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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Site Specific Dance by Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company, Turned onto The Atelier Gallery

Site Specific Dance by Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company, Turned onto The Atelier Gallery

Philadelphia Contemporary

Performance Date:
June 11th, 2021

Freeform Review:

The Umbrella Dance is a reimagined piece with a program which specified rain or shine at The Cherry Street Pier. They called it a BYOU (bring your own umbrella).  The creative insitu dance utilised a dozen dancers, all wearing white, in a hybrid of movements staged at the open market setting at Cherry Street Pier in Philadelphia. 

In the meantime, Philadelphia Contemporary presented select artists from the Cherry Street Pier artist studios at the Atelier Art Gallery. Nicole Pollard curated the exhibition, Unfolding. Twenty-two artists were chosen by an open call application that requested artwork from those at the CSP studios. It was curated to fit a site-specific context.

The site specificity of the two companies worked complementary to the knowledge of performance, art which is private and public, and asking artists, finished by what means?

The Cherry Street Pier in Philadelphia became a stage for a pop-up dance company. Artists in the CSP studios can be seen through a specific lens of adapting to the environment. A portal initiates conversations between art and the process. We were interested in a connection for the art in progress during the performance- and after the performance is finished. Nicole Pollard opened the context to projecting on a public or working in privacy at CSP studios. Probing this art review as a performance with multiple dimensions.

The Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company performance, The Umbrella Dance has happened at several locations in Philadelphia, and it brings forth language through dance, into a public space. This movement subtly touches on the mystery of the many piers along the Delaware River. The bizarre at Cherry Street Pier under a steel roof invites many vendors to showcase their products. But down the waterway harbors cruises, restaurants, and other undeveloped piers which have been abandoned over time, because my interest in this dance is a haunted time capsule.

The ghostly figures of the dancers from June 11th sparked an interest in how the market became a stage. This changes our gaze, and turns the tables, in an elaborative attempt to flaunt a possibly glamourous, archetypical dandy, or any how they invited this overlay of information/history/mise en scène. Through this impromptu relationship with the public, like a mirage, dandy out of mundanity, when the sanctuary is in this public yard we connect with dance spiritually.

What brings these two companies together is the impetus of public versus private studios for the artist to work in. The question of when is it a performance came up in our tour of The Atelier Art Gallery, where the exhibition Unfolding is up until this Friday, July 23rd.

Nicole Pollard, Associate Curator, considered the question of the studios at Cherry Street Pier to be an instance of, “At what point do we call it a performance?” For Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancer’s a spontaneous performance, and for the Philadelphia Contemporary’s investigation there was a considerate effort to probe artistic practices behind the scenes.

Internalized movement in modern dance came with a new audience, as well as the impressionists with modern art at the turn of the century. For the artists of the CSP studios the audience, passers by along the pier are welcomed back since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The gallery introduced a theorem of identifying a chain of reactions based on the idea of the artists’ public display when the art is unfinished. Arriving at a unique intersection, Cherry Street Pier has a desire to capture or canonize how we read the exhibition design in hindsight with The Umbrella Dance.

If we look back to June 11th with The Umbrella Dance, the scene painted an embellishment around the public square by wearing different shades of white, white gloves, and stuttering through the market holding white umbrellas. 

Unfortunately, the sculpture of Tracy Emin, A Moment Without You, was not yet erected across from the Cherry Street Pier. The 13-ft poles with bronze casted birds at the top, spaced out in a grassy area where the Umbrella Dance accumulated and dancers strutt, spinning umbrellas, in a manner of a rich Rococo painted ceiling.

However desaturated and opaque, the eight dancers reveal the mural of Jason Alex Ramirez.  As for the performance that would be Unfolded at the Atelier Gallery: Installations by Abbott & Abbott, Felice Luchansky, and Yolanda Wisher were poignant to viewing the work of Sarah Damiano, Athena Scott, and Claudia Bokulich on display.

At the Atelier art gallery the scope for looking into artists’ practices in many different mediums on a dichotomy of public or private workplaces. Many of us have likely heard of the artist representing the wild, isolated, creative mind. I recently took up reading Stephane Mallarmé, he writes about the artist’s struggle very poetically. Such homage being, Edgar Allen Poe, he is an influence on Malarmé of an American writer, misunderstood, or under appreciated by the public. Athena Scott for one can paint a likable portrait of the artistic spirit. We can arrive at our own reading, though it is evident that this work depicting James Baldwin is a pop quiz for the viewers’ knowledge of this notable poet, writer, artist with a particular speaking style, and what will remain with us today are his mannerisms.

