Jaclyn Denzel of Jamestown gets a kick out of Jess Pfohl's 3-D pop art installation at the 55th annual Allentown Art Festival, view on Buffalo News
Art sellers and buyers converge on Allentown this weekend. New this year will be an interactive art exhibit and DJ set from Jess Pfohl. Colin Dabkowski explains in this video, view on Buffalo News
The pop art by Jess Pfohl was made to view with 3D glasses, so she had them for those who wanted to view the work in her booth. Becky Cosgrove of Buffalo said, "This is cool." view on Buffalo News
Since its humble beginnings as a small neighborhood gathering 55 years ago, the Allentown Art Festival has steadily built a reputation as one of the largest and most beloved art fests in the country.
For hundreds of thousands of loyal attendees and visiting expats, it has become an indispensable rite of spring.
But over those same years of growth, prosperity and laudable fundraising for educational causes, the festival has also built a reputation as a bastion for stodginess, stubbornness and anachronistic thinking in a city otherwise brimming with progressive arts institutions.
This reputation began not long into the festival's life, after organizers abandoned collaborative programming with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and other organizations. It hardened during various disputes between Allentown shop owners and the Allentown Village Society, the Kremlinesque organization in charge of the festival that has been perennially accused of limiting the benefits outside groups might receive from festival foot traffic.
And it came to a head in 2007, when the AVS, under director Mary M. Myszkiewicz, successfully lobbied City Hall to force out Robby Takac's glorious, boundary-busting "Music Is Art" festival into exile at the Erie County Fairgrounds. (It's now going strong, with its 10th incarnation planned for Sept. 15 at the happily collaboration-friendly Albright- Knox Art Gallery.) This vindictive effort by the AVS, driven by the puzzling anti-collaborative spirit for which the organization has become known over the years, remains an open wound in serious need of repair.
And that's where Emily Burns comes in. At 31, Burns is one of the youngest members of the Allentown Village Society, where she serves as chairwoman of social media. She represents an incipient desire to bring a festival in many ways paused in 1957 gradually into the 21st century.
That push is taking many forms, the most visible of which is the inclusion of work by the Baltimore-based installation artist Jess Pfohl (her tent, which doubles as a DJ booth, is on Delaware Avenue between Allen and North streets). In future years, Burns said, festivalgoers accustomed to traditional art forms can expect to see more contemporary work-and an increased presence on social media- as part of an effort to attract a younger crowd.
Some contemporary arts aficionadoes view the work the festival displays as lacking in quality. This concern- though far secondary to the festival's anti-collaborative history and also not entirely accurate-is only helped along by AVS's problematic practice of cooping up all the award-winning work in its Franklin Street judging hall on Saturday, an exhibition to which the public at large is not invited. Though that work is dispersed back to festival tents on Sunday, the eye-opening experience of viewing the best quality work all in one place desperately needs to be opened to the public.
The fest is also stepping up efforts to promote its educational fundraising and work with school groups, the result of which can be seen this year in a tent dedicated to work by Buffalo Public School students.
In addition, Burns said, she would welcome potential collaborations with other local arts institutions-a suggestion to which her predecessors on the AVS board have often been hostile. All of this is a welcome sign, especially because the festival-which enjoys massive attendance every year and performs its limited function extremely well-has no pressing need to become more progressive.
There is no question whatsoever that the Allentown Art Festival is a positive force in this city. But there's also no question that it could benefit from a dose of 21st century progressivism.view on Buffalo News
Among the more than 400 white booths lining Delaware Avenue and the surrounding streets this weekend for the 55th annual Allentown Art Festival, one in particular seems sure to draw double takes from passers-by.
For more than a half-century, veterans of the art fest have learned exactly what sort of work to expect from the granddaddy of all Western New York festivals: traditional oils, watercolors, architectural photographs, decorative sculptures and many-splendored trinkets of all imaginable types. But this year, at least one artist is inserting a bit of unexpected flair into the staid proceedings of the festival.
Jess Pfohl, a self-styled neo-Pop artist, sometime DJ and St. Bonaventure University grad who works out of Baltimore, will be going in a slightly different direction in her booth on Delaware Avenue between Allen and North streets.
Visitors to Pfohl's booth, which is decorated with hundreds of shiny compact discs, will see the artist manipulating a turntable and laptop set atop a table partially constructed from Campbell's Soup cans. The DJ set, she said, is designed to complement her exhibition of mixed-media works hung on both sides of the booth, which tell stories from her life and relationships in a wild range of whimsical colors and eclectic styles.
