Saturday, August 1, 2009

Art in City Hall: Antiquated or Activated?

Roberta Fallon's recent article in the Philadelphia Weekly has sparked a lively discussion on weather or not Art In City Hall still serves the Philadelphia art community. Check it out here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Philadelphia's own University of the Arts will be hosting:
Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6
1-6 PM
The Gershman Y
401 South Broad Street
(southeast corner of Broad and Pine)
Philadelphia, PA 19147

For a list of vendors, visit here.
Visitors get in free!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Queer Studies Conversation

The Book Arts Listserve has recently engaged in a conversation about Queer Theory and Artist Books. Mary Tasillo, of the Book Arts Jet Set, has some insight that I thought was interesting. Check it out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Megawords Responses

Below are Dan Murphy and Anthony Smyrski's responses to the Megawords and Culture Ethics post. My uploading of their comments has beeen delayed, let me publicly apologize here.

Mr. Graphic Conscience,

Thanks so much for this, it is exactly the sort of critical dialogue we are looking to incite. It's sorely needed in Philadelphia, and elsewhere.

I certainly appreciate the review. In regards to recycling,we do often print on recycled paper when possible (believe it or not, its indeed MORE expensive to print on recycled paper). Considering Megawords is funded by ourselves, cost is always an issue. However the printer we do use, Signature Offset, is quite conscious environmentally. Here's some more info:

And as an answer to your parting question, I think Megawords is a great example of art (please note however, we do hesitate to call ourselves artists) can be eco-conscious without being about being eco-conscious.

Thanks again,

Just took a few moments to further dig into your blog, some good stuff... however while we are on the subject of misspellings in Megawords, I'd thought I'd let you know that Shepard Fairey is spelled as such, not Shepherd, as you have spelled it in this article:

I worked with him as art director at Swindle magazine for 3 years, and thought I should correct spelling of his name.

Best regards,

And in further news regarding Megawords:

Megawords tenth issue recaps the recent storefront project. The special edition reflects upon the exhibition's thirty-one days as a physical outlet for creativity in a melange of color and black and white photographs, reproductions of storefront plans and proposals, and written reflections about the project.

Get your copy here:

You can also subscribe to Megawords here:

Megawords Ten
112 color pages
5" x 7"
Perfect Bound

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Vincent Van Gogh on Conscience

Conscience is a man's compass, and though the needle sometimes deviates, though one often perceives irregularities when directing one's course by it, one must still try to follow its direction.
-Vincent van Gogh, (1853-1890)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Megawords and Art Culture Ethics

I recently picked up a copy of Megawords Magazine, issue #7, that was laying around Space 1026 last First Friday. It’s from 2007, so my review here is a quite a bit outdated.

If you are unfamiliar, Megawords is a Philadelphia freezine. Produced by Dan Murphy and Anthony Smyrski, they record and discuss their interests in a commercially printed venue without commercialization. Quite a few people know of it, however, outside of Mary Tasillo’s Democratic Multiple presentation at Pyramid Atlantic last year, no one ever seems to know of or talk about what’s between its covers. (Maybe that’s why no one seems to notice all their misspellings).

This issue focuses on their typical intersecting interests in graffiti, music, media culture, and art. Structured as a series of interviews, they concentrate on several individuals whose creative foci are as serving as producers for alternative and niche populations. Some of them, such as Steve Powers and Ari Forman, former editors/producers of On The Go magazine, who discuss their struggles with credibility, financial strain, and the ethics of innovation versus selling out, come across as heroes of the contemporary art world at large. For these two, when the choice arrived between financial stability and surrendering creative control, they chose not to surrender.

Others of those they interview pontificate with great arrogance, with an underlying message of we know everything and we don’t care. They stress their rebellious and unique natures, overlooking how that doesn’t really make them any different from the rest of the world. I’m so weary of the “too cool for school” rhetoric. It leaves me hungry for someone with a dose of humility. If I ever encounter such, it will be much more original.

