Seraphin Gallery proudly announces the opening of Depth of Field, an exhibition featuring work from Michael Morrill's ISIS and Linea Terminale series and Christopher Smith's nude sculptures and wall reliefs. The exhibition will run from October 24 – November 30, with an opening reception on Friday, October 24, from 6 – 8pm.
Working in the broad discipline of contemporary abstraction, Morrill’s canvases revel in the mystery and magic of chiaroscuro, the universal and centuries old aesthetic dialectic of Western painting. Interactions and transitions between light and dark coalesce in the intricately stratified compositions of his abstractions. Patterned fusions of geometry and gesture impart form and expression; weaving the seemingly disparate influences of structural Minimalism and the spirited emotionalism of mid-century Abstract Expression. Refined color dynamics, reflection and absorption of light, shadow, and surface subtlety ground Morrill’s practice in the vortex of contemporary art and the depth of art history.
Christopher Smith works with the nude as he realistically renders the human form using ancient form and composition. He joins the archaic with the modern to create beautiful sculptures and reliefs. When discussing his work, Smith states, ". . . When I observe people in social gatherings and private settings I continually see the past traditions of figurative sculpture assert themselves through the poses, attitudes, and physiques of my contemporaries. With the past present all around me, I investigate the ancient forms and methods of depicting the body and spirit along with notions they were meant to communicate. . . While I model the forms from direct observation of the naked model, a gradual change occurs to the exterior form where it no longer is a strictly mimetic process, but an inherent abstract formality, a past contained in the bones of the idea, which begins to direct the composition and the aesthetics."
Michael Morrill earned his BFA from School of Art and Design, Alfred University and his MFA from the School of Art, Yale University. He currently teaches painting in the Studio Arts Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Morrill has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. His work is in numerous private and permanent collections including the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh, and Bayer AG in Leverkusen, Germany.
Christopher Smith received his BFA from the University of Michigan in 1984 and has shown his work in the Woodmere Art Museum, Fleisher Art Memorial, the National Sculpture Society and Abington Art Center in Jenkintown, PA. His work can be seen in the collections of the Seven Bridges Foundation in Connecticut, the Woodmere Art Museum, and Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Victoria Donohue
March 31, 2011
Amanda Stark, a new face at Seraphin Gallery, is a professionally trained Michigan metalsmith and glass artist exhibiting nationally at age 30.
Especially interesting is the power she demonstrates to integrate a variety of styles and materials into a successful whole in her quirky and complex "devices."
This she achieves in her show, "The Astral and Tellurian," mostly of small works and one or two of medium size - all combining metal and glass with jewellike precision, and occasionally including a few found objects. Not a true sculptor, Stark can be considered either an outstanding decorative sculptor or an inventive decorator/silversmith.
Either way, she comes across as an honest innovator who transcends established styles while freely drawing on them.
These pieces - sometimes sinuous, sometimes jocular - relate to alchemy, to cabinets of curiosities, to astronomy, earth sciences and physics, with a focus on historical development and changes to equipment in those realms.
Among the typically saucy titles of her works are Spatial Distribution Luminosity Identifier, Terrane Undulation Collector, and Cosmic Dualities Challenging Perspective Device - the last a complicated piece hinting of a widespread belief that the world is flat.
Love at the Matterhorn
If you’re looking at Phillip Adams’ work for the first time, you’ll probably want to put your nose up close to the surface. Admiring the craftsmanship, you might wonder, “he made this with charcoal?” But marveling at the photorealist dexterity risks missing what you can only see by stepping back. A vast emptiness surrounds many of the figures. Though larger than life they seem small. Though unwavering they appear vulnerable.
In the Solipsist drawings, we can see this in the tension between empty space and spaces reflected in sunglasses. The images summon a kind of severe empathy. They ask, who have you become because of where you’ve been—finding selfhood through compounded spaces.
In Jamie, we see 20 and 30-somethings in an inflatable structure, the kind seen at street fairs and children’s birthdays. This playful persona embraces absurd spaces, stubbornly, forever young. In Jeff, we can see a tranquil lake reflected, where you might go to gnaw on big questions—to look within.
If the reflections in the Solipsist drawings invite us to build a story, Matterhorn extends that narrative flirtation. Building on the sense of grandiose and absurd, the characters take the stage as they occupy this vast setting. In several pieces we see allusions to the Disneyland attraction modeled after the mountain. Fantastical rollercoaster architecture grafted into the Alpine landscape; what can we make of our impulse to mimic what already exists—superimposing decorative overlay on natures’ pokerfaced landscape.
If Solipsist characters filtered space through their Aviators, Matterhorn figures shield themselves from their craggy surrounds. But rather than a hiding place, their hoods embolden them— leveling their impervious gazes.
Broadly, these drawings belong to a conversation that began in the late 17th and early 18th centuries when, independently, three Englishmen travelled through the Swiss Alps. From their accounts, the philosophical notion of the sublime emerged—a grand aesthetic in nature, incommensurate with mere beauty. One of those Englishmen, Joseph Addison, wrote that "The Alps fill the mind with an agreeable kind of horror.”
