City Paper [May 19th, 2004] - Robin Rice ---------------------------------------------------------

Seraphin Gallery explores the figurative tradition in Philadelphia and beyond.

As I sort through a toppling pile of accumulated press materials, I note a preponderance of summer exhibition cards depicting paintings of the human figure. Is this a resurgence of conservatism in response to our gradual national acceptance of a wartime mentality? Is it a cyclic cresting of Philly's legendary academic painting tradition -- perhaps linked in some mystic way to the 17-year cicada tsunami which will assault our eardrums this summer more intensely than ever before? Or is it my imagination?
No doubt the last guess is the correct one; however, my interest was piqued by "Masters and Mavericks" at Seraphin Gallery, which often features artists of the mid-20th century. I had not thought of Seraphin as a bastion of figurative art, yet Larry Rivers, represented in the current show by a pleasant, open figure composition, and Leon Golub, also showing a drawing, are favorites of gallery owner Tony Seraphin, who reminded me that he published the first book of Thomas Eakins' photographs, intimately linking Seraphin to the Pennsylvania Academy figurative.

Among the 34 artists in the show, Sidney Goodman stands out -- though not alone -- for quality andFigure with Caution Tape, a figure wrapped almost entirely in the distinctive yellow tape exemplifies one consistent strain of Goodman's work throughout his career, a conjunction of implied and static violence with representational and abstract rigor. A study of a Small Black Cloud, one of the minority of works in the show without a human figure, is marvelous. Goodman's recent large Two Self Portraits, in which a gesticulating, almost forbidding, contemporary self in the foreground overshadows a pensive child-self seated in the background, easily dominates one end of the gallery. quantity. He's showing several studies. 

Seraphin's installation presents a sequence of effective juxtapositions which enhance the visitor's experience. A monumental charcoal self-portrait of the currently hot Susan Hauptman presents her self-analytic deadpan concentration above a carefully rendered lacy dress with a glitter-sprinkled corsage. In the foreground a dog turns from its baseball to eye us with hopeful sweetness. Vertically paired small paintings by Sandra Flood are linked to one another by a deep violet color. One work reiterates the dog motif on a violet ground. Above, in Five Months and Counting, a tired, pregnant woman droops in a violet kimono. Flood, who has several works in the show, has a deft, painterly way of depicting forms in light. Sharply edged shapes tend to be isolated against an artificially flat ground. They glow with a sweaty, frizzy-haired urban sheen and tasty color harmonies. Music and a frisson of feminist social commentary often creep into her work as subtexts.


Seraphin Gallery  l  Contemporary Philadelphia Art Gallery and Art Consultant 
1108 Pine St.  l  215-923-7000  l