Despite this, some tidbits worthy of consideration do arise from their Q&A formats. Sam Schwartz, former editor of the Philadelphia Independent, provides real insight into journalism and cultural commentary. The artist known as Adams speaks of his work as a guerilla civil and social engineer. And finally, William Pym has some things to say. I was particularly intrigued over his comment, “Art’s got to be disposable. Made out of paper – or, it’s got to have the ability to last centuries. It’s one or the other.”

I am disturbed by his use of the word “disposable.” Why, in our culture of Styrofoam packaging and crowded landfills, did he choose this word? In the interview, he does not differentiate really between disposable paper art and what art that can last for centuries should be made of (could that be the Styrofoam of the art world?). Why didn’t he use the word ephemeral? Or recyclable? Pym goes on to compare art to some sort of spiritual indulgence, evoking the original purpose of indulgences.

If art is some sort of spiritual indulgence for the purchaser, I cannot help but wonder if that makes artists some sort of modern day pilgrim, nun/monk or shaman? If so, it brings another set of questions to mind.

What are artists’ ethical responsibilities to issues of disposability or recyclability? Megawords is printed on paper, which is made from a non-renewable resource – trees – in a time when our nation chops down a forest the size of the state of Pennsylvania every year to supply our paper needs. To give them their due, they encourage their readers to recycle their zine when finished. However, I’d encourage them to go one step further, and print on recycled paper to begin with.

The underlying question seems to be: is contemporary art above an eco-ethical responsibility in its creation? Or is it a worthy sacrifice? Can contemporary art be eco-conscious without being about being eco-conscious?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hope Poster Copyright Controversey Debated on Colbert Report

An entertaining debate on copyright and the issues of the Hope Poster by Shepherd Fairey. David Ross, former director of SFMoMA the Whitney Museum is featured. Check it out here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Philagrafika 2010 in the News

Philadelphia will attempt to become the worldwide nexus of contemporary printmaking when a new art biennial, Philagrafika 2010, commences next year. From WHYY's Arts and Culture desk, Alex Schmidt reports. To hear the interview, visit here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Drawing Soiree

In the basement of Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts hides a space called Gallery One. Gallery One is the student-run gallery, a space set aside for students to experiment, exhibit, and curate, the art world version of training wheels. Book Arts and Printmaking MFA Candidate Bobby Rosenstock has coordinated a collaborative experiment currently on view called Drawing Soiree.

This exhibition is a testament to what art students can do with free time and a case or two of beer. After covering the walls of Gallery One with paper, he asked fellow artists to spend the night there with him, working spontaneously, creating a collective stream-of-consciousness on the walls.

Full of energy and rhythm, this installation doesn't care what you think. It is laissez-faire as art. Yet Soiree is free of the pretentiousness of similiar experiments. It celebrates young artists, but serious young artists trying to figure out what they can do. None of that overly cool, hipster/poseur crap here.

Rosenstock provided no signage or information listing how long Soiree would be on view, or when its doors would be open. And Gallery One is a difficult space to see for those outside of the UArts community. However, it is experimental exhibitions such as Drawing Soiree that proves that there are Philadelphia art students, and their exhibitions, that can defy the "student show" label.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Closing of the Rose

This weekend, Roberta Smith of The New York Times published an article about Brandeis University's decision to close their Rose Art Museum and sell their collection. Check out the article here.

Tyler Green has also been following the evolution of this story. To check out his thoughts, visit here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Graphic Action

On this Inauguration Day, moments after President Barack Hussein Obama has been sworn into office, I am so moved and must raise my voice to the throng!

As part of his acceptance speech, President Obama has called Americans to service. He has reminded our nation of that its greatest value is in our ability to make change by being the change ourselves, that we have a generosity of spirit that defies boundaries. He has called upon this spirit, asking us to use our talents and ingenuity to be contributors to our communities. The pundits say this is a call to sacrifice, the spiritual will say that is really a gift.

At this moment, as an artist, I cannot help but remember one aspect of Obama's campaign journey -- the Hope poster (see above). Originally designed and printed by Shepherd Fairey, who offered the design as a free download off of his website, this image metamorphosed from a mere campaign promo to an icon of American ideals. A screen print of which has recently been acquired by the Smithsonian Museum, to read the details, visit here.

