Astrid Bowlby: When the Shadow is Not Your Shadow

September 14October 29, 2017
Arcadia University Art Gallery


You walk towards a person, even a stranger, with an open and engaging look on your face and the human response is not flight but talk. You talk. They talk. In Bowlby’s installation, the pieces court your conversational input. You must gravitate to them but when you do, they’re ready to engage.

–Roberta Fallon, Artblog

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Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to present “When the Shadow is Not Your Shadow”, an exhibition of recent work by Astrid Bowlby, an artist based in Philadelphia and Brooks, Maine. Recognized primarily for the biomorphic black line that distinguishes her drawings, prints, and room-filling installations, Bowlby has also developed an evolving body of sculpture employing a surprising array of materials that echoes the fluidity and expansiveness of her graphic work.

Installation view, photo: Joe Painter.

Organized by Marginal Utility, a Philadelphia-based gallery founded in 2009 by artist David Dempewolf and curator Yuka Yokoyama, the exhibition is being presented at Arcadia in response to the June 26 fire that closed the building at 319 North 11th Street that serves as the gallery’s base and remains closed indefinitely.

Bowlby’s exhibition is in many ways an extension of its title, taken from a lost ink drawing she made 20 years ago, which plays on the fruitful ambiguity of the possessive pronoun “your”. She notes, “in English [your} can be singular or plural, masculine or feminine”. The phrase demonstrates an inclusive, democratic condition that reflects how Bowlby perceives much of her work.

Installation view, Alternative Maker (2017), black granite, photo: Joe Painter.

The diversity of disciplines represented conveys her long-standing aspiration to present a solo show that could be perceived as a group exhibition. In addition to the aforementioned mediums, the project includes texts, a sound work, and photographs, as well as a black granite gravestone etched with a graffiti tag that will be placed in a meditation garden in Maine following the exhibition. Entitled Alternative Marker, the work grounds the show with the reality of personal mourning that prompted the overall project while affirming the ephemeral nature of a practice rooted in the irrepressible invention of drawing.

As Bowlby has stated about any example of her primary medium: “It is just a drawing. This is important. It can be made again and will be made again. This touches upon the fleeting nature of things and the certainty of return. The drawing is a placeholder. Something and nothing. Special and ordinary. Repeatable, yet different every time.”