The Path and the Structure, Rebecca Gilbert and Leslie Friedman at Center for Emerging Visual Artists
“This exhibition features work by two contemporary printmakers who seamlessly blend deep connections to the history of the medium while pushing its boundaries into the new and experimental. Contrasting the graphic pop aesthetic of Leslie Friedman’s site-specific installation with the simple natural imagery of Rebecca Gilbert’s prints and shadow boxes creates a compelling visual space of stimulation, contemplation, and delight.” – CFEVA website
The Center for Emerging Visual Artists creates opportunities for artists to show their work and talk about it, too. One of the hallmarks of a CFEVA Fellowship is helping artists explain what they’re up to from an elevator pitch to full blown lectures. At the opening of The Path and the Structure the featured artists held the audience’s attention with candor, wit and descriptive dialog that illuminates the work with explanations of technique, concepts and intentions. As Ann Pelz, Director of Studio Tours and Exhibitions said, “We are really pleased to present these two bodies of work in contrast to each other because as you will hear, some of Rebecca’s theme’s and inspirations come from a very different place but are equally powerful and rooted in the same ideas as Leslie.”
“I’ll speak a little bit about process. Everything you see here is wood-cut except for the two in the back which are wood engravings. I develop my imagery and transfer to wood which I carve. I print using oil based ink on paper. I don’t work exclusively in wood-cut, I also do installation and dry point, though my focus has been primarily on wood cut recently. I bring this up so you can have an understanding of how these pieces came to be. I feel that the content is very closely related to the process. Carving and working with wood is very calming to me and meditative. That feeling is what I want to convey in my work.
I am very interested and drawn to natural imagery and for the past several years I’ve been using dirt and water and gold and sticks as imagery in my work to symbolize a few things. That which we crave or desire, search for or seek out, that which sustains our human life and the very natural desires to search for treasure or fulfillment. And natural desires to build from the natural world around us. Whether it’s piles or dirt or barks or stone or houses. Everything.”
“I think those very basic impulses and desires are beautiful. That’s where the work comes from and that’s what I think about. So, the whole time I’m working on it and I feel that carving, building and developing imagery, the calmness that I feel from thinking about this and developing these images, I really want to make sure it shows through in the pieces. So that when you look at them you feel the same calmness. I’m also interested, to speak more specifically about searching for treasure, assigning and using water and dirt as symbolism for what you desire makes me think about what individuals assign value to and the different things individuals find value in. It’s probably different for everyone in here, I’m sure there are a lot of commonalities in the differences. For me, it’s the most basic things.
I’ve been using most recently these mazes to symbolize the search, I want to channel that in my work and my goals. Searching for things if you search too hard you’ll miss the small beauties around you. So that’s also a big part of this body of work; it’s about slowing down and recognizing all of the small things around you all the time. Literally, the two engravings. the one on the left is a clump of grass I found in my sidewalk on my street in South Philly. To me, that’s very valuable thing to find in South Philly. We don’t have much dirt or grass, to me it was beautiful. It looked like a star, like magic. These mazes, if you look at them it doesn’t take long to find out there are no dead ends. It’s channeling optimism, when you’re searching for treasure the search can be the treasure.” – Rebecca Gilbert
“This piece I call Fun Guys, it sort of became a work after another work that was similar. I came to Philadelphia to study at Tyler School of Art and my first semester I took a class with Virgil Marti and in that class he had fabulous props and he inspired us to print on on materials other than paper. I was walking through Home Depot with a friend and I saw these linoleum tiles and I was like, ‘Oh! These are cheap. And they’re hard. I’m sure I could print on these.’ So, I did my first floor pieces with these tiles. And this kept going back to them, I was showing them in different ways and I realized when I was making these pieces in the Summer they were really bendy. If I put it down in the Winter they were really brittle and it made sense that if I heat them up I could bend them.
So with this piece, what you’re seeing, the colorful parts are your regular Armstrong grade linoleum tiles and then I scree print on them. I coat them with poly-acrylic to make them more permanent and then I heat them up and bend them over surfaces. This is a site specific piece in that the different modules are permanent but how they are stacked or placed depends on the space where I put them. In terms of content, my background isn’t, well I didn’t get a BFA, I studied Political Science, so a lot of what I like to do is make work that has a message. When I was studying at Tyler my apartment was really small and I was reading this book, I don’t remember the title but it was about how Jewish art was so un-cool. And I was so offended and everyone else that was reading it didn’t even pat attention, they probably didn’t even know what a jew was. It was a very international group, and so, I started to think, ‘What would cool Jewish art look like?’
‘What would it look like if Jewish art were being sold?’ And that’s been an under-current of a lot of my work. I showed my work at Napoleon in a show called ‘Gay, Jewish or Both?’ But, something that I keep going back to is this question of identity. I hope that in my work you see that I’m talking about Jewish stereotypes. The most negative stereotypes are represented at the bottom, the middle ones are a little more ambiguous, and potentially more positive ones at the top. But, I hope that even though I’m choosing to talk about Jewish identity that you can see how it can apply to any cultural identity. Anything that makes you the ‘other’. ” – Leslie Friedman
Leslie Friedman, The Path and the Structure, CFEVA. The Center for Emerging Visual Artists 237 S. 18th Street : The Barclay, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103 email@example.com
215. 546. 7775. The Path and the Structure, Rebecca Gilbert and Leslie Friedman through April 4th.
“The mission of The Center for Emerging Visual Artists is to coordinate a strong regional support system for visual artists, to advance the careers of professional artists in the region, to promote relationships between artists and the communities in which they live, and to increase access to and promote interest and understanding of visual art among citizens of the community.” – CFEVA
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Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted.
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