Let’s face it — here in Philly, we have a bit of a complex. Not about our penchant for plastic cheese or our baseball team’s furry green mascot, but the fact that no matter what, we are not New York City. Some people get their big–city contact high by pulling the “but it’s only two hours away on Bolt” card. But there are some people who wouldn’t trade their smaller downtowns for all 200+ blocks of Manhattan, and they’ve got the art to prove it. “here.,” an exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, showcases the work of 24 artists from six flyover–state cities. Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Raleigh–Durham, Detroit and Kansas City take center stage in an attempt to “look away from places regarded as the artistic centers, and play with the idea of the periphery,” curator Julien Robson said. The quirks of each locale emerge in full force. Kansas City–based artist Michael Krueger’s work pops off the walls in psychedelic tones that recall Lawrence, Kansas’ history as the first hippie commune. (The first hippie commune was in Kansas. Who knew?) Native American ritual slaughter traditions are projected onto the walls in a video installation by Arizona–based collective Postcommodity, and Michigan artist Scott Hocking transforms the post–industrial disrepair of Detroit’s factories into a series of complex and provocative photographs. Philly itself is brought to life in the work of four artists — in Lewis Colburn’s case, almost literally, as one of his installations involves the reproduction of a section of the L train tracks. More conventionally, Tim Portlock uses a gaming program to manipulate his photographs of Philadelphia into stunning landscapes. In his piece Sunrise, which shows an orange sky emerging through a layer of signature Philly gray, “there is a sense of a new tomorrow coming, something enigmatic going on,” Robson said. Though it’s one of the simpler pieces of the show, that sense of something new might as well stand for the whole exhibit. Though in essence “here.” is an opportunity for these 24 artists to strut their local pride, it’s part of a fundamental change in the art world — that “the hegemonic power of New York is beginning to wane,” Robson said. These artists are part of the movement to shake things up a bit, because “when you live on the periphery, you can think in a more expansive manner,” he added. “You can do stranger things.” So the new direction of art might be a traveling “cabinet of wonders” from Raleigh–Durham or a video of a Kansas–based artist mouthing off while wearing a magician hat. Either way, it’s something completely different, and it’s happening here, in Philly. “here.” 10/22–12/31 PAFA’s Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building 128 N. Broad St. Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m.–5 p.m. $12 with student ID pafa.org
In this book, everything is political.