Tonight: Timothy Drescher lectures on politics and murals

5 03 2009

Politics and Murals: a slide lecture by Timothy W. Drescher, Ph.D

Thursday, March 5 in the Commonwealth Gallery at the Thomas Eakins House- 1729 Mt. Vernon St.

Light refreshments: 6:00 pm

Lecture: 7:00 pm

Mural historian and independent scholar, Timothy Drescher, will give a slide presentation and lecture about 20th century murals in relation to the politics of the time. Pulling from his vast collection of tens of thousands of mural images, Drescher will seek to clarify misguided notions about murals being revolutionary, although that was the vocabulary often used at the time.

Timothy W. Drescher, Ph.D. is an independent scholar from Berkeley, CA who has been studying, documenting, and photographing community murals since 1972. He authored San Francisco Bay Area Murals: Communities Create Their Muses, 1904–1997 (3rd ed., 1998), as well as numerous articles about murals and community arts including the forward to Philadelphia Murals and the Stories They Tell by Jane Golden and Robin Rice, published by Temple University Press in 2002. Drescher has taught at San Francisco State University for over two decades, and served as co-editor of the magazine Community Murals from 1976–1987. He also consults and lectures widely on the subject, actively campaigning for the conservation of murals throughout the United States. Currently, Drescher is writing a history of 20th century community murals.

For additional information about this event, please contact Brian Campbell, Exhibitions Manager, at 215.685.0750 or brian.campbell@muralarts.org.

To view images from Drescher’s online collection on ARTstor:

http://www.artstor.org/what-is-artstor/w-html/col-murals-drescher.shtml





ImPRESSed: Ann Northrup on artblog, Dave McShane in Daily News

26 02 2009

Part 2 of longtime MAP muralist, Ann Northrup’s article:  An Outsider on the Inside at Riverside Correctional Facility is featured on artblog today  (Part 1 was featured Monday) and we are proud.

Please check out her piece and take some time to peruse artblog if you are unfamiliar. Roberta, Libby and their fine crew work diligently to craft Philadelphia’s most innovative and definitive voice in contemporary art.

Ann also highlights Commonwealth Gallery’s current show and sale of prisoner art OUTSIDER Art from INSIDE, ongoing until March 26. A post containing all of the artwork still available for sale will be up later today as a resource for those interested in purchasing something.

Also, featured today in the Daily News, is MAP muralist Dave McShane’s current project with WXPN‘s program “Kids Corner” and students from Penn Alexander School. It’s obviously not the front page material of yesterday’s bombshell about the PMA budget cuts, (of which MAP is no stranger to) but it’s nice to see some reporting on the good news.

DN: New mural, painted by students, is music to their eyes





OUTSIDER Art from INSIDE opening TONIGHT from 6-8pm

12 02 2009

Don’t forget to come out tonight for the opening of:

OUTSIDER Art from INSIDE

FEBRUARY 12 – MARCH 2

Commonwealth Gallery
Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center at the Thomas Eakins House
1727-29 Mount Vernon Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Tel: 215-685-0750

info@muralarts.org

Gallery Hours: Weekdays from 9AM-5PM and by appointment





An Insider’s Preview: OUTSIDER Art from INSIDE

11 02 2009
crop of Prison Bars by Luis "Suave" Gonzales

crop of Prison Bars by Luis "Suave" Gonzales

Post by Constance Mensh

Despite recent challenges to the relevancy of the term “outsider art”, there is little disagreement that the incarcerated are, at least for their time inside prison, society’s ultimate outsiders. The upcoming exhibition at the Mural Arts Program’s Commonwealth Gallery, “OUTSIDER Art from INSIDE”, curated by Exhibitions Manager Brian Campbell and the Restorative Justice Program Director, Robyn Buseman, will feature work by men, women and youth participating in the Mural Arts’ Prison, Juvenile and Re-entry Programs, creating an interesting and purposeful dialogue between “us” and “them.”

New to this year’s exhibition is the inclusion of work by two artists who are currently serving sentences in other states—Texas inmate Michael Lee Ford and Kentucky inmate Billy Gene McLimore, both of whom have found an audience beyond the prison walls.

Michael Lee Ford is currently in a Texas prison, serving a 35-year sentence for a 1989 robbery. After hearing of the death of his mother in 1996, Ford was inspired to create a sculpture of Jesus Christ. He developed a method of turning newspaper back into paper pulp and then sculpting from it. His small (most are under 9 inches) pieces have been likened to netsuke, hollow sculptural containers used to carry belongings in 17th century Japan.(paraphrased from MAP’s press release)

Courtesy of Ford's Myspace

photo courtesy of ford's myspace

The comic, often grotesque nature of these figures is reflective of Ford’s isolated and perhaps stunted inner vision. He depicts loopy characters with their own specific natures, each one inhabiting a world of Ford’s invention. When viewing Ford’s work, one is reminded of imaginary companions drafted from fragments of memory, reality and morbid alternate-realities.

image courtesy of ford's myspace

image courtesy of ford's myspace

The texture of the paper-pulp method adds a further unsettling quality to the work, mainly to the treatment of the features and flesh of the creations. These works are more mad than methodical when viewed individually, but imagine the effect of an army of more than 1,000 would have when lined up (unfortunately there aren’t quite that many).

