When you let one of your artists curate a group show at your gallery, you presumably know you'll probably get a gathering of the artist-curator's like-minded friends and mentors. Whatever the theme may be, it will allow a certain porousness.
That's pretty much the case with artist Anthony Campuzano's group show of eight, "A Complete Die, etc." at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery. But he doesn't hesitate to say so in his essay for the show, and he has adroitly fleshed out an interesting theme that does not always hew to his acquaintances' more-recognizable styles.
The inspiration behind the show is a collection of dice put together by Los Angeles-based artist Justin Michell that Campuzano first saw in 2009 and that lodged in his mind as a potentially unifying force for an exhibition. He noticed that the diverse components of the dice collection and the fractured surfaces of each individual die had some commonality with the art he admires. (He even goes so far as to compare his group of eight artists to an eight-sided die, and why not?)
Michell's collection, which was just beginning when Campuzano saw it, has grown exponentially since then. Previously confined to a couple of boxes, his dice now command five Plexi-covered display tables in the center of the main gallery at Fleisher/Ollman. There are the usual, familiar six-sided dice, as well as more extravagant versions, including 144-sided ones, and dice shaped like skulls, breasts, and stars. Arranged close together in patterns, they're incredibly alluring, like hundreds of different kinds of hard candies.
In most cases, the show's art makes obvious connections to the dice, starting with Michell's Lambda prints depicting familiar structures, such as ladders and walls, floating or extending into undefined space.
Anissa Mack's three pieces from her series "Almost Arrowheads," made in 2008 and 2009, have the most in common with Michell's die collection, from the way that Mack has wrapped her little pointed pieces of flint with wire, to the way she has attached them in grids to colorfully painted geometric-patterned backgrounds.
At first, Karen Kilimnik's DVD "Bananarama Guilty" (1988), a blurry copy of the British post-punk girl group performing its hit "Love in the First Degree," would seem to have an unclear relationship to the dice collection, but then you see (barely) that the choreography has a kaleidoscopic quality in which the synchronized moves appear almost faceted.
An echo of the dice definitely resonates in Mark Mahosky's series of small, meticulous ink drawings of landscapes where Civil War battles took place, and of houses designed by the modernist architect Richard Neutra, which are all the same size and rendered on the same amber background color common to old, yellowed-white dice and early Kodak color film.
There's an uncanny resemblance between Zach Harris' Landscape Star with Protection Panel (2007), a construction of painted wood and sheet metal, and some of Michell's star-shaped dice, but all three of Harris' constructions share the dice's multiple components and time-burnished colors.
The grid design organizing Jessica Mein's Miopia (2011), an assemblage of 36 of her unique, hand-bound, collaged books, and the colors of the individual books make an immediate connection to all the works in this show, as does Kate Abercrombie's clever guessing-game of a series, "Twenty Great American Films" (2011-2012), comprising 20 small, identically sized, unprimed canvases, each one depicting an iconic still painted in gold leaf.
John Finneran's small oil paintings of groups of three nude male and female figures on postcards that feature one upside-down figure in each group, and his large, linear charcoal drawings on stretched, unprimed linen - Upturned Lion (2011), of a standing lion that takes up the entire canvas and is hung vertically, so that the lion is shown sideways - turn painterly conventions quite literally upside-down and sideways, their placements of images as random as if they'd been determined by a roll of the you-know-what.
The Philadelphia Photo Art Center's Third Annual Exhibition and Competition is sprawling, but it clearly was chosen carefully by its jurors Kathy Ryan, director of photography for the New York Times Magazine, and Natasha Egan, director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.
There's an emphasis on documentary and staged work, but all current trends in photography are represented except for works made using early methods of photography and developing and printing techniques.
A few photographs that stopped me in my tracks include Tim Gruber's Dreams Relocated (2010), a color photograph of a large, new shingle-style beach house being prepared to be moved (its proximity to the ocean is frankly jaw-dropping); Rachel Cox's jarring, school-of-Zoe Strauss portrait of a middle-aged woman, Mind Meld (2012), and David Mitchell's AB 053 (2011), one of the few abstract works in this show, a pigmented ink print that suggests a constructivist painting and anything by Joseph Albers, but is probably an arrangement of monochromatic textiles on paper.