Edith Newhall reviews Jon Manteau’s current exhibition, “Philadelphia Historical Artifacts”.

Posted on: Thursday, June 5th, 2014

We’re excited and grateful for Edith Newhall’s of Jon Manteau’s current exhibition in the Philadelphia Inquirer (6/1/2014).

Galleries: Jon Manteau: But wait, there’s more!

By Edith Newhall
Sunday, June 1, 2014

The first time I saw Jon Manteau’s current exhibition at LG Tripp Gallery, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work making up his latest one-person show there, “Philadelphia Historical Artifacts.”

Almost anyone and anything you can think of that has had a major impact on this city’s history and stature in the world has been transformed into a Manteau artwork of one kind or another.

William Penn is reimagined as a lifelike child in a life-size sculpture; house paint is artfully poured onto a scan of a photograph of Grace Kelly; a cast-concrete sculpture of a soft pretzel (also poured with latex) blown up to mega-scale perches on a pedestal, in the spirit of Claes Oldenburg.

An installation of Manteau’s abstract, poured latex paintings on plywood from 2003 and 2004 with various found Americana (iron works, stoneware jugs, baseball bats) mimics the “ensembles” of the Barnes Foundation’s gallery walls. Having known and liked his poured-latex paintings in the past, I mostly limited my focus to his newer poured paintings on huge swaths of carpet that hang on the wall and roll out majestically onto the floor (they look surprisingly like tapestries). A show made up entirely of paintings like these – one per wall, ideally – would have made me happy.

A second visit left me with an entirely different impression of his show – that it has to be the over-the-top carnival it is to juggle the diversity it contains. (There are poured-resin works included here that easily predate his poured paintings of 2003, qualifying this show as a mid-career survey of sorts.)

The second time around, I accepted that I could not take in absolutely everything in this show and that allowing for the occasional serendipitous encounter might be the best approach. The individual works that make up wall-mounted rows of dozens of postcard-size painted digital scans of Philacentric photographs, which at first I’d found almost off-putting in their multitude and abundance of Philly references, turned out to be consistently clever and affecting. I came across my favorite pieces (besides the painted carpets) on the wall of the back office: three ink-jet prints of views of Philadelphia from the 1970s (I.M. Pei’s Society Hill Towers among them) poured with house paint that simultaneously reminded me of Gene Davis Franklin’s Footpath, painted on the Parkway in 1972, and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.

So, Jon Manteau can do it all, like Robert Rauschenberg before him. But I’ll hope for a future show of big paintings.

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