Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala are a strong twosome in the exhibit "Problemy" at Haverford College. Wonderfully wacky humorists from South Jersey, these artist brothers work collaboratively, teach at their Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts alma mater, and lately have been winning major prizes all over the place.
Their exhibit features sculptures, watercolors of an unusual sort, and digital prints, all examining and questioning consumer culture. They've also built two of their bracing, large, site-specific pieces outdoors near the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery entrance.
While they've produced outlandish contraptions like their Cast-Iron Ice-Cream Battle Wagon, an old bread delivery truck made into an attack vehicle selling ice cream, the Dufala Brothers are most effective when they take a simpler throwaway item and give it a new identity by joining it to something else they've shaped or carved to fit. As a result, a commonplace object turns into pure fantasy, like the broom that could sweep an entire staircase in a single motion, if we knew how to brandish it.
Then there's the fiberglass-insulation armchair and sofa - so inviting, yet so toxic if we were to seat ourselves. We're attracted and repelled at the same time.
Also included is a "Free Wall" bulletin board containing photocopies of Dufala Brothers sketches that visitors are invited to take home.
For all the amusing encounters it provides, "Problemy" is a show that makes us think. And the boys are at the top of their game.
How to explain why Ursinus College's Berman Museum of Art, for its latest main-gallery display, has chosen to explore a previously unfamiliar venue? The solo show by a living artist of the Brandywine tradition of Chadds Ford is titled "All My Places: Landscapes, Portraits & Whimsy: The Art of Karl J. Kuerner" and features 58 works, some quite large, on view until mid-December.
Kuerner, 53, has been a neighbor of the Wyeths of Chadds Ford all his life, and his work shows the unmistakable influence of Wyeth artists. Somehow the time doesn't yet seem ripe to explore the work of the many extant painters of that Chester County tradition.
This event in particular feels more like a welcoming outreach display than one that defines Kuerner's artistic achievement. Too, the Berman several years ago specifically declared its interest in documenting art by women of our region. Perhaps therefore the Kuerner show, featuring a hardworking and dedicated artist, is a roundabout way of saluting the late Carolyn Wyeth - Andrew's sister - for it was she who discovered and encouraged Kuerner when she was his first art teacher.
C. Pazia Mannella offers a fresh viewpoint on everyday experience in her found-object sculptures at St. Joseph's University. Her sophisticated wearables owe their strength to the broadening concept of what constitutes art today, which has resulted in a resurgence of handcrafts.
This Pittsburgh native, who now teaches at Temple's Tyler School of Art, wants her decorative abstractions to contain a good deal of human experience. One of her work's great strengths is its skillful interweaving of two themes - what's socially commonplace and what's personal among the materials she uses.
Substantial 3-D pieces that capture her natural strengths and gifts include an attractive long scarf she made from machine-sewed zippers, neck pieces from machine-sewn coffee filters stained with colored inks, and take-a-number tickets lovingly trimmed and combined with crocheted thread. Hers is a cultivated, meticulous, unhedging vision definitely worth watching.