A similar sense of horror is palpable in the writing of Edward Whymper, the mountaineer and illustrator who first climbed the Matterhorn’s summit. In “Scrambles amongst the Alps in the years 1860-69,” he grapples to find language for this new space.
The sun was setting, and its rosy rays, blending with the snowy blue, had thrown a pale, pure violet far as the eye could see; the valleys were drowned in purple gloom, whilst the summits shone with unnatural brightness: and as I sat at the door of the tent, and watched the twilight change to darkness, the earth seemed to become less earthy and almost sublime; the world seemed dead, and I, its sole inhabitant.
For Whymper, the “purple gloom” of the iconic and deadly Matterhorn inspires sublime alienation. So what love might we find in Phillip Adams’ Matterhorn? A love born of the selfknowledge growing behind mirrored glasses? One inspired by an assembly of unvanquished Bohemian clerics? One sheltered from the glare of unnatural brightness? An otherworldly place of sublime absurdity where we are not alone.
"Allegorical oils from Philadelphia's Martha Mayer Erlebacher"
by Victoria Donahoe
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Oct. 8, 2010
Martha Mayer Erlebacher, in her Seraphin Gallery show "The Cycle of Life," is a shining example of today's nationally revitalized figurative impulse giving rise to formidable painting. The finest representational painting now seems to be done by artists who have totally rejected the notion of vanguard and prefer to seek inspiration in developments of past centuries, taking into account the heritage that launched them.
The centerpiece of this show of 18 works is a group of four large allegorical oil paintings, full of clarity and ambition. In these - perhaps Erlebacher's most powerful work to date - the surprising thing is that she isn't pulling us into her world; instead, she is insisting we closely examine our own. Concerned with life itself - childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age - the paintings are moving, restlessly inventive, and life-affirming.
The allegorical episodes are meant to focus the mind on themes we're not used to encountering in art. There is taut lyricism in the first, a joyful painting of children interacting with doves, and a strong, almost colloquial "voice" of the artist's Elkins Park neighbors, some of whom posed for the other three of these masterly large works. There's meticulous, virtuoso craft and a naturalist's energy along with sensuous handling of paint here. Subjects always are portrayed from direct observation.
Erlebacher's "Cycle of Life" and related pieces celebrate the mind's aspiration to a deeper understanding of its own mysteries throughout all of life. The artist, a frequent exhibitor at galleries in New York, Chicago, and up and down the West Coast, introduces these recent major works for her hometown audience to savor.
Praise for My Dog Speaks, Curated by Hiro Sakaguchi
Selected as a "Hot Curatorial Pick" by The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Peering Into the Darker Side of the Animal World" in The Philadelphia Inquirer
After a long-running scholarly exhibitions of Harry Bertoia drawings that was beginning to look like a permanent installation, Seraphin Gallery has sprung back into action with what you initially might assume to be of those lighthearted summer crowd-pleasers. But “My Dog Speaks: Animal Narrative in Contemporary Art,” a group sow organized by painter Hiro Sakaguchi and featuring works by 13 artists in which animals take center stage, in generally more poignant, puzzling and dark than cute.
Sarah McEneaney, who often has portrayed her own animal companions in her paintings, set the show’s slightly unsettling tone with her large tempera painting, Dog Heaven (2008) – ostensibly of a lush green city dog park overrun with playful canines of all sorts, but in fact a group portrait of formerly living dogs the artists knew – and also with Peggy (2005), a small gouache of a dog seeking shade under a palm tree.
Though Bonnie Brenda Scott’s mural is about the first piece you’ll see on entering the gallery – and y ou can’t miss her sprawling pink-and-orange painting of what appear to be wolves and human figures made of intestines –her small mixed-media pieces, Trouble at the Hen House and Trouble at the Hen House II (both 2009), drawn and painted on actual hunters’ target sheets for coyotes, seem to emblemize human anger at animal transgressors.
Darla Jackson’s two sculptures, All the Times... (2007) and Cheap (Delusions of Grandeur Series) (2005), cast a frankly somber mood.
The former, a likeness of a sleeping or dead fawn whose skin is etched with crossed-out numerals, and the latter, a cast of a dead baby bird atop a rectangular bronze slab, warns of the consequences of environmental negligence. Nancy Sophy and Eric McDade also conjure the fragility of nature in their solemn, although very different, images of birds.
John Karpinski, Anne Canfield, Sherif Habashi, Caroline Picard, and collaborators Alina Josan and Amanda Miller create more obvious narratives in their drawings and paintings than any of the other artists in this show, and they also are more inclined to far-fetched whimsy. Their “stories” are like fairy tales gone askew or awry.
Laura McKinley’s riff on early American portraiture, Shilly-Shally (2008), has no narrative whatsoever, but her black-and-white kittens are mesmerizing.