It’s a good day when a stroll down an ordinary city street, en route to a run-of-the-mill meeting or appointment, brings you in contact with something that catches the corner of your eye and engages your vision. The Fabric Workshop and Museum currently offers two street-side installations that promise to make a walk past the windows worthwhile.
“Storefront,” a collaborative installation by Mark Bradford and Juan Carlos Avendaño, applies static cling photographs of a construction site to the existing storefront windows. Instead of looking into a display case, the viewer looks through a barren building with only wooden beams in place. An unfinished roof reveals a vibrant blue sky. Although the photography itself is lovely, the interaction of the construction images with the physical structure of the building provides the most compelling aspect. The real building appears old, worn, with crackling paint on the elegantly carved woodwork and a scratched up door, clearly a remnant from the glory days of Philadelphia’s downtown. Yet the photography starkly implies newness, regeneration, urban development in the guise of an indistinct framework of ordinary beams. The building within a building seems to expand out of its window casings and create a new horizon, at the same time that the upper stories cap the blue sky and confine the images within a narrow field of view. Interior and exterior, image and object flip back and forth, blurring the boundaries between what is constructed and what is portrayed.
Mark Fox’s “Dust” explores a similar twist on the relationship between object and image. Object becomes image becomes object again as he meticulously draws household items on paper with black ink, then cuts out the drawings and displays them en masse several inches in front of the gallery wall. The assortment of items looks like a child’s toy box dumped onto the floor of an already cluttered room, with everything from furniture to tools to art supplies to musical instruments to figurines and a host of random things in between. There’s no particular order to the chaotic mass, and the juxtaposition of unusual objects (a Mr. Peanut figurine floats next to an antique camera which in turn shares space with a cactus and a kitchen knife) makes for an amusing image. The backside of each object is bright green or yellow, casting colored shadows onto the wall behind. This, combined with the flat homogeneity of color, weightlessness of the paper and disproportionate scale of the drawings, produces a dreamlike world, where everyday objects that should lie complacently on a table mysteriously float toward the ceiling as jumbled silhouettes of their actual selves. Unlike many art exhibits, the bulk of the work hovers above the viewer’s head, further monumentalizing and abstracting these otherwise insignificant objects. Although you can see a good portion of the installation from the street, it continues inside the gallery and a quick step through the door allows you to experience the entire piece.
Also on display at the Fabric Workshop and Museum are selections from the permanent collection, including textile-works by prominent artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Claus Oldenburg and Kiki Smith.
By: Melinda Steffy, for The Bulletin, November 20, 2007