It's all part of a project Pfohl calls "Pop Logic" and describes, in a card advertising the show, as "an extra-large multi-mixed media art expose and DJ set."
"I am prepared to stick out, and frankly I'm quite used to it," Pfohl said in a phone interview from Baltimore when asked about how she thought she'd blend in. "It's nothing new to me, and I think it's nice to be different."
Pfohl casts herself as an artist straight out of Warhol's Factory - hence the cans of Campbell's Soup, which, she said, has signed on as one of her several corporate sponsors. She didn't start making artwork seriously until about 2008, when a friend encouraged her to turn the tentative pieces she was making in her Brooklyn apartment into fordder for a career.
"I knew off the bat that if I wanted to do this and take it seriously, I wasn't going to be able to afford it. I had already done many starving artist years living in New York and once I moved back to Baltimore, I couldn't do it anymore. I kind of thought outside the box and got in touch with some great companies, and they were into it."
With a background in marketing and videography and experience touring with several rock bands, Pfohl parlayed all her interests into an artistic/musical persona that seems to be as stylistically diverse as the work she creates.
"Unlike most artists, where they kind of find a process that they're comfortable with and they make many pieces in a similar fashion, these paintings are all mixed-media," Pfohl said. "And when people ask me what I do, I just say, 'Oh well I glue stuff to other stuff,' to be kind of coy. But it's much more involved than that. The fashion and the style of each painting, instead of following suit, they're all different. The way they relate is within the story, not within the style of the work."
Amid the serene watercolors and bejeweled lawn sprinklers that have come to characterize the Allentown Art Festival, Pfohl's work is sure to raise some eyebrows. And that, the artist said, is exactly the idea.
Out of all the booths at the festival, she said, "I'm pretty confident in saying that I'm probably going to be the most unique."
WHAT: Allentown Art Festival
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
WHERE: Delaware Avenue between West Tupper and North streets; Allen Street between Elmwood Avenue and Franklin Street; Franklin Street between Allen and Virginia streets. The concurrent Allen West Festival takes place along Allen and Wadsworth streets between Elmwood Avenue and Hudson Street.
INFO: 881-4269, www.allentownartfestival.com , or pick up a festival program at the Allentown Village Society offices at 435 Delaware Ave.
view on Buffalo News
POP Rocks! is an art and music performance series organized by psychedelic artist Jess Pfohl. The next installment of the music and art series takes place this weekend at the Baltimore Hard Rock Cafè. In addition to an exhibition of collaborative artwork by Jess and photographer Michael Weintrob, attendees can expect performances by Some Cat From Japan, Eric McFadden, Wyllys, Tom Hamilton's American Babies and a showcase of Baltimore bands.
I talked to Jess about pulling the show together, the future of the POP Rocks! series and painting a Rocks Off! cruise boat in 2011...
J.R. Hevron: You started the POP Rocks! Series last December with a show at Sullivan Hall in New York City with Scott Metzger's Heroin. How did that come about?
Jess Pfohl: I wish I could take credit for the whole premise of what I'm doing, but it's inspired by what Andy Warhol had with the Velvet Underground. Andy had an appreciation for the relationships between rock and roll and pop culture and powerful artwork. He wanted to create a marriage between the three and make it into a lifestyle. When I finally decided to show my work, it felt appropriate to do it in the most Andy fashion-and that's why I asked Scott to put together the band Heroin [which played the music of the Velvet Underground].
JH: What is your artwork like for this installment?
JP: For this exhibit, photographer Michael Weintrob and I teamed up. It's exciting because he's such a wonderful photographer. Over the past couple of months, He sent me over 200 images to pick from. I took those images, blew them up, took all of the color out of them, and then painted my day glo on top of the images.
It's all inspired by Warhol's screen printing. I think that if Andy were alive today, he would have progressed into high-res printing, enlarging images, layering images and things like that.
JH: Will there be any other artwork on display?
JP: I am raffling off two guitars to benefit music education and the arts in Baltimore. One is a painted acoustic guitar and one is a Paul Reed Smith electric. Originally, I was going to paint the PRS too, but decided not to because it's a 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Scarlet Red Custom SE 24-i didn't know that that was what they were sending me until it landed on my doorstep- and it's too pretty to paint.
JH: You had mentioned to me that one of the inspirations for putting on this show is that the music scene in Baltimore isn't so hot.
JP: Well, I don't feel that it is [laughs]. I mean, after living in New York and being able to go to Prospect Park for free music all summer long, I don't see why that's not available everywhere! If I can make it a personal crusade to bring that excitement back to Baltimore, that's reason enough for me.
