Ingrained, currently on view at Automat, is an installation by Abby King and Marie Manski devoted to the exploration of the 319 North 11th Street building in Philadelphia and the unique community of artist run spaces that have sprung up there in recent years. Perhaps best known for Vox Populi, one of the first galleries to inhabit the space, 319 houses more then five galleries including, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Marginal Utility and Napoleon. As the newest addition to the building Automat, like most of the other galleries in the building, is run by a collective of artists interested in fostering a cross-disciplinary discourse. They emphasize community engagement, offering panel discussions like the one held on April,9th in conjunction with Ingrained . (Image below)
In their artist statement King and Manski describe the piece as, “…a sensory experience inspired by research into the space.” From a viewer’s perspective, or at least mine, the installation was a lot of fun. The experience was eerily similar to walking through a haunted house. Each turn brought a new vignette with screen printed panels of fabric creating the illusion of definite space and intimacy. Seeking out people connected to the building Manski and King used interviews as their source material.
“The common thread to each interview was a focus on three primary ideas: past, present, and future. The artists have created visual interpretations of their three -fold findings. The stories are housed in a labyrinth whose walls are taken from the literal architecture of the space.”
(Excerpt from the Ingrained artist statement)
Some of the imagery was more easily accessible than others, at times evoking the crushing sensation of being outside of – or a part of – an elusive club. Raising questions like, who was getting together to smoke cigars? Does this occur frequently and how do I get invited?… More likely these were artifacts unearthed during renovation given the artists focus on past, present and future. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the panel discussion to find out for sure. What I have determined from both my experience with Ingrained and of the 319 building so far is that all of the institutions housed there have a clear focus on artist driven interaction.
When asked about his gallery and the community at 319, David Dempewolf, of Marginal Utility, expressed a desire to remain connected to artists and friends through the gallery; using phrases like, “low key” and “living art community” to describe the space. In February at Tiger Strikes Asteroid it became clear to me that concept takes precedence over monetary gain when I asked about the price of Brenda Goodman’s work and was referred to another dealer for details. The emphasis on collaboration and artist driven curation within the building is refreshing. Through their work on Ingrained Manski and King reflect back to the community both it’s continuity of mission and it’s shared physical space.