Thursday, July 06, 2006

Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

Oh, Philly just got a lot more exciting yesterday when I popped up from the greenline to discover this gallery. There were several inspiring shows: Sara Reisman's Soft Sites and Candida Hofer's Architecture of Absence, in particular. I was struck by the spectacle of absence, the suspended potential, in Hofer's photographs of spaces, usually grand in scale, and momentarily at least, empty. In New York one is always struck by any kind of stillness or absence since there is so little of it.* Hofer's approach to photography--a kind of minimalist archival impulse--reminds me a little of Burtynsky, though more subtle in its critique of social and historic moments. There is something absolutely classical about the single point perspective of these photos.
Soft Sites, riffing on the word's geographic root as a place of seismic activitity, are spaces in flux. The show includes "intangible aspects" and delightful metaphors that expand the categories of art as much as the location of it. Picnic on the Ocean, for example, which sees a Japanese and Korean artist meeting each other out in the ocean at the ideological and mythical border between those two cultures. Other pieces inlcuded a wonderful 3d image of a House Dreaming by Peter Dudek, Vinyl Penants and neon messages by Soledad Arias, and several artists working in the realm of the botanical, reminding us of our culture's war on "native plants", its arbitrary designation of weed, while reclaiming, or reconnecting citizens with landscapes that may be familiar and unknown. The wetlands we drive by, or peer out at from our train windows... In this case the legacy of Bartram's Garden.
A quick glance at Zoe Strauss's Ramp Projects brought me back to the city, to the people and the spaces we inhabit...I didn't have time to spend in the work (and shall return to do so), but I love the fact that she interacts directly with the streets and people using them. She even has a blog! She's awesome. And coming soon to the Whitney.

* Note the post of yesterday's Chinatown photos: not a predictable representation of Chinatown (though of course I took those too); the near-stillness (there is a pigeon, a man in the far right who has snuck into the park, on lock-down for some reason, and water moving...), seemed to me like striking gold.

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