“Get back to your Philly roots!” suggested photographer Ted Adams to ex-Philly native Robin Rice. So she did. The Robin Rice Gallery is pleased to present The Philly Salon, a group show featuring nine Philadelphia-based photographers including, Andrea Modica, Eric Mencher, Jenny Lynn, Kass Mencher, Keith Sharp, Laurence Salzmann, Robin Rice, Ron Tarver, and Ted Adams.
Back in Philadelphia, these photographers have created a loose-knit group centered on an artist’s salon held at the home of Ted Adams. Over the years, with its quirky themes, abundant food and drink, and inspired curating, the salon has developed into something of a cult happening. Rice used the group as a starting point, and assembled a show that highlights photography’s potential to create communities from diverse groups of people and ideas. The invitation carries two images, the first is Sweet Oranges by Ron Tarver. The oranges have been peeled carefully in neat, narrow rows that circle the fruit from top to bottom, with the coils of discarded skin piled in front. The beauty and symmetry of the design stands out, but the object leads one to consider the care it took to create it. For Tarver, this simple detail- found in a Cuban market, captures the poetry of the people and place. The second photo, Fountain, Colorado, is by Andrea Modica. In it the back of a young person arches away from the camera towards a shaft of light and into the glistening image. The subject – a figure- is recognizable, but on the whole the work is abstract. The sensual tones of the hand-coated platinum print stimulate our desire to touch, to know, and to experience the visual textures that appear before us. Each artist is showing two photos. The influences behind the works are as varied as the artists themselves, but it’s Rice’s aesthetic that imbues the show with a smooth, visual consistency. Her instinctive eye for imagery, which skirts easy definition yet produces an emotionally laden atmosphere, is well-displayed. The appearance of the surreal beside the real becomes believable; the documented news photo acquires the romance of the fantasy picture, and the day in the life snapshot seen alongside an abstract image devolves into regions of shape and light. Eric Mencher’s photo taken from the passenger seat of a truck rolling through the windy streets of war-torn Rwanda, offers a startling glimpse at the human spirit standing against all odds. Laurence Salzmann documents poor, young Cuban wresters who use stairs to train, climbing with their hands while a partner holds their legs. Kass Mencher is looking for extraordinary, yet real moments. Her elegant woman, seen in silhouette, appears to be a dancer, in reality, it is the statue of a matador. Ted Adams too goes fishing for unexpected visuals. His photo shows a high wall with echoing shadows that float like ghostly memories above the joyful diners seated below. Humor is also evident in Keith Sharp’s “daydream” collages that mix interiors and exteriors to create a puzzling new décor, like a bathroom with real wall ivy hanging on a towel rack in the shape of a towel. Jenny Lynn draws on her backgrounds in painting and film to explore the interplay between staged and spontaneous images in her soft focus photo of a gloved hand reaching for a Victorian keyhole. And Robin Rice’s photographs explore naturally occurring optical illusions. One of her images features a woman lying gracefully on a beach; it’s shot at a low angle so that she appears to be floating in the sea, like a siren among the rough waves and rocks.