“The combination of chance and careful planning is a major theme in all of my work regardless of media and even series. To me that is a metaphor for life…”
Spontaneous bursts of gestural expression meet carefully planned and executed drafting in Val Rossman’s new body of abstract works. Unexpected Interference features two varieties of exploration from Rossman’s multi-faceted painting practice of layered geometric compositions and energetically marked, achromatic configurations. Each variation of Rossman’s approach combines elements of chance and moments of orchestration, both of which are fundamental to her pursuits. Rossman finds her works to be analogous to life’s common challenges, and it is in the tension created by these opposing strategies where Rossman’s work flourishes and meaning is found.
Rossman’s studio is a carefully organized laboratory for creative delivery. Cups of pre-mixed colors await their use, and different sections of the studio are reserved for specific processes. Surprisingly, Rossman does not devise a specific “plan” for each work. Rather, she begins by “marring” the clean areas of a surface with a gestural stroke, scribbles, colors, or lines. What follows is a dance of balancing the unexpected and unrehearsed with calculated intention. Rossman often spins the painting on its side while working, upending gravity and expanding the many possibilities at hand. The result is a harmonious and tasteful arrangement of painted actions.
Val Rossman has had a lengthy and notable career as an artist and instructor in the Philadelphia metro area. She has exhibited her works in over 20 solo exhibitions in galleries throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and is represented in private, corporate, and public collections locally and internationally. She is the recipient of several residencies and awards, including an appearance of her work on Bravo Cable Television. She is represented by Longview Gallery in Washington DC and Gross McCleaf Gallery.
“I get absolutely obsessed. I have such respect for each object. Painting trains you to really look. And when you can see, everything becomes miraculous.”
The true beauty of Penelope Harris’ work is in the wonder of things. In Fully Assembled, the artist builds upon her celebrated career of vibrant and meticulously rendered artworks with a new collection of paintings and drawings created in Harris’ favorite media including gouache, oil paint, pastel, and charcoal. Despite the range of media, each piece shares Harris’ signature attention to detail. Her curiously chosen groupings offer surprises and endlessly delightful discoveries that engage further beyond their elegant presentations.
Although stylistic trends have shifted throughout her decades-long practice, Harris has faithfully developed her observational still life motif. In this current body of work, Harris offers a more reserved presentation versus the busy patterning of her earlier paintings – favoring elegance over drama. Each collection of objects begins to tell a story that might lead towards the metaphysical, political, or psychological. However, just as meaning begins to take shape, the thread unravels, revealing Harris’ commitment to things as they merely are. Every inch of the substrate is equally touched and refined as blank walls, chromatic negative spaces, and cast shadows set the stage for a particular ensemble. The objects are placed with care into a scene that is balanced and structured through shape, color, and value.
Harris’ sense of humor is evident and she often plays games of perception, at times propping up one side of a table to force a more extreme perspective to take place, or by placing objects on translucent stands to make them “float”. For a moment, the scenes become surreal until closer inspection reveals the laws of physics at work, grounding everything back within the natural world. Clever titles and visual puns quietly wink from within her otherwise serious and masterful depictions. Her paintings require careful looking, and that is indeed when we see how “everything becomes miraculous”.
Harris is the daughter of two successful New York artists, and while her parents did not intentionally encourage her to seek a career in the arts, she was drawn to that path. After first pursuing Interior Design, Harris’ passion switched to Studio Art while attending a painting class at the Woodmere Art Museum. Harris attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as well as Studio Incamminati. Harris’ works are featured in private and public collections, including the Woodmere Museum of Art. She has exhibited in numerous regional group and solo shows. This is her fifth solo exhibition with Gross McCleaf Gallery since 1983.
Guest curators Elizabeth Johnson, Emily Steinberg & Celia Reisman present Residential Tourist, a group exhibition of artists from the greater Philadelphia area that considers voyeurism a tonic for isolation, interrupted socializing, and deferred travel.
Residential Tourist collects probing views of everyday living spaces, in the form of painting, drawing, sculpture and video. Details such as lighting, furnishing, layout, clutter, vehicles, gardens, sidewalks, and yards emanate humble nobility in the context of a prolonged pandemic, since boredom with one’s own quarters renders other people’s homes potent and magnetic. Residential Tourist welcomes viewers to explore novel spaces and peer through windows, around corners, past fences and over gates with the same ease that we browse posts on social media and real estate sites, and the same thirst for ambiance that tags along during Zoom meetings.
Residential Tourist surveys how houses and neighborhoods contain and protect people and how people present their lives. It emphasizes the evidence of how they live or depicts them immersed in their surroundings. Channeling the traveler’s all-consuming gaze, the artists of Residential Tourist interpret interiors, exteriors, and street scenes that reward the desire to move and see within relentless stimulation. Because the images feature “home,” defining property as an object of visual travel triggers unconscious fears about security and survival alongside luxury and comfort.
Welcoming us into domestic space: Dara Haskins’s video of dancer Desirée Navall navigating her apartment; William Hudders’s nostalgic black-and-white collages; Femi Johnson’s abstract rambles through Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Emily Steinberg’s graphic narrative drawings and paintings about specific places.
Locating us within human intangibles: Leroy Johnson’s rough-and-tumble collage houses; Stuart Shils’s dream-suffused construction sites; and Adrienne Stalek‘s surreal cosmologies in boxes.
Depicting the greater Philadelphia area: Julia Lauren Fox’s portraits of a residential community; Nasir Young’s clear-eyed urban scenes; Elizabeth Snelling’s cozy interiors and exteriors with pets.
Transporting us to fantasy worlds: Anne Canfield’s hermetic homes and gardens; Elizabeth Johnson’s fragmentary countryside; Celia Reisman’s semi-fictional suburban landscapes; and Hiro Sakaguchi’s make-believe worlds built from childhood models, toys, and games.
Because “home” is currently refuge and a constraint, Residential Tourist serves to pacify restlessness and the urge to escape with art that inspires visual travel.