Also included in the exhibit is a sampling of Ford’s pen and ink drawings, which are the subject of the recently published book by Mike Drake,  “The Isolated Art of Michael Lee Ford”:

image courtesy of ford's myspace

image courtesy of ford's myspace

Ford was also featured in a 2004 issue of  Juxtapoz magazine (with Iggy Pop on the cover!) and in “Outside The Lines”, a documentary about self-taught artists produced by Markus Wittman for Blue Rhino Pictures, which is available through his website.

The other semi-known artist in the show, Billy McLimore, is serving the final year of a 17-year sentence at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex. McLimore’s detailed shadowboxes and sculptures, crafted from Popsicle™ sticks and other found objects, are a testament to the methodology of passing time spent in idle confinement. The obsessive attention to detail is a must-see in person, as in this fully furnished, 38” inch steamboat with twenty cabins, each with it’s own miniature painting, which is hardly done justice by web photography.

photo by constance mensh

Photo by Constance Mensh

A detail shot of one of his dioramas:

photo by constance mensh

Photo by Constance Mensh

McLimore’s recycled virtuoso pieces are both meditative and escapist, obsessive and expressive. It is also recognizably  folk art, which is perhaps one of the reasons he gained representation by the Snyderman-Works Gallery, who provided the sculptures featured in the show.

The bulk of the show is made up of  lesser-known, but perhaps most noteworthy, 2-dimensional works by inmates and students from the  Mural Arts Program at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Graterford;  programs within the Philadelphia Prison System located at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, House of Correction, and Riverside Correctional Facility; and work by adjudicated youth at the City of Philadelphia Youth Study Center, St. Gabriel’s Hall and VisionQuest.

A few of the more expressive representational pieces are as pictured below, Portrait by Charlie Harrison, The Umbrella by Garrett Yordy (from top to bottom in the upper photo) and Dog on a Hill by Freddie Rodriguez (bottom):

photo by constance mensh

Photo by Constance Mensh

photo by constance mensh

Photo by Constance Mensh

photo by eric okdeh

Ladybugs by Thomas Shilk, photo by Eric Okdeh

Of the 3-dimensional works, the tiny, melted plastic cutlery insects by Thomas Shilk, currently serving out a life sentence at Graterford, are at once diminutive and impressive examples of the high-craftsmanship these artists are capable of achieving with meager recycled materials and the most basic art supplies.

Robyn Busemen, director of the Restorative Justice Art Program, said, “The work is stunning for the limited resources and obstacles that we have to work with.”

Buseman also said she is “Most proud of the fact that we are hiring ex-offenders to work here and most of the inmates are donating 100% of the proceeds for the art supply fund.”

Also included will be Behold the Open Door, the first outdoor mural created by muralist Jon Laidacker,  Philadelphia Prison System inmates and former inmates enrolled in MAP’s re-entry program. The re-entry program is an innovative program that hires formerly incarcerated men and women to work in various capacities on Mural Projects. According to MAP, “Since its establishment in 2007, only one of its 12 participants has been re-incarcerated, compared with 60% of the national recidivism rate.”

Predictably, the art created by those incarcerated in our prisons often expresses the repetitiveness, isolation, anger, regret and sadness of the inmates’ lives inside. But most importantly, the works, both individually and as a whole, denote the hopefulness of offering these outsiders a much-needed link to the rehabilitation needed to bring them back into the fold or in the case of some, for their own personal salvation.

The Opening reception for the show is tomorrow, Thursday, February 12; 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. There will also be a Panel Discussion: Thursday, March 26; 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center at the Thomas Eakins House, 1727-29 Mount Vernon Street. Philadelphia, PA 19130.

For more information about the show, go to the Exhibitions page on MAP’s website or contact Robyn Buseman, Mural Arts Restorative Justice Program Manager at 215-685-0756; robyn.buseman@muralarts.org or Brian Campbell Reception and Exhibitions Manager at 215-685-0750; gallery@muralarts.org.

To find out more about prison art there are several organizations and websites available, including:

http://www.artbehindbars.org/
http://www.prisonart.org/
http://www.prisonsfoundation.org/

This article was created by Constance Mensh, an employee of the  Mural Arts Program for more than three years and a freelance photographer and writer.





Welcome to the the Commonwealth Gallery!

11 02 2009

The Commonwealth Gallery is an exhibition space located at the Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center at the Thomas Eakins House. It is a part of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. This blog intends to provide a resource for those interested in the art exhibited in our space. The art created through MAP is public art, which is accompanied by a dialogue between artist, the community and society.

The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is the nation’s largest mural program. Since 1984, the Mural Arts Program has created nearly 3,000 murals and works of public art, which are now part of Philadelphia’s civic landscape and a source of inspiration to the many thousands of residents and visitors who encounter them, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “City of Murals.” The Mural Arts Program engages over 100 communities each year in the transformation of neighborhoods through the mural-making process. The Mural Arts Program’s award-winning, free art education programs annually serve over 3,000 youth at sites throughout the city and at-risk teens through education outreach programs. The Program also serves adult offenders in local prisons and rehabilitation centers, using the restorative power of art to break the cycle of crime and violence in our communities. For more information, visit www.muralarts.org.

Commonwealth Gallery
Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center at the Thomas Eakins House
1727-29 Mount Vernon Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Tel: 215-685-0750
info@muralarts.org
Gallery Hours: Weekdays from 9AM-5PM and by appointment








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