If you've seen Anne Minich's painted constructions only in group shows here and there, her two concurrent exhibitions in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' historic building are likely to be a revelation.
I wandered through both of these remarkable shows, admiring Minich's idiosyncratic work, but also wondering why Minich, who is 82 and has spent most of her career in Philadelphia, hasn't had a proper museum or gallery survey in this city before now.
Better late than never, though. And PAFA, where Minich studied in 1954 and 1955 - and which owns at least two dozen of her works - has done her justice with two handsome installations.
The larger of Minich's exhibitions, "The Truth of Being Both/And," a survey of her works on paper and painted constructions spanning 1974 to 2013, in the Richard C. von Hess Foundation Works on Paper Gallery, reveals an artist who delights in frankness - sexual and otherwise - but who can also create intensely magnetic, hermetic works.
You sense, looking at the nude hermaphroditic figure in Sunday's Lover and a painted, vaguely representational construction such as Elephant's Graveyard, embedded with wood, shells, metal hardware, and other found materials, that Minich has always been fascinated by the dualities in nature.
She explores her personal dualities, as well. In Her Father's Daughter, a graphite drawing, she portrays herself bald from chemotherapy and physically joined to a male figure who shares her facial features, as though they are growing from the same tree or mountain range.
Minich draws beautifully; she's also skilled in carpentry. Her painted mixed-media constructions from the 1990s, such as Vermillion and Our Lady of the Blessed Wound are so seamlessly constructed they can appear to be made of vacuum-formed plastic or metal instead of wood. (Vermillion incorporates a strip of found metal and other objects, but is largely wood.)
The earliest works in this show, a series of 12 highly detailed drawings that Minich made from 1974 to 1976, while she was living in a small one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley, Calif., anticipate her later works, but not in the ways you might imagine.
Inspired by radio broadcasts on the subject of California's prison system and her own circumscribed environment, Minich's chartlike drawings of images and words arranged in grids, sometimes surrounding a central image, anticipate her later use of words in her painted constructions and her incorporation of a frame as an element of a painted construction.
Words and frames have survived to the present, but the careful plotting and planning from the "California Prison System" series is completely absent from the recent painted constructions that make up Minich's show "Boat Series" in PAFA's Alumni Gallery. Minich's mature work is entirely intuitive.
In her statement for this body of work, Minich recalls her experience of seeing the Swiss symbolist Arnold Böcklin's alluringly funereal painting Isle of the Dead for the first time as young girl. She was impressed by its mix of light and dark, mystery, sexual suggestiveness, "and how something tiny, the white figure in the boat, could play off a much larger image - the island and the surrounding water and sky."
All of those characteristics are present in these painted constructions that feature single, isolated boat shapes in backgrounds that suggest horizons of sky and sea.
A tiny figure or a sliver of a cloud may or may not be included in these calm, reflective scenes. A "boat" can be found driftwood or a piece of metal that Minich found on a beach or a city street that she sets into a wood support by carving a niche for it with an X-Acto knife and blade. The results are works that celebrate - or, more likely, mourn - traditional materials and techniques.
Through May 7 at PAFA's Richard C. von Hess Foundation Works on Paper Gallery and April 16 at the Alumni Gallery, both at 128 N. Broad St., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Unsettling, like our timesThough the intention behind the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery's group exhibition "After Now" was to bring together six contemporary Philadelphia artists who appropriate their images from other sources - think a new internet-enabled iteration of the Pictures Generation - the show seems eerily prescient of our current political state. It's unsettling art for unsettled times.
It's not easy to tell what certain works depict or how they were made, such as Micah Danges' framed ink-jet photographs, suggestive of reflective pools of dark liquid or mirrors, and Gideon Barnett's found photographs, in toner on bond paper.
The show's two painters, Michael Ciervo and Peter Allen Hoffmann, also leave one wondering what happened. Ciervo casts a film-noirish mood in his dark paintings with vestiges of representational imagery. Hoffmann's little paintings - some abstract, some representational - seem to be channeling Gerhard Richter.
Kelsey Halliday Johnson takes over a large wall with black-and-white found images of all kinds with a Barbara Kruger verve (although no impassioned words). Last but not least are Samuel Hindolo's chaotic collages of found paper on canvas supports, which suggest civil disobedience at the very least.
Through Feb. 28 at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts, 333 S. Broad St. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.