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Monday, July 16, 2012

City Beat, by Thom Nickels, ICON Magazine July 2012

City Beat by Thom Nickels ICON Magazine July 2012 The 1989 book, Wisconsin Death Trip, is a collection of 19th century photographs of corpses at funerals and wakes. The stiff faces, vacant expressions and otherwise glum expressions on the faces of those who have passed match to a T any high school prom photo. Why? It’s usually the case that the person you take to the prom winds up being forgettable. That Death Trip look, however, may be found in the work of photographer Mary Ellen Mark who will show her 100 high school prom pictures from 16 high schools nationwide at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Coming of Age, from Wyncote, PA to Pacific Palisades, CA (July 1—October 28, 2012). The showing of Mark’s work seems to point to a new grassroots vibe at PMA started by Zoey Strauss….one question lingers: When will we see Annie Liebowitz-style photos of senior curator and encyclopedic mastermind Joseph J. Rishel that match the famous YouTube video of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger? The news from PMA these days is as endless as the sound of incessant weekend drumming along the Parkway. At the Sol Laue Garden dedication last month (a social register accented soiree where we spotted one man dressed as if on a fox hunt) press officer Gigi Lamm asked (with a wink) if City Beat was going to take a look at the Rishel-curated Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia (July 20—Sept. 3, 2012). We said Yes, but only if this Arcadia, as represented in 40 masterworks from public and private collections, manages to become more lasting than ethereal dreaming. “Reality Bites” proof that Life is only sometimes Arcadia can be had by visiting the “reinstalled and reinterpreted collection” at the Rodin Museum.This is where “The Gates of Hell,” Rodin’s 8 ton bronze lifetime project beckons all those lovely (soapless) bathing Cezanne ladies. Due to reopen July 13 after a three year restoration, this “reform of the reform” returns the Rodin to its original Paul Cret design, along with a restoration of the Jacques Greber garden. At a hardhat tour recently, a smiling Gail Harrity pointed out “The Kiss” safely entombed in a tall wooden box that will surely stun at the grand re-opening on July 14, Bastille Day, the date the museum opened in 1929. We tried to track down NPR’s Terry Gross at last month’s Philadelphia Arts and Business Council Award ceremony at Vie, 600 North Broad Street, where arts and business chieftans mingled and presented Gross with its 40 year service aware, but the super power movers and shakers—museum heads, etc.—had all bolted before the reception… sans the ever approachable Gary P. Steuer from the city’s office of the Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy…. FYI…I met Gross years ago when she hosted an old records radio show and invited listeners to bring in their old tunes and talk about them on the air, but my June Christie and Chris Connor LP’s were a no go. We missed “A Summer of Riesling—a Garden Wine Tasting with Marnie Old” at the German Society of Pennsylvania last month (sommelier Old is anything but), but we might catch the July 4th festivities at “the most historic of all Philadelphia’s historic houses” at Stenton (4601 N. 18th Street: where patriotic simplicity (hot dogs) will combine with a make-your-own ice cream machine. This old house was built between 1723 and 1730 and has hosted some of the most revolutionary programs ever, especially the symposium on sexual mores and prostitution in Colonial Philadelphia. Imagine the charge that went through the audience when the ever knowledgeable DAR speaker showed us a condom from the 1770s. People drop dead during marathons, but a good walk rarely does any harm…this sums up The Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia’s Summer Walking Tours. Among the picks: a July 07 Around Washington Square (the Square that Jane Jacobs called “filled with perverts” in 1959); a July 29th Walk Through Northern Liberties, home of hipster hash, checkered shirts, doggie parks and Eastern European churches; a July 21 Tour of Fishtown (the improved Penn Treaty Park is among the best in the city); a July 25th tour of Victorian Germantown. Thank God those “Dead Man Down”/Collin Farrell movie people have gone back to Tinseltown. Not that pumping lucrative film money into the city is a bad thing… but nothing’s quite so disturbing as watching hundreds of celebrity-hungry Philadelphians at 16th and Walnut clamoring for a glimpse of faux Mafia guys in gore makeup dropping over like summer mosquitoes…Where the soothing balm from Arcadia when you need it?