In the center of the room there was a typewriter, an installation by Yolanda Wisher, asking us to contribute our own poem. This invitation to join the conversation is the suggestion of a ghost writer. The fragile quality of the neighboring artist, Felice Luchansky, sets up another investigation that should not be touched. Perfume bottles filled with ghostly images, if you will, vintage photographs.

Getting to know the artists is also part of the  process, and it was integral to appreciating the likes of Marcel Duchamp. For example, an anthology of dates and appointments shows where, and this man-made publicity which surrounded him, whether he was on a trip to America, Germany, or South America. This historic figure in art history managed to emphasize the process of selection, and conceptualized art making in general by working in complete privacy only to assist with an important movement or happening at the time.

Like Sue Haung’s call center piece, entitled Desert Center, USA. Conceptual art asks the viewer to manifest the whole process. The information is a physiological desert, sexual connotations allude to the body as place.

In the storefront window of Jason Alex Ramirez’s studio are flowers as well as  other plant life. The artist talked to us about his concentration on nature and love, and responded to the growth in development for his new work. The graffiti and tattoo style is generating its own abstraction. Later on we will meet the alias who was Thomcat23. His studio is full of ideas for images for social commentary, and if you get the chance to talk with the artist, I mean it, he will elaborately reveal the surreal part of image making in the scope of media literacy. His expertise ranges from espionage to the Economist… Ken jumped at the idea of gestalts in his work, and the process of free-interpretation.

It is a short path down Cherry Street Pier, but I followed AMM&DC to get here. With special interest to find out more about this connection with Philadelphia Contemporary, that was simultaneously happening, as I went on with the promenade to the Atelier Gallery. “Unfolding” art exhibition presented something happening, and there’s more than meets the eye.

The Umbrella Dance cast a shadow over this active place of business. As I try to capture the elegant movement, it is a rocaille style in the fashion of Rococo. The curves and ornamental frill became an architectural movement.

In the quiet gallery space there is a spectrum consisting of abstract to figurative art. Stillness through photography, and off to the side, the light projection over these  awkward, ruffle, textured molds of glass, by Abbott & Abbott. They showed a process of collaboration. Its output of combining film installation over this texture aided with an imagined light intricately reflected off the water down at the pier. As if this B&W documentary performed, fractured by the glass, and projected a sensory memory from the piers origin. 

Exhibiting artists included in Unfolding revealed a curated group show on a diversity of topics. The program centers around getting to know the artists on a deeper level. The question of what is the connection with the artwork continues to play out in the forms being used by each artist. For instance there was Ed Marion’s work, a masked self portrait, but you would never know his obsession of pineapples, unless you took a visit to CSP studios yourself, or asked him about his masked bandit.

An element at the Atelier Gallery is the space for these Philadelphia artists to have an exhibition for the public. To have an installation of work that emphasizes a type of artist in the finished artwork. Some of the artists were working for the very first time in a serious exhibition space. In other ways, teachers in residencies with the Portside Art Center, such as Sarah Damiano’s piece is a painting that feels like a noticeable chunk of sidewalk against a derelict doorway of an abandoned factory. The photo reference, and treatment of the cement is a spotty memory. There was a distorted entryway in the form of a black sheen of paint deterring us from entering the imaginary building. A kind of intimacy in Claudia Bokulich’s painting holds up strongly against the abstract painters by a sense of playfulness in revealing two figures looking cozy together. Theatrically, it practically shutters, and we recognize constricted boundaries insinuating an intimacy.

While also being inclusive, SPARC Services has been working with mentally disabled members of the community. They designed a corner of the gallery with interplays of drawing from workshops with the community. A reflection from a spiral of gleening silver wrapping paper, and colorful yarn was a glaring spot in the gallery. They set a pattern for the rest, an idea for accessibility stretched across mediums curated tonally to a diverse landscape. Philadelphia Contemporary suffices for a newly organized commitment to diversify a socially awareness for the creative spirit in Philadelphia.. 

As if AMM&DC resembled a Rococo fleur-de-lis painted ceiling coming to life in amazing stucco and plaster around the rustic feel of the Cherry Street Pier. We toured the Atelier Gallery, and we found an amazing connection to the ecology happening in the gallery space, and perhaps a psychology in the privacy of the CSP studios. An effect that could be lasting is a surprising freshness, and awakening empathy for the artistic spirit that is alive and well in Philadelphia.

Chuck Schultz


Photo Credit:
Chuck Schultz

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