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Monday, April 9, 2012

WPCA's 'Vanishing Points' a Sight to See

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“Vanishing Points: Explorations in Architecture and Identity” is the perfect exhibition for Walker's Point Center for the Arts (839 S. Fifth St.), and Executive Director Gary Tuma is the perfect guide for a tour. “We're very visible on this corner,” he observes, adding that in the past the structure housed an A&P grocery store and a haberdashery.

Three artists make the point that much has changed in our world, and in doing so they beautifully meld past and present. The front gallery, which overlooks South Fifth Street, is rich with the huge oil paintings of Philadelphian Morgan Craig, most notably The Golden Age of Smoke and Mirrors. Craig renders the post-industrial image in hues of umber and gold, which drives home his point that what once was golden is now little more than a tarnished reflection of past glory.

In a stroke of curatorial genius, Craig's four paintings are juxtaposed with Chicago painter Michael Banning's modest slices of realism underscored with elegant notations addressing the where and when of the images. For example, his Industrial Structure, Port of Milwaukee, a 2011 oil on panel, is smartly composed and includes the familiar sight of a towering salt pile. What charms here is the artist's detailed precision, and though he records views of grain elevators and West Pierce Street, his approach is distinctly fresh and modern. Photographer Mark Slankard, an Ohio-based artist and a major talent, trekked to Turkey, and in 2008 he began photographing the rapidly changing landscape, newly populated by folks who have fled their rural villages. Burger King, Umraniye, Istanbul says it all. He's used his master of fine arts degree and a bachelor of arts in psychology to great and exciting effect.

Banning will talk about his work at 7 p.m. April 20, as part of Spring Gallery Night. Walker's Point Center for the Arts is celebrating 25 years of surviving (and thriving) during three changes in address. This exhibition (up through May 5) is a perfect fit.