Beauties of the Common Tool

Roxana Azar

Jen Blazina

Will Douglas (featuring collaborations with Matthew Wicks)

Maria Möller

Cecilia Paredes

Makeba Rainey

gravy. 910 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123 · 267.825.7071

Exhibition Dates: June 7 – 29th, 2019

First Friday Opening Reception:  June 7th, 6 – 10pm

Sponsored by Powers Whiskey and Music by Mother MaryRose

Nolibs Second Saturday, June 8th, 1 – 5pm

Artist Brunch and Open Hours- Saturday June 22nd 1-5pm

Saturday Open Hours – 1-5pm and by appointment

Documenting objects with photography slowly transformed into its own artform with artists like Man Ray, Duchamp, Hans Bellmer, creating pieces which intertwined the two mediums.  This exhibition at Gravy is titled; Beauties of the Common Tool, references Walker Evans’ famous portfolio of photographs of ordinary tools in the 1950’s.  Today everyone used a new “common tool”; the photographic camera to document their lives and manipulate their world into art.  While digital technology has created imagery only used on a screen; this exhibition hopes to explore ways photographers are using materiality, the body, textures, objects, and installation to create multi dimensional pieces which expand our definition of photography.  

One theme throughout the work in this exhibition is the ability of the photographic objects to create multiple views for the viewer depending on the lighting and position of the pieces.  Roxana Azar’s work is influenced by science fiction, plant intelli-gence, anxiety, and floral design. In the Projections in the Last Greenhouse series, botanical images from greenhouses and conservatories are applied to reflective and colorful surfaces that allow sunlight to pass through, creating shadowplay and reflections that shift and create vivid colorful shadows, fluorescence, and prisms depending on the angle and quality of light.  They say, “I used to focus a lot on digital manipulation in my photographs, but now the materials I tend to use result in some sort of distortion and manipulation when viewing an image, whether it’s acrylic, mesh, or fabric. My fascination with these materials is that it shifts in color or shape as you move around it, so you’re never experiencing the surface in the same way.”

Glass artist, printmaker, and photographer; Jen Blazina creates ornate frames for her photographs of plaster sculptures set in nature.  This installation titled Menagerie is a combination of cast glass frames, glass flowers, and dye sublimation photographs on metal. She says, “The photographs were taken from an ephemeral site-specific installation which I created for Djerassi Artist Residency in Woodside, CA.  As a little girl, the forest and animals entranced me. Having grown up in a city, the forest seemed like a magical place where fairy tales came alive. Menagerie alludes to a dream like memory by using my sculpture in my photography and the elegance of glass baroque styled frames embellished with wild flowers.

Beauties of the Common Tool, gravy. Studio, Philadelphia Photography

In the collaborative works between Will Douglas and Matthew Drennan Wicks, the physical process of manipulating porcelain is fused with the digital process of image making. The flat, hand-built surface of a vessel becomes a screen for image on which to present a photographic image. The work vacillates between three- dimensional and two-dimensional space as both image and object work together to create tension. The artists are interested in the commercial and mass reproducibility of both images and objects; the hand-built vessel pushes against the immediacy of digital imaging. Establishing a new relationship between the two drives the traditional conventions of both materials into a new dialogue about the consumption of images and the viewing of objects.  

Created during a 2017 residency at a recycling center in Northeast Philadelphia, Maria Möller’s project One Last Time is a lens-based meditation on mortality, joy, and second chances. She developed a visual narrative that compares life cycles with waste cycles, salvaging six objects from Revolution Recovery and pairing each with a person in her life who is living in an especially close proximity to their own mortality. Working collaboratively with each participant, she staged a photo shoot during which the discarded object could fulfill its purpose “one last time.” After this shoot, another took place when the participant traveled to the recycling center and returned their object to the waste stream.

The images included in this exhibition by Cecilia Paredes are reminiscent of surrealist imagery while her use of pattern and color reveal her ties to Peruvian culture and visual vernacular of womanhood.  Paredes composes these photographs by selecting a patterned ground, such as floral wallpaper, and intricately paints her skin to match. Paredes says about her work, “Part of what makes us human is our ability to see beyond the narrow door through which we enter the world—to grow beyond the culture of our birth by recognizing other cultures, other patterns of life. Yet our birth culture is always imprinted upon us; the mystery of identity is never fully resolved. We are always from a time and place to which we can never return”

Makeba “Keebs” Rainey also uses the body, textures, and color to create photographic collages which are printed on fabric.  The piece in this exhibit is titled ‘Souls of Philly: London’ where the artist uses collage and statements from the subjects to share insights into her community with the audience.  Rainey’s creative practice focuses on building community and what that looks like. For her, community is an extension of family. By centering her work around social justice, specifically in regard to Black Americans, community becomes the key to liberation. Her artwork taps into aspects of the Black community, merging the old with the new by re-envisioning the ancestors through new media and creating space for young creatives to build and sustain themselves.

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