“Where the Artists Are (in their studios),” at Drexel University’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, has a tempting lure, even if the result doesn’t quite match its premise. Going by the title, you might expect an exploration of how three known Philadelphia artists — Lewis Colburn, Anda Dubinskis, and Mark Stockton, all Drexel professors in the university’s Art and Art History department — develop their ideas privately, in their studios, with all the attendant frustrations that go hand in hand with making art.
I fully anticipated facsimiles of their studios, replete with failed works that never crossed over to a gallery wall. What was delivered, instead, was ultimately more intriguing: a dramatic show that juxtaposes early and current works by all three, revealing unexpected kinships among them.
Near the gallery entrance is Colburn’s sculpture The Long Journey (2011), with the form of a traditional grandfather clock but featuring a broken lunar hemisphere where the clockworks would ordinarily be. It’s situated diagonally across from three multipanel Dubinskis paintings from the 1980s that were inspired by 14th-century altarpiece paintings.
Dubinskis’ disquieting autobiographical paintings of herself lost in thought, or taking leave of her friends in Maine for a loft in Philadelphia are rendered starkly in oil, gold leaf, and wax on wood. Paired with Colburn’s upright, mostly wooden symbol of bygone America, they quickly assert the artists’ shared interest in history and the passage of time — and a mutual appreciation for authentic materials.
In between Colburn’s sculpture and Dubinskis’ paintings are a selection of Stockton’s tiny, meticulous, graphite drawings of notorious Americans (O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc.) from his 2006 series Record. These are are meditations on history of a more recent vintage.
Throughout the exhibition, Colburn’s sculptures make uncanny connections with Dubinskis’ paintings, not least in a gallery alcove installation of Colburn’s 2015 sculpture The Woodsman involving a disembodied cast urethane hand holding a hatchet and a branch. It’s placed near two oil-on-Mylar paintings Dubinskis made in 2000, one showing a tree trunk wounded by hatchet marks and the other a woman wielding a hatchet. Stockton’s drawings from his series The Hunters — of Ernest Hemingway, Lee Harvey Oswald, and others — reiterate the sense of impending violence.
Dubinskis’s 2009 gouache paintings of people photographed in the New York Times — and then isolated from their original news context — intersect neatly with Stockton’s 2006 series 1983, involving miniature paintings of Tom Cruise.
These connections aren’t integral to enjoying the show. I was just as interested in the trajectories of the three artists individually. You could certainly view this show as three distinct career surveys, especially in the case of Dubinskis, who’s seen moving from her early representational paintings on wood to paintings on paper and Mylar to her recent charcoal and pastel drawings of organic shapes.
Stockton’s shift from small and medium-size works to his monumental drawing of Kurt Cobain augurs future experimentation, as well. So do Colburn’s recent sculptures employing found photographs and objects fabricated from 3D scans found online.
Through March 18 at Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Drexel University, 3401 Filbert St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. 215-895-2548 or drexel.edu/pearlsteingallery.
Dieu Donné, the New York hand-papermaking institution that began in 1976 and moved from its former SoHo headquarters to the Brooklyn Navy Yard last year, is being celebrated in an exhibition at the Print Center.
“Collaborative Histories: Dieu Donné,” organized by Print Center curator John Caperton and Cynthia Nourse Thompson of the University of the Arts, presents unique and editioned handmade paper works and books made at Dieu Donné and Dieu Donné Press. Artists represented in the show include Do Ho Suh, Chuck Close, Mark Strand, and many more.
The works chosen for the exhibition highlight the variety of approaches contemporary artists have taken to papermaking. Suh treated papermaking as another method of drawing. Close’s faint Watermark Self-Portrait was realized through the traditional watermark process. Strand (better known as a poet) created his book Method much the way another artist might paint or sculpt, manipulating wet pulp, letting it dry, and then tearing and cutting his paper to make collages.
Through April 21 at the Print Center, 1614 Latimer St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 215-735-6090 or www.printcenter.org.
‘Disrupted’ realists at Stanek
We’ve all seen realist painting transformed to a dreamlike version of itself — famously here by such local masters as the late Ben Kamihira and Andrew Wyeth — but Stanek Gallery’s “Disrupted Realism,” organized by invited curator John Seed, offers new efforts in this direction. The mostly figurative paintings here by Robert Birmelin, Justin Duffus, Ann Harris, Alex Kanevsky, Bruce Samuelson, and others suggest a movement well underway.
Through Feb. 24 at Stanek Gallery, 242 N. Third St., noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. 215-908-3277 or www.stanekgallery.com.