The Philadelphia Inquirer

March 07, 2008

by Edith J. Newhall

Like its three predecessors, the fourth and final of this season’s Wind Challenge Exhibitions at the Fleisher Art Memorial is less of a piece than the Challenge shows of 18 months or two years ago. A shared aesthetic among each group of three artists seems not to have been a top priority for the 2007/2008 jurors.

There is some commonality between the three artists in Challenge #4, though. Shelley Spector, Judy Gelles, and Erica Zoe Loustau all employ the human figure and writing to one degree or another. They also work on a similar medium-size scale, and their art shares a touch of the past, a somewhat melancholy quality. Except for several of Spector’s pieces that produce sound, this is an especially quiet, reflective show by Challenge standards.

Spector’s found-object sculptures and photographs, which occupy the first room of Fleisher’s Louchheim Galleries, make a strong immediate impression. Her colorful pieces look like Depression-era toys rejiggered by a hobo, and are installed to perfection. (I’ll assume Spector, a former gallery owner, was responsible.)

The carved-wood word pieces, with their intentional misspellings and lack of punctuation, and her gigantic American Ruler, a seven-foot strip of wood printed with a color photograph of a real vintage ruler, are more interesting than her audio or kinetic pieces. The latter include a wooden phonograph that plays old-fashioned songs but whose turntable doesn’t revolve, or the Blockhead-type figure that continuously lifts and lowers a ball.

Spector is also showing a group of new, deeply vertical photographic prints of vertical objects, among them a zipper, a belt, a chain, the spines of a few National Geographics – all of which she has altered (she often replaces a brand name with her own surname, among other things) with humor and charm.