“…the idea that a shape/form can occupy multiple spatial conditions and potential readings keeps me engaged in both making and looking… a Duck/Rabbit thing, rooted in the complexities and pleasure of perception.”
Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present, INFINITION, a solo exhibition of bold and colorful abstractions by Michael Gallagher.
Enigmatic, delightfully playful and bold, Gallagher’s new works at first appear as accomplished abstractions that reference modernist forms. Painted biomorphic shapes swirl around the surface, producing a centrifugal force generated from the center of the painting outward. Texture and varied paint application break the solidity of flat planes of color creating implied space in the composition. The shapes then alternately poke into those spaces and push out, shifting the relationship between what is considered the figure and what is the ground.
Aside from the striking visual richness of the painted surfaces, a second layer of interpretation reveals multiple manifestations of nameable objects and spaces. Gallagher’s titles encourage this read. A shape once perceived as a colored plane can become a hill, fish, bird, or still life objects. In some of the works, objects hover in a liminal state until interpreted by their relationship to the shapes surrounding them. This action of relational interpretation is what drives Gallagher’s studio practice. He enjoys the act of revelation, multiple (mis)readings, and the “potential” for subject matter. For instance, in Aquarium 3, joy and comedy are fully embraced as what was once a spot of color, turns into an eye and glares back, perhaps asking the viewer, “…what are YOU lookin’ at?”.
A Philadelphia-native, Gallagher spent his formative years studying at the venerated Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) which is well-known for alumni and pedagogy dedicated to the practice of observational painting traditions. Throughout the 1980s, Gallagher adhered to many classical oil painting techniques while experimenting with a blending of shapes and imagery. This approach has been the theme of his work for nearly forty years. Gallagher is the recipient of five Excellence in Teaching Awards from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he has taught painting and drawing for several decades. After numerous successful solo and group exhibitions in the region, Michael Gallagher is now represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery.
Mickayel Thurin has developed a new and distinctive combination of materials in her latest exhibition of work, titled Awakening. Acrylic paint, yarn, thread, ink, and patterned fabrics create surprising juxtapositions between textured shapes and painted, collaged imagery. In each picture, a central figure is revealed from within this jubilant visual activity as narrative connections emerge. Thurin’s painted subjects appear contemplative and aware. Some engage the viewer through direct eye contact while others take on a more introspective posture, their gaze downward, seemingly absorbed in their own story.
Driven by her interest in people, Thurin began drawing family members from photographs at a young age. The human face is Thurin’s chosen subject, but she has other artistic concerns that drive her practice. She says, “It’s people and their faces that spark my interest, closely followed by color, pattern, and texture.” As her practice continued into adulthood, she started working with live models and realized portrait painting provided a method of seeing beyond physical appearances, allowing for a better understanding of the inner nature of her sitter. Throughout the painting sessions, the artist utilized conversation to cultivate an intimate connection. Thus, Thurin’s artistic decisions have been inspired and directed by the sitters’ experiences.
Thurin considers this latest body of work an “homage to 2020-2022” in which she unpacks her personal experiences from that period. She says of these recent paintings, “Much of this subject matter is based on experiences during the last few years that needed to be expressed.” These works depict the artist’s meditations on trauma, social injustice, politics, mental health, and spirituality. Thurin and the models often discuss these subjects during portrait sessions, and the resulting works are a synthesis of the artists’ and sitters’ vulnerable expressions of internalized trauma and acts of self-care.
Mickayel Thurin is a Haitian American artist who grew up in the Mid-Atlantic region. She completed a four-year certificate and BFA in a joint program through the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Thurin is the founder and executive director of Seen Heard Connected, a nonprofit organization bringing awareness and financial assistance to marginalized people. Three portraits and audio recordings of interviews from the Seen Heard Connected program are part of Awakening. Thurin lives and works in Philadelphia with her husband, fellow artist Benjamin Passione, and their son, Maurice. She is represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery, and this is her second solo show.
Short & Sweet II is a collection of mini-exhibitions, each offering a small taste of works by four local artists. Gross McCleaf is pleased to introduce JP Calabro, Alex Griffin, Kate McCammon, and Lauren Whearty.
JP Calabro’s kaleidoscopic designs celebrate color, commercialism, and camp. Delectably delicious dayglow color covers a rock candy surface created from diamond dust, the material used in popcorn ceiling texture. With seductively fruity titles, Calabro’s work is a collectible treat. We bet you can’t have just one!
Calabro has exhibited his work widely in the Mid-Atlantic region including the Chestnut Hill Gallery, Freemans Mainline Gallery, the FMC Tower, and the Plastic Club. He currently lives and works in Philadelphia.
Alex Griffin’s heavily manipulated surfaces offer ghostly remnants of his process of layering, scraping, and erasing. His works take on lives of their own as mystic apparitions, leading the viewer through quiet, discretionary interpretations. Griffin says the completion of a painting can feel like an exorcism of sorts. Though his work can sometimes feel haunted, he finds a way to add small elements of joy to his dreamy stories.
Alex Griffin has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and his paintings are in private collections across the country and abroad. He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Griffin lives and works in East Falls, Philadelphia.
For Kate McCammon, the use of fabric serves a dual function. The many colors and textures substitute for the artist’s traditional medium of paint and remind the viewer that these materials have an original purpose of cloaking and hugging the domestic realm. Iridescent silk, plushy velvet, patterned upholstery fabrics, and collaged sections of family photos create sentimental imagery, a nostalgic sense of place, and a feeling of home. Although her works often depict a family photo album, McCammon recognizes the constructed and invented nature of memory. Her narrative works are not stagnant relics of the past; rather, they are active transformations of characters and themes that are intimately known, while somehow constantly being discovered.
Born in the small town of Bridgeport, West Virginia, Kate McCammon’s passion for art guided her through a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA in Studio Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She has been awarded a number of residencies in the United States and abroad and exhibits her work regionally. McCammon lives and works in Philadelphia.
Vibrant and saturated, Lauren Whearty’s still-life paintings playfully propose contemplative and conceptual connections between form, images and meaning. Bold bouquets perched atop equally brazen floral fabrics create comparisons between the sign and what is signified. Constantly referencing the act and tradition of painting itself, Whearty’s works are deceptively effortless yet erudite.
Lauren Whearty is an artist, educator, and curator living and working in Philadelphia. She is a co-director of Ortega y Gasset Projects, an artist-run curatorial collective in Brooklyn, and teaches at the University of the Arts and Tyler School of Art & Architecture. She has attended numerous residencies and has exhibited widely in New York, Philadelphia, and more.