given over its entire ground floor to two artists, allowing viewers to pick up on the unexpected vibes between Mi-Kyoung Lee's delicate, obsessively made sculptures, drawings, and paintings, and Will Preman's ceramic sculptures of dramatically simple forms.
In fact, once you get past the fact that Lee's sculptures comprise hundreds (perhaps thousands) of colored twist-ties twisted together to form a whole, you realize the overall shapes of her sculptures, which can resemble anything from a sombrero to a tree, are as minimal and wide-referencing as Preman's sculptures, whose forms strike me as hybrids of ancient Greek kouros sculptures and Casper the Friendly Ghost. It also becomes apparent that Lee and Preman use color as a unifying element in their works.
Through Nov. 19 at Snyderman-Works Galleries, 303 Cherry St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Information: 215-238-9576 or www.snyderman-works.com.
Cerulean Gallery's pairing of Michelle Oosterbaan's multi-panel abstract paintings inspired by Icelandic landscapes, and Anda Dubinskis' shadowy charcoal riffs on single decorative elements that take them into another realm, is possibly the most elegant two-person show this gallery has ever mounted.
With Oosterbaan on one wall and Dubinskis on the other, you can almost feel a conversation between the works and their artists - Oosterbaan navigating an extreme terrain in twilight colors, and Dubinskis inventing a dark fairy tale from a flower.
Through Oct. 29 at Cerulean Arts, 1355 Ridge Ave. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Information: 267-514-8647 or www.ceruleanarts.com.