JH: What bands are playing?
JP: I'm a definite supporter of amazing guitar players, it's kind of my thing. Some Cat From Japan is playing and they are an exceptional group of guys to come together to explore Hendrix's music. They're just taking it to another level and going somewhere with his catalog that no one else has before.
And [guitar player] Scott Metzger, as far as the whole Andy Warhol correlation-he is like my Lou Reed. His dedication and work ethic to become a better guitar player every day is just so motivational in itself. So, having the support of someone like that in this project is just... not to sound corny, but it's a little bit of an honor.
We have Eric McFadden from Stockholm Syndrome coming out from San Francisco. He's a good friend of mine and a sick, sick shred machine. I don't even know what he's doing up there half the time, but it's jaw dropping. He's just such a presence on stage. And a little secret is that he's going to get up on stage with Some Cat and do some of his Experience McFadden.
We also have Tom Hamilton and American Babies. He's also a wonderful guitar player who is expressive in his own way since he started doing this acoustic stuff. It kind of opened up a new style of writing for him. It's exciting for me to watch him play a different genre of music than Brother's Past and hold his own.
Then we're doing a showcase of Baltimore bands. There's Rakkasan which is a three piece and one of their biggest influences is WEEN-I fully support that. And then a great duo called Tek SubPort and they are pretty much going to keep the energy alive while we're switching over the stages so that there's music throughout the day. They're brand new and it's impressive how tight they are for how long they've been playing together.
JH: What's next for POP Rocks!?
JP: We're doing another show at Sullivan Hall on 7/27. It's a celebration of the permanent residency of the Alfred E. Newman paintings from my last show there, plus some new pieces. A new band from Brooklyn, Into the Sun, will start the evening off. Then, the Scott Metzger Band will open for the Eric McFadden Trio. I have spent so many evenings in Sullivan Hall, and now that I no longer live in NYC its fun to know that my work is still hanging out in that room, even when I am not.
Then, a few days later, I'll be installing 12 7-foot painted photographs at Gathering of the Vibes on the gating that surrounds the main stage. It's literally the biggest crowd I've ever shown to, 30,000 people-which is kind of blowing my mind.
JH: Any plans for the future?
JP: In the spring of 2011, I'll be painting one of the Rocks Off! Boats. The particulars are top secret. Jake and I have emailed back and forth on how it needs to get done and frankly it's so cool it's too cool to even repeat how we are doing this. It's so top secret that even the Coast Guard has to be in on it. My art will be on the outside of the boat and will accommodate windows and decks and everything visible to you from the dock. Remember those NYC taxis with the flowers, Garden in Transit? Like that but BIGGER and BADASSER and on a BOAT.
The next place I'd like to go with POP Rocks! is San Francisco. When Andy and the Velvet Underground went out to San Fran and completely bombed out there because at that time the whole darkness and understanding of the Velvet Underground was offensive. They didn't quite understand the whole dinginess behind the band-couldn't appreciate that. They were all flowers and rainbows and you know the Velvet underground is the total opposite. So, I'd love to take Scott Metzger and Heroin out there, but this time we'll blow them away!
view on Hidden Tracks
The second exhibition of works of Baltimore artist Jess Pfohl will be on display at music and event venue Hard Rock Cafè in Baltimore. The exhibit, POP Rocks!, debuts 8 7-foot painted rock photographs taken by famed photographer Michael Weintrob and are inspired by American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker Andy Warhol and his Factory.
The reception for POP Rocks! will take place on July 24 and is accompanied by 8 live music performances from Some Cat from Japan; with an Exploration of Jimi Hendrix, (Will Bernard, Stanton Moore, Scott Metzger, Nigel Hall, Ron Johnson, Eric Bolivar), Eric McFadden (P-Funk AllStars, The Animals), Tom Hamilton's American Babies (Brothers Past, Disco Biscuits), Baltimore bands RAKKASAN, Tek Sub Port, Dinosaur Project, Boston native Navillus plays acoustic guitar over lunch and Wyllys (Umphrey's McGee) concludes the night with a DJ set accompanied by sit-ins from the day's line-up. The free outdoor reception begins at noon and extends early into Sunday morning, concluding by 2 a.m.
The event celebrates the opening of JessMessin' Studyo! located at 810 N. Calvert St. in Mt. Vernon Art District in Baltimore City as well as the collaboration of Weintrob and Pfohl.
