The material nature of the art in “The Poetics of Decay” parallels the construction and decomposition of the transitional urban landscape of Philadelphia. Built in layers, scratched down, etched in acid on metal, or printed on handmade paper, the artwork itself is a physical history of change.
Philadelphia is populated by legions of ghost houses, the traces of demolished row homes that remain on walls once shared with adjoining construction. Devoid of their neighborly support, the interior walls have become exterior, revealing vague narratives. A geometric framework in the form of floor joists, absent stairwells, and outlined walls is adorned by scraps of wallpaper and caked on layers of lead paint crumbling in brittle chunks. These multicolored strata hint at the previous occupants and the former life of the building. The compromised walls become further embellished with the unintended art of graffiti removal.
The artists in this show approach the ugly beauty of urban decay in a variety of ways. Jennifer Manzella’s delicate, miniature etchings provide a respectfully distant perspective; long views that include the surrounding lots and their odd collection of detritus. Her intricate images are the result of dissolving metal with acid, inking the plates, and printing them. Susan Abrams‘s photos on textural handmade paper offer a counterpoint with extreme close-ups of related subjects, including corroded metal.
Noelle Egan’s prints focus on the orderly, grid-based compositions offered by absent structural elements that once divided rooms and separated floors. Similarly, Dolores Poacelli and Brooke Lanier derive inspiration from these motifs. In keeping with the physical histories implied by the walls, their paintings were painstakingly built up brick by brick, sometimes over pre-existing paintings. The paintings’ complex surfaces are a result of many layers of paint applied, scraped, scratched, and repainted, similar to their subjects. Lanier incorporates actual pieces of brick from these buildings in some of her paintings.
“The Poetics of Decay” runs June 28th through August 30 and will feature a rotating selection of works from these artists throughout the course of the summer. We will be joined by gourmet popsicle cart Purposeful Pops during our neighborhood’s Fourth Friday Art Walks from 5-9 pm.
Gallery hours are Tuesday and Thursday 12-6, Friday 11-5, Saturday 11-3, by appointment or chance.