Villanova, PA – Bound by friendship and respect for one another's art, four Philadelphia artists got together some six years back with a mission to “get the art out there” through group exhibits in off-beat places such as cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as the more traditional venues of galleries and museums. At the beginning, they called themselves Quattro Amici (Four Friends). Fortunately, they didn't invest a lot in business cards or letterhead, as their idea caught on and the number of participating artists now far exceeds the founding four.
So it is that the upcoming exhibit “Twenty Four Eyes”, opening May 28 in the Villanova University Art Gallery, is presented by Quattro Amici Plus. The wide-ranging exhibit will feature the work of 12 noted Delaware Valley artists. An artists' reception will take place on Wednesday, June 2, from 5 to 7 pm in the gallery, located in the Connelly Center on the Villanova campus. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. The exhibit will continue to Tuesday, June 29. The exhibit comprises the selected output of honored and widely exhibited artists working in a broad array of subject matter, media, and style.
Ranging from realism to abstraction, in two and three dimensional art, the show features works in oils, acrylics, watercolor, ink and stain on paper, collage, computer-generated imagery, fine art photography, illustrations, sculpture, and wood.
Artists are Nancy Barch of Clifton Heights, PA (painting); John Benigno of Wynnewood, PA (fine arts photography); Jo Anne Bono of Norristown, PA (collage, watercolor, sculpting); Samuel Fritch of Oreland, PA (fine arts photography, graphic design); George H. Fuller of Collingswood, NJ (sculpture, woodwork); Anders Hansen of Pittman, NJ, (watercolor); Bob Jackson of Haddonfield, NJ (mixed media); Catherine 'Kit' Mitchell of Philadelphia (painting); Peter Petraglia of Jamison, PA (painting, illustration, photography); Diane Podolsky of Philadelphia (printmaking, painting, and installations); Sheldon Strober of Philadelphia (printmaking/painting); and Susannah Hart Thomer of Plymouth Meeting, PA (watercolor).
Based on the thesis that “pleasing visual objects connect us at a deep, non-verbal level,” Quattro Amici has operated on the theorem that not all art lovers attend exhibits in traditional venues: “Most people will not make the time to go to a gallery or museum or art center, yet most of those same people enjoy looking at art no less than any self-proclaimed art connoisseur,” they note.
Apart from offering up their art in the usual institutions, Quattro Amici members bring their work to people in their daily venues. In Philadelphia, these spots have included the Naked Chocolate, a European-style 'sipping cafe'; the venerable Dirty Frank's on South 13th Street, a favorite hangout of the University of the Arts crowd; Society Hill's Philadelphia Java Company, Joe's Coffee Bar on Walnut Street, and Rittenhouse Square's Day By Day restaurant.
Another of the group's purposes is to help one another advance their crafts through mutual critique sessions in an informal but candid atmosphere, notes T. Clyde 'Tom' McCobb, Quattro Amici's founder. “The critiques are effective and constructive. We have each other's best interests at heart, so nobody's afraid to say what they think,” he notes. Diane Podolsky, Anders Hansen and Catherine Mitchell are the other founding members. McCobb is not represented in the Villanova show because, he says, “I didn't have any work ready and I didn't want to hold up the process for everyone else.”
Generally, Quattro Amici seeks out group, rather than solo exhibit formats. Most artists need jobs to support their art, which presses them to find the time to develop the volume of work to sustain solo shows. Teachers, graphic artists, illustrators, a website designer, a violinist and a realtor are among the Villanova exhibitors.
“While art is at the center of Quattro Amici, it's also about friends getting together and 'letting down their hair',” notes John Benigno, a fine art photographer from Wynnewood, PA, and a former actor currently in real estate. Much of this collegiality comes from the close ties many members have with the Philadelphia Plastic Club on Camac Street, which was founded 1897 to promote and preserve the visual arts. The 'plastic' in the Club's name refers to the 'changing and tactile sense of painting and sculpture'. Camac Street, also the home of the 160-year-old Philadelphia Sketch Club, which lays claim to being America's oldest continuing artist organization, has been designated by the City of Philadelphia as “The Avenue of the Artists.”
The Villanova University Art Gallery is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. For weekend and extended hours, and other information, telephone the Art Gallery at (610) 519-4612. Selected works for the Quattro Amici Plus exhibit may be previewed on the gallery’s website at www.artgallery.villanova.edu