I found myself feeling at home more quickly than I thought possible at the Sunday night opening of From That Day to This at a newly resuscitated art space in Hampden. The Gallery at 32nd and Chestnut, a ‘home gallery,’ provided comfy couches, a rooftop lounge and plentiful Whiskey Smashers. This warm atmosphere set the stage for performances by Soft Cat, Sianna Plavin, and The Remington House Ramblers, and also the works of about fifteen artists.
For better or worse, the homey-ness of the venue greatly influenced how these works were experienced. Morgan Frailey’s narrow table of delicately arranged miniatures (pictured above) was displayed where a piece of furniture might be, and played with this dialogue while remaining distinctly its own object, a success in the space. This piece embodies the fluid nature of story telling: the contents of the table can be reinvented in each environment where it is displayed.
Emma Louthan’s duo of drawings, which recall Swedish artist Jockum Nordstrum, seemed innocent until it was revealed that they depict scenes of debauchery from the Pool After Dark Nightclub in Atlantic City. The strange contrast of these outrageous social scenes to the cozy atmosphere at From That Day to This was clever and unsettling.
However, there were a few cases elsewhere in the show in which the physical proximity of the house’s décor to the works on display put some works at disadvantage. It became difficult to decipher where the work ended and the usual household ornamentation began. Hannah McKoy Gilson’s work, for example, didn’t have quite enough independent space to organize itself effectively without bumping into plants and domestic hardware.
Moments such as these had a confusing impact on how the work was read, however, on the flip side, the casual format of the show contributed the unique accessibility it achieved, which was a significant strength of the event. I was left feeling that the space was more successful as a social space than as a gallery. Removing the household objects and artworks that were not a part of the show would begin to resolve this conflict. Alternately, committing more fully to a dialogue between the artworks and the domesticity of the space could provide a more natural solution.
From That Day to This will be open for the next three weeks on Saturdays from noon till five or by appointment.
Author Evan Roche is from Vancouver, British Columbia, and currently lives and studies in Baltimore, MD.
*Photos by Noah Scialom