Splashes of color

Several times a year in the Philadelphia art world, the exhibitions and promising shows start to overwhelm capacity. In the interest of at least being informative, here are a number of noteworthy shows.

At the Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St., the first round of the 25th Annual Challenge Exhibition runs through Oct. 5. As is the normal practice at Fleisher, the shows are juried and 12 artists are chosen from the more than 300 applicants to be shown in four three-person shows.

This year’s first show features the work of Nancy Sarangoulis, Mark Shetabi and Linda Yun. Sarangoulis collects items from flea markets and then assembles them, combined with drawings, without "any preconceived intentions." The results provide for a number of interpretations, not the least of which is that the work is "spontaneous" innocence. Sarangoulis graduated from Kutztown State College and attended the Ecoles d’Art Americaines in Fontainebleau, France.

Shetabi, born in Iran, notes that he sometimes feels isolated from his childhood in the sense of not knowing what is real or true within the filter of memory. He received his bachelor’s degree in arts from Western Washington University and his master’s from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His work seeks to "make sense of conflicting notions of art, religion and culture." The artist’s piece, My House, is an expanse of wall containing a small locked door with a peephole, revealing a remembered view of his childhood home in Iran.

Yun, an installation artist, uses powdered pigment placed inside the cracks of the gallery floors, and applies joint compound mixed with latex paint to walls, creating landscapes that are "lonely and quiet." She is interested in the dialogue between art and the viewer. Yun graduated from New York University and received her master’s degree from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting an unusual exhibit in that it is an art show designed to interpret and explain other art. British pop artist Richard Hamilton has been studying and obsessing over Marcel Duchamp’s ideas for two generations. Through Nov. 3, the museum will show Hamilton’s Typo/Topography of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass. It will be hung next to Duchamp’s Large Glass itself. Hamilton’s work is "an elegant, computer-generated diagram of the Duchamp piece, over which Hamilton has superimposed the English translations of Duchamp’s notes, so that every painted element is united with the written idea."

Hamilton, now 80, has worked for years with Duchamp’s ideas of life, politics, literature and popular culture. Hamilton has done similar work in connection with James Joyce’s Ulysses.

This installation is part of an ongoing series at the museum called "Museum Studies," which invites contemporary artists to create works that engage various aspects of the facility.

Another installation piece is being shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Astrid Bowlby has created an imaginary world where thousands of scissor-cut drawings of disparate everyday objects whimsically coexist. Titled Leaves of Grass, the work is an ambitious homage to Walt Whitman, "whose democratic idealism, celebration of the commonplace and spirited zeal for living are articulated in his poetry." The Bowlby installation will run through Nov. 10.

Bowlby has created thousands of drawings, which she will spread around the floor and walls in sculptural piles. The artist wrote, "I imagine the contents of a comic book being shaken between its covers and dumped onto the floor or expanded to fill any entire room." A Philadelphia resident, Bowlby has exhibited at Fleisher, the galleries of Temple, Arcadia and Moore; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Gallery Joe and the Abington Art Center.

She graduated from the University of Southern Maine and received her master’s degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Bowlby has won a number of awards, including a Pennsylvania Council on Arts fellowship and a Leeway Foundation excellence award.

The women’s board of the academy is once again sponsoring the "USArtists: American Fine Art Show" at the 33rd Street Armory, the largest show of its kind. Now in its 11th year, the show will run Oct. 20-22, and features a huge supply of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and other works on paper from three centuries of American artists. More than 60 dealers participate and this year, a complementary exhibition, "Fifteen Exposures," will feature a juried selection of work by alumni of the academy. The show will allow visitors from around the world to also see the work of some prominent regional artists.