while we were building the schedule for Harrell’s curatorial visit, James suggested a studio visit to the Philadelphia artist Howard Kleger whose work he had seen at the Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Studies (PIFAS), an art collective in the city. we drove from the cultural centers in North Philly to his space just outside of Center City. I don’t know what we were expecting, I guess a traditional studio – high ceiling, big windows, a lot of light – a warehouse-type spot, the kind that has come to typify art spaces in Philadelphia. needless to say, we were not anticipating what Howard would show us.
Howard Kleger collapses any boundary that might exist between life and art. his work is his life; his life is his work. this relationship is most clearly demonstrated by the apartment he keeps – his living space doubles as a studio, or his studio doubles as a living space. his art materials mingle with everyday objects – sheets of cardboard and plywood rest on the door to the closet where he keeps his coat. the main room of his apartment is packed with drawings and computer print-outs; stacks of diagrams and charts lean precariously in all directions; artifacts and ephemera cover the floor from wall to wall. navigating the space is overwhelming at first, but you begin to realize that the collection is part of Howard’s extensive body of work.
Howard graciously welcomed our group into his home and gave us an impromptu tour of his art, his life. not only did he explain some of the works on paper that fill the room, he screened a documentary about himself titled “howard2go.” he said he and a friend had been working on the film for over two years, compiling footage and interviews from the early-nineties on. “howard2go” is, at once, hilarious, terrifying, nerve-racking, and charming. we see Howard repairing a VCR with a mallet, interacting with an unannounced female in a dark room, and talking about his theories on color and geometry in his friend’s kitchen. the film is both serious and playful, narrated by a woman with a real, or else really fake, British accent. it is totally captivating. we watched for about 25 minutes and then took our leave of the apartment. it was a crazy visit! we saw an incredibly rich body of work in a very small amount of time in a very tiny space. it was the kind of experience that you can revisit a million times over and always find something new.
PHOTO CREDIT – STEVE MAGNOTTA