July 24, 2010
Hard Rock Cafè- 610 East Pratt Street - Baltimore, Maryland 21202
View on JamBase
Agency 2.8 photographers Michael Weintrob, Stephen Meierding, Arturo and Sam Bassett adorned the walls of Gen Art's resurrection benefit on November 4, 2010 to support the organization's efforts to raise money to pay back artists that were caught in the middle of Gen Art's insolvency earlier this year.
Embracing the spirit of emerging designers, photographers and film-makers, Gen Art was looking strong Thursday night when 1,200 supporters came out for a raging party, fashion show and photography exhibition.
Absolut Vodka and Menage a Trois kept the diverse crowd of sophisticates and hipsters well sauced, while DJ Reach kept people dancing all night long.
The Agency 2.8 roster displayed a poignant round of visuals to the diverse New York audience.
MICHAEL WEINTROB's photograph of Ray Charles pained on by artist Jess Pfohl
Word on the street is that Gen Art founder Ian Gerard is in talks with possible partners and a relaunch is looking more and more likely.
According to the Wall Street Journal: "Creditors seeking more than $150,000 from Gen Art filed an involuntary Chapter 7 petition in June in Manhattan bankruptcy court.... Gerard said he expects someone to acquire the Gen Art later this fall." - WSJ
Let's hope so, that would make for a lot of happy emerging artists.
Photo Credit: Soul brother for Gen Art
View on GenArt
It's hard to keep up with all of Scott Metzger's bands and collaborations. Aside from regular stints in Bustle In Your Hedgerow, RANA, and the Gene Ween Band (among many, many others), he has also recently played with Chris Barron, the Everyone Orchestra, and Jason Crosby. This Saturday at Sullivan Hall in New York City, he adds another band to the list with Scott Metzger's Heroin, a one-time grouping of local all-stars who will vibe through a late night set of Velvet Underground covers. This past weekend I talked to Scott about the Velvet Underground, his studio work, and how during this recession he has become an in-demand "New York City guitarist."
JR: Where did the idea for Scott Metzger's Heroin come from? Is it going to be an ongoing thing?
SM: I think that it's kind of a one shot thing, as of right now. But you never know with these things. I mean, Bustle in Your Hedgerow was a one shot thing the first time that we played too. And five years later we're still doing that. First and foremost, this is a visual art opening for my friend Jess Pfohl at Sullivan Hall. It started off with her asking me if I wanted to come down and play a couple of songs. And then at some point it came up how much her work is influenced by Andy Warhol and how much she loves the Velvet Underground. One thing led to another and the next idea was: "Let's do a full set of the Velvet Underground."
JR: Are you a big Velvet Underground fan?SM: I went through a big Velvet Underground phase right out of high school-of listening to the early stuff like the live 1969 album. I really liked the band and it just seemed like they were dudes-and a girl-playing music. They made playing music seem very accessible. A few years later, I went through a big phase of listening to their album Loaded a lot, which almost sounds like an entirely different band. The drummer is different, but the level of production and everything is so... the whole philosophy behind the music is different at that point. I always love it when you can hear bands develop from album to album.
JR: Have you ever met Lou Reed?
SM: I have not-but I spoke to him on the phone once. When I was 19 years old, my friend Matt Kohut was playing bass for [original Velvet Underground drummer] Moe Tucker on a solo tour and they took me out with them for a few shows to play guitar. It was me, Matt Kohut, a guy named Sluggo from Half Japanese playing drums, and Moe Tucker. On that tour, she played guitar and sang and pretty much exclusively did Bo Diddley tunes. This was probably in '99 or 2000. Once, when we were doing a sound check, Moe's cell phone started ringing and I looked down and it said "Lou" on the caller ID. I picked up the phone and said "Hello, Moe Tucker's phone," and the voice on the other end said [in a stern New York Lou Reed accent], "Put Moe on the phone." That was far as my friendship with Lou Reed ever went.
JR: Who is in Scott Metzger's Heroin?
SM: Kevin Kendrick, from Fat Mama and A Big Yes and a Small No; Jonathan Goldberger, who is from those two bands as well; and Ryan Thornton, who is the drummer for Sam Champion, RANA, and Sean Bones. All three guys are great musicians on their own and all are well versed in the Velvet Underground. That's exactly why I called them. Jonathan is an outrageous guitar player, but he's going to be playing bass on this show. We just had our first rehearsal last night and it turns out that he's an outrageous bass player too.
JR: Are you playing songs from one album or from the whole catalog?SM: It's pretty all over the place. Like I said before, I think that the Velvet Underground is a band that went through a bunch of phases. Each phase is pretty well represented in the list of songs that we've got so far on the setlist.
Read the whole interview on Jam Bands