If you're Downtown for the Three Rivers Arts Festival, leave some time to check out the several galleries located a few blocks up Penn or Liberty. Thought you'll temporarily be out of funnel-cake range, there’s plenty of good work up there, including the festival's own Juried Visual Art Exhibition, at 805 Liberty (and more on which tomorrow).
One exhibit that's sure to satisfy is "Corrugated Fountain," by Connecticut-based artist James Grashow. The whole of the storefront gallery at 709 Penn is taken up by this work, inspired by Rome's famous Trevi Fountain (which cinephiles know from La Dolce Vita) and made entirely out of cardboard.
While there's more to this work than the novelty of its medium, you can't help but appreciate the effects Grashow coaxes from material so familiar it's mundane.
On entering, you first see the two big, fierce fish guarding the entrance to the "fountain" (which contains no actual water). Then there's the wild-eyed stallions racing left, right and forward, ridden by female figures, and above it all a trident-bearing Neptune, surrounded by more fish and leaping dolphins.
Getting closer, you consider the cardboard, and Grashow's skill in shaping it for line and depth. Thankfully, visitors are permitted to (carefully) wind their ways through the sculpture, like a small maze. It's there you notice how the cardboard is not just cut and bent, but also molded here and three, wetted and otherwise distressed (suggesting stone). You also see how — maybe best of all — Grashow sometimes peels away the cardboard's top layer and used the exposed corrugations to suggest the ribbing of fish fins and other textures.
The cardboard, moreover, comes in subtly different shades of tan, the lighter-colored material used for accents in spots like certain locks of Neptune's beard and the horses' lips, and to suggest ocean foam.
"Corrugated Fountain" somehow has a charm you couldn't get out of grander material like marble, or even wood. And the whole thing can't weigh more than 50 pounds.
"Corrugated Fountain" remains at 709 Penn till July 2. During the fest, which ends Sun., June 12, the gallery is open special extended hours, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily Wednesday through Sunday.