This year the venerable Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial-a tuition-free art school and gallery located in South Philadelphia-celebrates its 100th anniversary. At the same time, its Challenge series of juried exhibitions, which since its inception in 1978 has been among Philadelphia's most prestigious non-commercial exhibition programs, celebrates its 20th year. Twenty Philadelphia Artists: Celebrating Fleisher Challenge at Twenty, an exhibition on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from July 18 through September 13, 1998, salutes these two milestone anniversaries. Annually, more than 300 artists apply to be one of 12 artists selected to exhibit in the Fleisher Challenge. The variety and the vitality of the Philadelphia-area artists who have participated is surveyed in this exhibition that spans many approaches, from the traditional to the cutting edge.
The 20 artists in the exhibition were selected by John Ravenal and Ann Temkin, curators in the Museum's Department of 20th-Century Art, together with Thora Jacobson, Director of Fleisher, and Warren Angle, Gallery Coordinator at Fleisher. The Museum exhibition will take place in the Berman and Stieglitz Galleries on the ground floor, and additional spaces in the building will feature several new installation works. Artists include Lisa Bartolozzi, Lanny Bergner, Norinne Betjemann, Charles Burwell, Syd Carpenter, Frank Galuszka, Michael Grothusen, Mei-ling Hom, Stacy Levy, Tristin Lowe, Gabriel Martinez, Susan Moore, Kate Moran, Brooke Moyer, Don Nakamura, Stuart Netsky, Bruce Pollock, Judith Schaechter, Hester Stinnett, and Stephen Talasnik.
As a reflection of the diversity of the work highlighted in Fleisher's exhibitions over the past 20 years, the selection of artists includes figurative painters working with Renaissance techniques, abstract painters working with conceptual structures, ceramists making sculptures, sculptors making multimedia installation pieces, a stained-glass artist who uses a medium associated with spiritual settings to present violent and disturbing imagery, a photographer who bleaches and paints black-and-white prints, and printmakers who incorporate materials as unconventional as ground pharmaceuticals into their art.
Twenty Philadelphia Artists: Celebrating Fleisher Challenge at Twenty is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and The William Penn Foundation. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue written by Mr. Ravenal, who is the organizing curator, with an essay by Ms. Jacobson. The book also contains a checklist of the exhibition and a list of all the artists who have participated in the Challenge exhibition series since its inception.
The Museum's show will provide a retrospective cross-section of a full generation of regional artists and is planned to complement the Fleisher Art Memorial's own invitational exhibition, 20 x 12: A Generation of Challenge Artists, which will present the work of some 180 of the 250 artists who have participated in the Fleisher Challenge over the past two decades. 20 x 12 will be on view from July 18 through August 28, 1998, throughout the Fleisher Art Memorial, which encompasses six joined buildings: a former vocational school, a former church and belltower, and three row houses. Artists have been encouraged to select and fashion environments appropriate to their vision with an emphasis on recent work.
20 x 12: A Generation of Challenge Artists has been made possible in part by contributions from an anonymous donor and installation assistance from Duron Paints & Wallcoverings. The Fleisher Art Memorial is located at 719-21 Catharine Street in the Bella Vista section of Philadelphia.