I call upon artists to remember these two concepts - this call to service, and the power of art to influence. That through our art, as evidenced not only by Shepherd Fairey, but by artists like Lorraine Schneider, Tim Rollins and K.O.S, by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Love Armor Project, the Combat Paper Project, in the past through projects like the WPA, artists of this country, particularly those in the graphic arts like printmaking, have the ability to capture, define, and impact the moment. I have always believed, some would say held faith, in the hope that art can make the world better. Images have the ability to go beyond their maker -- how many Americans can identify the Hope poster as the work of Shepherd Fairey? Does it mattter? -- to become instruments of transformation. Because of this, I call upon all artists to consider ways to use their talents and their creativity as service to larger ideals and a greater whole.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reading in Bubbles at the Crane

Susan White's installation read, on view in the Inliquid Space at the Crane Arts Building until February 28, creates an ethereal world of mark, motion and material.

Based on patterns of marbleized paper, she has created a layered world with an airy sense of motion that carries viewers' eyes through the entire space. As viewers become engaged, they are drawn in closer, by altered books and plastic droplets backed with text attached directly to the wall (see photo above, by the Graphic Conscience).

It appears that White created this directly on the wall, using the space itself as a substrate like paper or canvas, turning the entire hallway into a unified artwork. As a textual piece, read is one of the most original and subtle that I have seen in a while. It is almost as if White somehow dissolved the visual elements of the book itself, setting them free in diaphanous form through a method of book art witchcraft, simultaneously causing words to condense like dew.

White's installation is by far the best I have seen in the Inliquid Space to date. Her installation is a testament to a mature vision and the ability to work site-specifically. Some of the installations that have previously presented in that space have felt incomplete or disconnected from the environment itself. White's installation succeeds fantastically.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Patterns, Neckties, and the Apocalypse at Rebekah Templeton - Where else?

As a lover of repetition and pattern, Second Thursday was great for my soul. Between Sue White's installation Read at the Inliquid Space at the Crane Arts Building (keep your eyes peeled for a future post!), and Dan Schank's Up At Night at Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art, I was well sated with patterns.

Schank works in what is the generally overly popular style based in a mix of graphic novels, comic books, tatoos, cartoons, "untrained" artists, and skateboarding. Usually when I see painting like Schank's, I often feel that they would be much better as screen prints, which would infuse them with an immediacy and an awareness of their markmaking that would improve them exponentially. However, I sense that such painters, with their typical contempt for anything but their own medium, want to make "Real Art," so they have to be paintings.

However, Schank's gouache and cut paper works transcends this philosophy of mine. Schank is expressing in a very fresh way this young, graphic outlook on the world. Yet at the same time, he is the next step in its evolution, with a mature sense of content other than just what's cool that particular second. He incorporates textures and patterns together without overwhelming the viewer, clearly he has a gift for being able to create exactly the right texture he needs. At the same time, he has an exacting attention to detail, yet manages to control negative space and leave open areas for his viewers to breathe in his convoluted landscapes.

The apocalypse is a popular theme for artists right now. Generally, when something becomes fashionable, I develop a certain disdain for it, and want to make sure my own work goes completely in the opposite direction. Yet Schank's lighthearted works avoid the typical didactic feel that underlies such themes. He depicts dark landscapes haunted by impish neckties and laundry. Viewers are torn between the dual senses of the dire and the playful.

(As a final note, despite what I said before, I encourage Schank to venture into printmaking. His graphic sensibility will translate beautifully and the processes will expand and open his sense of play and composition. Trust me).

Up All Night will be on view until February 28, 2009. I encourage those who haven't ventured into Kensington yet to visit gems like Rebekah Templeton, to make the effort soon and not miss this exhibition.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gender on the Book Arts Jet Set

Mary Tasillo, blogger of the Book Arts Jet Set, has a recent and insightful post about road literature and women writers. To read her thoughts, visit here.