Located in the middle of the Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor is the Gravy Studio and Gallery, a collaborative space that promotes the work of local photographers. On display right now is the “Penumbra Installation” by artist Krista Svalbonas, which straddles the line between photography and painting with a show that examines the forms in an urban landscape.
Jersey City-based Svalbonas changes the interior of the gallery with a number of paintings on square panels, which appear to spill off the canvases and run along the walls. Thick, black and gray lines emerge from the paintings and meander into long rectangular forms, which frame the paintings against the white walls. All of the shapes that comingle with one another here are hard-edged and right-angled, and they seem to connect with one another through the sprawling lines.
One wall in the space differs from the rest by exhibiting a collection of small photographs. Arranged into another rectangle, the photos depict the details of an urban environment that are common but perhaps overlooked: bricks and grates, metal bars and windows. Although these geometric exchanges occur around us on a daily basis, they tend to get passed over in our hurried schedules and short attention spans. Svalbonas, on the other hand, searches them out and captures them with a camera. These photographs ultimately become the basis for the rest of her work.
When looking back onto the surrounding paintings, the photographic context allows for an entirely new perspective. Instead of merely lines and paint, one can imagine the rooftops of buildings and the streets that run between them or the latches of a window and the surrounding blocks of concrete. With this urban framing in mind, the artist’s process also takes on a new guise. The layers of wax, graphite and pastel that Svalbonas uses to create her works are built up in a way that mimics construction more than anything. These forms seem in many ways congruent with the Suprematist paintings of Kazimir Malevich and come across as more industrial than expressive.
The fact that the “Penumbra Installation” provides a view of the artist’s process from observation to assembly is extremely insightful. Svalbonas has a keen eye for discerning geometric beauty that many others might merely pass by. From photography to layered painting and even room-sized installation, Krista Svalbonas reduces the sometimes complicated shapes of a city to the minimal interpretations of her canvases.
Gravy Studio and Gallery is located at 2212 Sepviva Street, Philadelphia; 267-825-7071; gravystudio.blogspot.com.