Cover image of the review

Philadelphia Wireman

11 Aug 2018
3 Aug - 1 Sep 2018

There is an overwhelming temptation to fill in the constitutive blanks where an artist’s life should be, but here there is no artist, only the artworks remain. The evidence of the so-called Philadelphia Wireman’s life is patchy, effectively non-existent. Enough facts remain, however, to establish a scene. Twelve of the some 1200 small, meticulously bound-in-wire sculptures and drawings found dumped in a lane off that city’s South Street in 1982 are currently on rotating display at World Food Books in the Nicholas Building.

The program for their exhibition, devised by Melbourne artist and bookseller Joshua Petherick, groups them into smaller clusters over the course of the five-week ‘Occasion’, one of a series held in the small shop space. A simple, metre-long ledge has been fabricated for their display at eye-level on the book-store’s eastern wall. Beginning August 3, a trio of the works were displayed initially: PW 640, PW 944, PW 374. Now two: PW 26 and PW 32. Next week three more: PW 902, PW 776, PW 1084. Another three the following week: PW 900, PW 885, PW 905. And finally, just one: PW 466. South Street in Philadelphia begins at the University of Pennsylvania and ends at the Delaware River. It is this strip that frames the intricately laden objects, packed with debris. Sometimes they are taped over and flecked with marker. They are tied to a particular time and place. The drawings—not included here—were found alongside the boxed and discarded sculptures, and look like Henri Michaux inks. All of the sculptural works share the same central characteristic: their support is tightly twisted medium-gauge wire.

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