Thankfully, summer is not the artistic wasteland that too many believe is true. For proof positive that the gallery scene doesn't take a holiday is "Welcome to My World," at Bambi Gallery, 1817 Frank-ford Avenue, in Philly's suddenly booming art community of Fishtown. In fact, this establishment is the No. 1 anchor of what's become know as The Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor.The current show features photographer Joshua Erb, with a couple pieces in collaboration with Bambi owner Candace Karch, painter Marie DesMarais, and sculptor Bill Lohre.
In keeping with the show's title, this is a subjective effort jam-packed with a solipsistic bent.
Erb's photographs are at once mysterious and just a touch creepy, these atmospheric interiors that touch on the still life. There is also a suggestion that they have been stuck in a box in some back corner of an attic to collect dust, and all possess a burnished patina that is more immediate and bold than washed-out sepia. The sequence of shots is collectively titled "Scenes from the Litter Box," however I would beware of any cat that caught a glimpse of these images.
One of the most effecting photos is of a section of wall, and like all the pictures there is round framing device that features a black background with a "lens" view in the photo proper, which corresponds to feline vision. The shot is of a bathroom wall, and right in the center is an angelic bust of an androgynous hold perhaps of porcelain. The other items are more mundane, such as a towel rack, etc. Yet this central image lends the picture its power.
Moving into a smaller realm, though still connected to the feline theme by pure chance, is the work of DesMarais, with a fine example being "Cellular Slide." Of course, the cells could be flecks of cat dander, or perhaps something akin to something viral that inhabits the kitty. What we've got is a mixed media work on an old window that was already painted white when the artist rescued it from its way to the junk heap. She then adorned it with a number of similar-looking round designs that bring to mind viruses or grains of pollen seen through a microscope lens, the window.
Some designs are just black outlines while others are inhabited by a variety of colors with a neutral shade of green denominate. Hence, they could also well be diatoms. A chunk of the window is missing, though only a Victor von Frankenstein or a scientist of that ilk would put such a thing under a lens. What is most strange about the designs is that they seem still and also moving about, which is a real feat for DesMarais.
Lohre has been creating his fascinating art for years. With hints of children's toys from another planet, there is always something just off-kilter with this work. Including, of course, "Hotel Still Life," which features a hotel complex writ small and created by who knows what materials and means. It is not just futuristic but utterly otherworldly, what with a ladder leading to a cloud.
The overall scope of the piece is somewhat sprawling and consists of a variety of buildings, with a tall tower as the centerpiece that grabs the eye. But then there is that little island free-floating close by in the sky with a tree sprouting from it and a strange cable leading into some device or other. This is art that grabs you at once with its economy but then the strangeness soon gains its share of equal time in the viewer's mind and imagination as one wonders just how to reserve a room here.
Time is running out on this one so get there soon. You'll be glad you did.
The show continues through Sunday, July 20. For info and hours, please log onto www.bambiproject.com or call 215-423-2668.