In the space of its gallery this month, Knight Arts grantee Vox Populi essentially has four small shows featuring four different artists. Near the entrance is Emily Rooney’s exhibit “All Alone,” then, a room of drawings by Becky Suss appropriately titled “Drawings,” Kikuko Tanaka’s “Traumatic Encounter Forever!” and Piper Brett’s “The Show.”
Predictably, since each room is dedicated to an individual artist, each has a very different mood and style. Brett has the least work volume-wise but also one of the most unique standouts in the show, as well. Her sculpture, entitled “The Syndrome of the Endless Party,” is an immediate head-turner. On a pedestal rests an enormous gold chain consisting of only four links. It is both amusing and confusing and seems as if it would belong down at the shipyards and not in an art gallery; well perhaps if it weren’t coated in gold paint, anyway. In harmony with its name, the endless party is expressed in a gaudy gold color reminiscent of blinged-out jewelry or an accessory to a leisure suit. It is pure excess, and, in many ways, overshadows Brett’s other works, including a canvas displaying a painted-over magazine image and an immense signature, which seems to poke fun at how artists sign their work.
Tanaka’s room-sized installations are challenging and visceral and surely labor-intensive. The entire room is draped in red and white curtains. The doorway is blocked with a wooden structure and a screen looping a video. Around the interior of the space are scattered transparent plastic boxes, fake flowers and grotesque sculptures of a biological nature, including a working fountain/bird bath and a hanging, eviscerated deer. Everything is colored in a red or pink hue and it seems as if hedonism has gone unchecked here. The deer appears ready for some sort of strange feast or ritual, and the entire scene would be inviting is not for its disturbing presence.
The work of Rooney is less gut-wrenching than Tanaka’s, but surely the darkest segment of the show. “All Alone” features three eerie paintings, a self-titled video, an installation of torn images from magazines, and various other objects. “The dennis chair” is a lounge chair that would be perfect for any poolside … if it weren’t made of rebar steel. “Boogie board” doesn’t seem like a beach toy aside from its name, and the dark resin-coated surface is unnerving and not alluring.
Lastly, there are the gray landscapes by Suss. Her inky images of Philadelphia locales, like “4th and Girard” or “Hope St.,” seem appropriately de-saturated. They elicit an urban, industrial feel, which, of course, is fairly common around the winding blue-collar streets of Philly. Where things get slightly more curious are her outdoor and park scenes, which are still devoid of color. Perhaps not as dismal as Rooney’s subjects, these drawings share a similar mood and drab color-scheme with grayscale trees and ashy water.
At Vox Populi, you will find four artists with very distinct styles who sculpt one show with common threads of humanity and inhumanity. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes unsettling, there is a great cross-section of work on display from the representational to the functionless and whatever lies between.
Vox Populi is located at 319 N. 11th St. on the 3rd floor; 215.238.1236.