Locks Gallery

Architectures of Resistance

April 6 – May 25, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018

Locks Gallery is pleased to announce an installation of new works by Philadelphia artist Jane Irish. Architectures of Resistance debuts a series of large-scale canvases and works on paper depicting interior spaces in which vibrant ceiling murals bloom with imagery of Western colonialism alongside imagery of Vietnam War conflict and protest. The exhibition will run concurrently with a major site-specific installation of paintings and ceramics inside Philadelphia’s historic Lemon Hill Mansion, organized by the Philadelphia Contemporary. With the mansion’s ties to the colonial legacy of early American culture, the project provides a unique expansion of the artist’s studio practice and a rich counterpart to her work in the gallery.

Irish’s paintings utilize architecture as embodiments of historical power structures, or as vessels that can accumulate and emulsify disparate moments in time. Her newest works emphasize the ceiling as pictorial space, drawing inspiration from Renaissance and Baroque murals that made ceilings into illusionistic, mythological zones. Here the ceilings overflow with a modern mythology of the War in Vietnam and opposing peace movements of the 1960s and ’70s, subjects that—as in much of the artist’s best-known work—speak to the enduring significance of the Vietnam era as a nexus of imperialism and resistance. Irish’s most recent paintings have also been directly fueled by Edgar Allen Poe’s little-known prose poem Eureka, an “Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe” written in 1848 that blends history, theology, and scientific theory. The totalizing cosmology of Poe’s visionary text proves foundational to the architectures of Irish’s newest paintings, in which interior, temporal, and geo-political space are synthesized.

Works on paper juxtapose opulent Rococo and Neoclassical decorative styles with imagery of Vietnam War-era conflict and protest, striking contrasts that suggest causalities and continuities across history. On the large canvases, Irish’s interiors are more abstracted than in her prior work, with one painting showing a ceiling-like plane floating over a richly colored swamp. In another, a blazing orange ceiling spans a plantation room in which verandas open on either side to reveal surreally opposing landscapes—to the right, a Louisiana Mississippi River Road plantation, and to the left, a south Vietnamese rubber tree grove. In Beautiful Wreckage for E.A. Poe and W.D. Ehrhart, the wall and ceiling framework disintegrates completely into a horizontal wave of blue above yellow, within which stunningly detailed vignettes of Vietnam proliferate, symbolizing the final passages of Poe’s “Eureka.” With their impressionistic blending of global time and space, Irish’s Architectures of Resistance constitute a unique form of history painting.

Jane Irish received her MFA in 1980 from Queens College, CUNY, and has exhibited at venues including Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Art, PA; the Walker Art Center, MN; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Irish has been the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, a Painting Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and a Painting Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is held in public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Irish lives and works in Philadelphia.

Founded in 1968, Locks Gallery represents an international group of critically respected contemporary artists working in a variety of disciplines. The exhibition program is a diverse combination of fresh perspectives on 20th century masters, showcases of emerging talent, and new bodies of work from a core group of acclaimed mid-career artists. With a sustained commitment to contextualizing the work exhibited, the gallery regularly publishes illustrated catalogs with scholarly essays and hosts public programs such as artist talks, panel discussions, and gallery walkthroughs.

A collaboration with the artist (or their estate) is at the core of each exhibition, allowing the gallery to present original programming. The staff cultivates long-standing relationships with individuals and institutions, fostering a new climate for contemporary art collecting in the city of Philadelphia.

The gallery presents a broad spectrum of artistic practices, with a focus on seminal works in painting and sculpture. Priding itself on its museum quality setting and artistic excellence, Locks Gallery is a longtime member of the ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America) and subscribes to the highest measures of connoisseurship, scholarship, and curatorial practice.

Locks Gallery was founded in 1968 as Marian Locks Gallery. The original gallery on the 1800 block of Chestnut Street, was of the first commercial galleries in Philadelphia devoted exclusively to contemporary art. In 1971, the gallery moved into the former home of the Yale Club on the second floor of 1524 Walnut Street. The gallery become known for building a national audience for the work of living Philadelphia artists along with cultural events such as poetry readings that attracted participants from outside of Philadelphia. During that time, Marian Locks opened a satellite space on lower Arch Street to exhibit installation, earth works, and emerging artistic practices that were more experimental and less commercially attractive.

In 1990, the gallery moved to the southeast corner of Washington Square Park in a dramatic three story 1918 Italianate Palazzo style building formerly occupied by Lea & Febiger Publishers. Now under the direction of Sueyun Locks, the gallery continues to highlight local talent with a strong focus on women artists, alongside national and international artists.

Image Captions

1. Locks Gallery Building.

2. Jane Irish
Plantation, 2017
egg tempera on linen 62 x 74 in.
Image Courtesy the artist and Locks Gallery.