Touching from a Distance

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Touching from a Distance

September 17, 2020 - November 7, 2020

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While it may be difficult to find something to celebrate in the midst of a pandemic, a slide towards totalitarianism, and increased racial division, Fleisher/Ollman managed to move its operation and open a new gallery during this unprecedented time. They wish to acknowledge their reopening at 915 Spring Garden Street with a gathering of art works made by artists that have long histories with the gallery (in some cases, decades) as well those that we have shown relatively recently. Touching from a Distance includes artists first presented at three of the gallery’s previous locations in Philadelphia: 17th Street, Walnut Street, and Arch Street. September 2020 also marks an additional celebratory occasion: the 50th anniversary of John Ollman’s tenure at the gallery.

“Touching from a Distance,” a lyric from Joy Division’s 1979 single Transmission, evokes the pathos of our current condition where they long for contact but ultimately must remain more or less alone in order to save ourselves and others. In the art world under our present circumstances, the group exhibition can be rationalized as a kind of pretend social gathering, perfect for our times. If we agree to the idea that artworks are surrogates for the people who make them, these 20 artists can gather, mingle, converse, and enjoy one another’s company unfettered by the mandates of PPE and social distance to which we and our visitors will be obliged for the unforeseeable future.

In September 1970, John Ollman began as director of what was then Janet Fleisher Gallery, sharing an enthusiasm with Janet for art outside the mainstream. Ollman expanded the gallery’s program to include folk, African, Oceanic, pre-Columbian, Native American, and self-taught art, the latter for which the gallery became especially renowned. Since 1997, when Ollman became the gallery’s sole owner, Fleisher/Ollman has endeavored to re-contextualize the self-taught, showcasing this work alongside their contemporary program, which features both Philadelphia-based artists and those from further afield. In recent years, they have made efforts to broaden the view of what self-taught art might mean in a contemporary context by showcasing art from disability and mental health studio programs. Recognizing the power of the cross-fertilization of art made by trained and self-taught artists, and the leveling of distinctions and hierarchies when art is placed in dialogue, Ollman anticipated current conceptions of the self-taught by decades. Touching from a Distance continues this exercise inspired by John Ollman, and is a fitting exhibition to mark the twin milestones of a new iteration of the gallery and Ollman’s long-term contribution to the field of art.

Participating artists:
Kate Abercrombie
Queen Nancy Bell
Anthony Campuzano
The Dufala Brothers
Joy Feasley
Sarah Gamble
Knicoma Frederick
Jesse Harrod
Isaac Tin Wei Lin
Jennifer Levonian
Tristin Lowe
Mark Mahosky
Julian Martin
Dan Murphy
Jayson Musson
Eamon Ore-Giron
Kambel Smith
Becky Suss
Paul Swenbeck


Visiting Fleisher/Ollman during the pandemic

They invite guests to make reservations to visit the exhibition, which will allow them to limit the number of visitors at any one time. Upon arrival, they may ask you to wait in the lobby to avoid overlaps with previous visitors.

Make reservations here


September 17, 2020
November 7, 2020
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1616 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA United States
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