Hokey, untitled, But is it Art?

Hokey, untitled, foam insulation and paint, But is It Art? 9th Annual Community Juried Art Show at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

But is It Art? 9th Annual Community Juried Art Show at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

Being on the jury for the But is It Art? 9th Annual Community Juried Art Show at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks was an amazing and amusing art adventure. The the panel consisted of a group of artists from the community who represent different swirls on the Philadelphia art fractal connected to the tendril called Dirty Franks, a dive bar in Center City with an art gallery. Philadelphia Poet Laureate Franks Sherlock was wonderfully snarky when answering the question, video/movie director Jena Serbu was like, “Huh? No.”, lighting engineer/photographer Veronika Smude was like, “Is it always like this?”, curator Jody Sweitzer, “I had to go get these from him because he doesn’t have e-mail.” And me, I was like, “I know that guy. It’s just not a good picture.” I give everyone an A for effort, Jena kept calling me Paula Abduhl. There was a fair amount of arguing over whether it was art or not.

The panel sat through hours of images and artists statements, one of the entry requirements was a two sentence artists statement. Togo read the statements aloud, while Jody scrolled through the images on a big screen. It was really interesting the way certain works just spoke to the theme and the entry presentation was clear. For example, Hokey’s untitled foam sculpture looks slick and shiny, showing off the contours of the unusual material, the painting creates animistic shapes that are quite strange and surreal. Abstraction and pop merge in the blobs, there is a fun, playful toy-like quality that slips into a trippy altered state shape that feels weird. Is art weird?

“Inspiration and beauty come in many forms — a bad tipper in a bar, an interesting shape found in an everyday space. These works and many more I have made may not be the usual path to creativity but they have inspired me to do just that — create…art.” – Hokey

Kyle Baker, But is It Art?

Kyle BakerStamped, oil on wood, But is It Art? 9th Annual Community Juried Art Show at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

“To define is to limit,” says the artist, “so no matter the artistic process, trying to define art is trying to put a limit on something limitless.” – Kyle Baker

Winner of the Best Representation of Art award is Stamped, a painting by Kyle Baker. The afternoon of the awards judging, after the show was installed the panel was to reconvene and pick prizes but Jena Serbu was in Greece at a film festival promoting her movie, Veronika was working a lighting gig at the Academy of Music, Frank wasn’t around, so Jody and I picked the winners. I have the utmost respect for Jody’s artistic taste, her world view of art and image is refined and well honed after year’s of filling the long gallery wall with art.

There are over fifty artworks in the installation. As the curator of Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks, she makes visits to artists studios to select works for exhibitions. The two of us picked this painting as an award winner because of the extraordinary use of material and powerful narrative. I wrote my own two sentence artist statement as a juror, “Good art should scare the children. Recognize Opulence.”

Kyle BakerStamped, possesses both of those qualities through lavish use of paint, strong color, squishy strokes and a powerful psychological jolt of not being able to see the art, of a blindness. What is art? What does it mean to see? Painters see differently than other people. Painters are watchers, they see things.

“One of the most exciting parts of a juried exhibition is when it grows our community in unexpected ways. Kyle Baker, an artist based in Nashville, found us as word spread online about the But is It Art? call for entries. The jury, who accepted both of Kyle’s submissions, went one step farther, awarding him BEST REPRESENTATION OF ART for his painting Stamped.” – Togo Travalia

Sarah Damiano, But is it art?

Sarah Damiano, No Parking, charcoal, pastel, conté crayon, printing ink and acrylic. But is It Art? 9th Annual Community Juried Art Show at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

Social comment and word play get’s me every time. No Parking tweaks a nerve with it’s snarky, forlorn messaging about space invasion and brainwashes the viewer with it’s realistic presentation. As a work of art, the painting is exquisite, as a social statement it is as confrontational and weary as a South Philly homeowner. If anything works me up, it’s cars on the sidewalk.

There is a lot of wild and wacky artwork to work you up over the question But is It Art? I get a real sense of satisfaction when I see patrons of the bar checking out the art installation, leaning in close to see the work, knowing that I had some part in the conversation about contemporary art is thrilling. You might think Dirty Franks is an unlikely art audience but on a Thursday night after the Plastic Club let’s out after their live model workshop, the bar fills up with artists, some still drawing, everyone talking about art over the sound of rock, rap and soul music. The doorman is the poet laureate of the city, the bartender teaches art at the University of the Arts and the Togo, the manager, makes art a big part of the business plan. Really, if you’re not following Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks on facebook you’re missing out on some terrific commentary and information about the art. Togo Travalia also creates full color show catalogs with artist bios that are collectors items themselves.

But is It Art? 9th Annual Community Juried Art Show at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks is on display through August 1st. Dirty Franks is always open.

Photographs courtesy of Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks

Written by DoN Brewer except where noted.

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