It is not often a gallery’s walls are painted a specific color to flatter the art. It’s certainly not common to paint a gallery’s white walls black.
But that’s what UArts’ Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery has done for Mark Thomas Gibson, a recent transplant to Philadelphia from New Haven, Conn., for the exhibition “The Dangerous One." And it’s precisely what Gibson’s sprawling, frenetic, black ink drawings called for.
His drawings have such visual intensity that the images don’t just “pop" against their unusual backdrop. They explode.
Gibson’s dystopian reenactments of American history seem to have been created in a feverish bout of energy. A deranged George Washington crosses the Delaware surrounded by a drunken, vomiting crew of lowlifes. Hungry Pilgrims boil and devour Native Americans. A Trump rally of smiling, wide-eyed supporters has a mysterious black hole at the front of the auditorium.
Several contemporary satirical artists are freely quoted in Gibson’s works, most obviously Raymond Pettibon, Robert Colescott, and Kara Walker. It struck me later that he’s also referencing William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress and Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War.
Gibson’s pastiches are thoroughly his own, though, powered by dark humor and high-octane drawing.
Through March 8 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. 215-717-6480 or uarts.edu/about/rosenwald-wolf-gallery.
Since 2006, Diane Burko has been documenting climate change in her paintings and photographs, traveling to such far-flung destinations as Antarctica, Greenland, Norway, and American Samoa. In the process, she’s met with scientists and become an eco-activist as well as an artist.
A selection of her recent paintings, photographs, and prints are now on display in “Repairing Our Earth (Tikkun Olam)” at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, located within North Broad Street’s historic Rodeph Shalom.
The show’s largest and earliest paintings, from 2009, are based on aerial photographs at Glacier National Park that show the shocking diminishment of the Grinnell Glacier over time. The paintings are beautifully rendered in postcard colors — part of Burko’s strategy to get people focused on what they’re losing.
Burko’s paintings of Pacific coral reefs, made in the last year, reveal a similar degradation. They also mark a new, looser way of painting for her. Minus their titles, they’d pass for abstractions.
Her photographs are telling and direct. “On the Way to Eqi” shows a group of seagulls atop a melting iceberg off the coast of Greenland. It’s a haunting image that makes you think, “That could be us.”
Through April 30 at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 N. Broad St., 267-930-7292 or rodephshalom.org. By appointment only.
Larry Francis studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 1970s and is an instructor there. But his unpretentious paintings of everyday street scenes in Philadelphia suggest he has the soul of a self-taught artist.
“The City in a New Light,” at Gross McCleaf Gallery, showcases recent paintings from sites in Center City, Old City, Roxborough, and other locales — collectively infused with an optimistic light.