This monthly art block–party is more than just an excuse to pilfer cups of wine from the galleries lining Second Street. Venture off the beaten path and hit up this month’s most promising shows.

Locks Gallery

600 S. Washington Square

(215) 629–1000

The concepts of “rules” and “flow” don’t ordinarily seem to fit together, but like so many other things at Locks Gallery, the two current exhibitions by Ann Agee and Lynda Benglis contrast yet complement each other wonderfully. Agee’s exhibit, “Rules of the Pattern,” juxtaposes the glazed porcelain figures for which she is most famous, arranged neatly on stand–alone blue tables, against massive mulberry paper backdrops. “Naked Maker Me” features a hybrid of man and animal emerging from a bed of flowers, while “Gross Domestic Product” is composed of a series of porcelain tiles featuring domestic scenes. If Agee is about specifics and detail, then Benglis, with her exhibition “Flow and Flesh,” is about optical illusion and challenging the viewer to understand the story behind the names of her pieces. Using sculpture installations and materials such as polyurethane, Benglis replicates the textures of flesh with each of her pieces. Most notable are “Black Ice,” three triangular cut–ups composed of tinted polyurethane, lead and stainless steel that resemble fleshy icicles, and “Chiron,” which is made of red tinted polyeurathane and references the lengthy Greek myth. — Shelby Rachleff

Projects Gallery

629 N. 2nd St.

(267) 303–9652

Vivian Wolovitz’s impastoed abstract paintings are rich explorations of surface, depth, landscape and atmosphere. With an ethereal quality that captures the essence of an autumnal stroll through the woods, or a glacial view, Wolovitz’s work isn’t merely an impassioned interaction between artist and canvas; it’s a clever evocation of Thoreauvian transcendentalism. In her first solo exhibition at Projects Gallery, Wolovitz exhibits several dozen pieces of varying size and scale to vastly different effects. Some works are impossibly overwhleming, bulldozing the viewer with the weight of a Rothko, while others are merely quiet and contemplative. In any event, Wolovitz’s technical talent is clear. Her compositions, brimming with the effervescent buzz of the natural world, invite the viewer to explore mankind’s unique relationship to the outdoors. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to bump into the artist at the First Friday reception and have a chance to pick her brain or discuss Walden over wine. — Lucy McGuigan

Nexus Gallery

1400 N. American St., Suite 102

(215) 684–1946

Both Jennie Thwing and Anastasia Owell’s exhibits at the Nexus Gallery use mixed media to challenge socially constructed realities. Owell’s artistic study of games and Thwing’s exploration of man's control over nature examine the fabrication of artificial environments and reveal innovative and exciting takes on the modern age. In a video piece “Let’s Play” and in “Plastic Landscape,” Owell and Thwing respectively address different aspects of existence in the digital era; Thwing crafts surreal, manipulated vignettes of possessed foodstuffs, while Owell uses the computer game landscape as a stand–in for a much scarier reality. Walking through Thwing’s exhibit is an eerie experience; the artist creates a world in which objects need no human hand to animate them. A spoon turns itself in a bowl of oatmeal and peas on a plate spell out words. Owell, on the other hand, uses video games to visualize hunger, pain and other raw emotions. Her piece, “Doom Face,” combines video game visuals with real sound footage from the Iraq war to portray violence in a way that is simultaneously real and yet disconnected from reality. — Alexa Nicolas