Old City, Philadelphia-based Paradigm Gallery + Studio recently wrapped up two solo shows featuring the colorful, saturated art of both Martha Rich and Lisa Congdon. Rich’s It’s Wild Here included a display of painted cutouts on wood, chronicling her signature practice of eavesdropping and observing. Currently residing in Philadelphia, Rich uses words and objects to capture the essence of the City a of Brotherly Love and its people in a very candid way. Congdon’s paintings and printed textiles reside within Ode to Kyoto, each piece sparked by an inspiring trip to Japan. The exhibition pays homage to her own experiences in Kyoto and Osaka, while honoring the cultural heritage of the place and its people.
Rich’s art has been shown throughout the U.S. and internationally, but It’s Wild Here is Rich’s first solo exhibition in her hometown of Philadelphia. As we ride along with the artist for the journey, it’s easy to enjoy the random unpredictability that she’s borrowed from the public. Rich describes it as an “analog Twitter,” a barrage of voices and images just waiting for you to join them.
Rich didn’t gravitate toward painting until later in life, after taking a class taught by painters and brothers Rob and Christian Clayton she enrolled in to help come to terms with a divorce. Rich went on to graduate with honors from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena before earning her MFA in Painting from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
It was during bus rides to class that Rich developed her artistic process of listening and documenting quirky bits and pieces of conversations overheard. These phrases now referred to as “Phillyisms,” are hand-painted inside Rich’s recognizable found plywood speech bubbles, accompanied by a complementary group of objects and symbols.
Ode to Kyoto marks artist, illustrator, and bestselling author Congdon’s debut solo exhibition with Paradigm, and the culmination of a curatorial project with The Jaunt. Founded in 2013 by Jeroen Smeets, The Jaunt helps artists gain inspiration through travel. Each trip is funded by the pre-sale of a limited-edition silkscreen print purchased sight unseen by collectors and supporters of the project.
Congdon’s personal experience in Kyoto is translated through saturated, graphic illustrations of street goods, patterned kimonos, matchboxes, and more. A mixed media installation includes large pieces of linen sourced from Japan, printed in limited editions. Also featured are two large paintings, a selection of screen-printed textile panels, and an arrangement of small paintings that create a visual collage. Two travel-inspired posters produced in partnership with The Jaunt, “Ode to Kyoto” and “Sanjo Dori Street,” were also on view.
Congdon, who is self-taught, didn’t gain career traction until she was almost 40 years old. Since, her untraditional path has awarded her with recognition as an artist, a leader in the industry for her work in social justice, knowledge sharing, mentoring, and teaching. Congdon is known internationally for her work, making art for notable clients, and her 10 books focused on creativity.