Anthony Coleman and Andrew Jeffrey Wright: "E.T. and Some Bananas" and Even More Bananas

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E.T and some Bananas is both the title of a collaborative drawing by Anthony Coleman and Andrew Jeffrey Wright and the title of their two-person exhibition. This drawing encapsulates much about their approach to art: bright color, a focus on characters from popular culture rendered through their own highly original interpretations and odd juxtapositions. The exhibition features collaborations between the two artists and individual bodies of work. For over five years, Wright has worked closely with Coleman as his art “coach” at Artworks/Community Integrated Services and for over two years they have been working collaboratively. For their collaborative drawings, Coleman creates the main character leaving the backgrounds intentionally blank, and Wright then addresses the voids with this trademark buzzy patterning

Coleman’s characters are a disparate bunch culled from all corners of popular culture: Garfield, the Phantom of the Opera, Batman, Grover from Sesame Street, Woody Woodpecker, Ms. Pac-Man, and Boo Berry and Count Chocula of 1970s sugary cereals fame, to name a few. On occasion, Coleman goes outside of the fictional character vein and dabbles in Hollywood and art world figures. Here, one encounters Coleman’s take on Rita Hayworth, a Nick Cave sound suit, and renditions of trippy costumed mannequins from the early 2000s collective, Forcefield. Many of Coleman’s characters are distinguished by pronounced eyebrows, compacted bodies where hands and feet occupy much of their corporeal mass, proboscis-like noses, and an antenna-like protrusion emanating from the top of their heads. At times, Coleman seems to follow the Surrealist adage of radical juxtaposition. Think “the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella” but with cartoon characters, celebrities, and consumer goods put in a blender and spilled onto paper. Drawings like Orange & Blue Composition (Garfield, Airplane, Fiat, and Q-Bert),  James Gandolfini & Sponge Bob, Blue & Green Composition (Grover, VW Bus, Geko, and Boo Berry) showcase Coleman as a kind of 21st century pop Surrealist.

A founding member of Space 1026, a renowned artist-run-space in Philadelphia, Andrew Jeffrey Wright is a multidisciplinary artist working across media including drawing, comics, painting, murals, photography, animation, screen printing, zine making, installation, and performance. Wright has been creating pattern permutations that conjure psychedelic and optical art of the 1960s and early 70s throughout his artistic career. Wright also mines the collective consciousness of his youth, integrating characters like E.T., Garfield, and Bart Simpson (a predilection he shares with Coleman); juvenilia discovered in his childhood attic; and twists on low-brow slogans found on bumper stickers into his practice. It goes without saying that humor underlies everything he makes. Wright has always championed the dissemination and accessibility of his art through t-shirts, buttons, and calendars (Labs with Abs, his screen printed calendar of anthropomorphic Labradors looking buff has been a semi-annual project since 2006). Wright’s work with Coleman is a natural outgrowth of his decades-long belief in the rewards of collaboration. He has worked with a wide range of artists over the years including Isaac Tin Wei Lin, Barry McGee, Clare Rojas, Ed Templeton, Marcel Dzama, Michael Dumontier, and Woodley White.

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