Monday, November 23, 2015

A treasure trove

Adela Akers, The Grid, 2008
How have I overlooked Philadelphia Art Alliance?

Maybe because the city is so rich in art and culture? Although true, that's too easy an excuse. I've walked and driven by the historic house on Rittenhouse Square many times, but never entered the historic building, which means I've overlooked its treasures for years. 

No more.

The center for contemporary craft and design, the Philadelphia Art Alliance (PAA) is celebrating its centenary this year. 

For me it's year one.

PAA mounts about a dozen new exhibitions each year and hosts a range of other related cultural events. We took advantage of a curated gallery talk for the current exhibition, Material Legacy: Masters of Fiber, Clay and Glass that honors five Fellows of the American Craft Council. 

Lewis Knauss. First Snow, 2004.
Not surprisingly, I was particularly interested in the fiber artists. 

Works by Adela Akersa Spanish-born textile artist whose career spans the history of modern fiber art. Her work is geometric. In this exhibit, I was most interested not only in the works themselves, but in how they were made. Composed of narrow strips of woven linen that are sewn together and embellished with metal foil, horsehair and/or paint, the whole is greater than the parts. And they are striking. 

Works by Philadelphia fiber artist Lewis Knauss, which are in the upstairs gallery, might best be described most simply as wall hangings composed of natural fibers. But simple they are not. 

Knotting is an important element in many of Knauss' works. Lots of knots. My favorite piece of Knauss' was First Snow, is worked with linen, hemp, paint and fluffy white feathers.  

Warren Seelig. Red Funnel, 2015.
The third fiber artist is Warren Seelig, who is described as an artist working in fiber/architecture. The curator noted that he is a third generation weaver, but I confess that I had trouble connecting weaving to his most of work on display. The installation composed of red monofilament came closest. 

But Seelig's work in architecture? Absolutely. Especially in his "Shadowfields" series in the exhibition. We were particularly taken with Shadowfields/Colored Light, a large work that featured stainless steel and fluorescent plexiglas shapes. Part of the Reading (Pa.) Public Museum Collection, the effect of light and shadows is mesmerizing. Where do the actual shapes end and the shadows begin? It drew us in.

We loved the exhibition, but it ends Nov. 29. If possible, get there. It's worth it.

Warren Seelig. Shadowfield/Colored Light, 2007.

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