Although Grizzly Grizzly is a creative collective geared towards the somewhat broader definitions of what art can be, one type of art that they do not display is work by their own members. This boundary is probably in place to prevent conflicts and controversy, and it is upheld by the members regardless of whether they make things themselves or not. As with most rules, they are worth a little nudge now and again, and the folks at Grizzly Grizzly have decided to showcase former members and founders of the collective instead in the show “To All the Girls I've Loved Before.”
By skirting the rules just a little, the space sort of turns in on itself, filling its walls with pieces by like-minded artists that would, at some point, have been disqualified. These individuals consist of Bruce Wilhelm, Matthew Alden Price, Steven Little, Vincent Colvin and Mike Ellyson. Many have moved onto Virginia, Texas and Brooklyn, some have stayed in Philadelphia – but all of them still create.
Matthew Alden Price includes some of the more abstract bits in the show. Some wooden shelves against a hot pink backing include all manner of tchotchke that range from decorative to potentially functional. Cylinders with spiny bits of extruding material occupy space next to spoon and scoop-like devices, as well as a spade and what appears to be a rusty piece of corrugated metal. Like the toolbox of some eccentric old craft-making recluse, each object has a very specific spot and an utterly impossible to determine use.
A mixed media painting by Vincent Colvin is by far one of the more accessible images, but also one of the most complex. He utilizes memory to construct places and times that seem like specific locations, but rely more on his range of materials than on reference. His piece “Galbraith” is a dusky outcropping of rocks above a cool green hilly region. The clouds churn as if instigated by an incoming storm, and the whole scene hints as much at chaos as it does at the serenity of places untouched by humans.
Five t-shirts hang from a column on dry cleaning hangers at one side of the room. The hangers themselves read “We (heart) Our Customers,” while the shirts say only “We.” Whether the 'we' is the shirts, or the we is all of us, Bruce Wilhelm's inclusion is perhaps even more befuddling than Price's. They are indeed we(e) shirts, as they would apparently only fit a toddler, and they draw on the prevalence of humorous and ironic t-shirts donned by just about everyone that likely attends shows at Grizzly Grizzly.
Mike Ellyson works in pink neon signage with a glowing piece that reads “Pereda.” Is this sign named after the Spanish author? Is Ellyson a literary buff turned sign maker? Without any specifics, we are mostly left with the fact that it sits on the floor, an unlikely place for just about any sign ever.
Last, we find Steven Little's rather simple painting of a greenish-blue man in turn-of-last-century military garb. Epaulets and a kepi, as well as a bloodied sword, speak of his role as a soldier, but his glazed, surprised expression leads us to believe he is not a very good one. “I really stabbed him...” he seems to think as he draws back to the blue background from whence he came.
Each of the five former members of Grizzly Grizzly will have their works on display through June 28.