Philly artist Alex Da Corte explodes into ‘The Street’

Da Corte’s affection for Sesame Street is evident in “The Street,” which features a wall covered with cartoon ducks as shown in the 1970 picture book, “The Sesame Street Book of Numbers,” and a large-scale recreation of the 1974 album cover of “Grover Sings the Blues,” but with Grover eliminated from the image.

The reverse-glass painting “Death Spiral” by Alex Da Corte is hung on a wall covered with cartoon ducks as shown in the 1970 picture book, “The Sesame Street Book of Numbers.” (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“The Street” is in part a response to the events of the last two years, with COVID lockdowns, living and working through digital connections, and widespread street demonstrations. Da Corte is Exploring tensions between home life and public life — between digital presence and “in real life” — that were exacerbated during the pandemic.

“In the past couple of years there was so much pressure, kind of an incubation occurring within the home. This is a proxy for what happens if the home finally explodes into the street,” Da Corte said. “There’s no more room to be in the home, so now we’re out in the street.”

“The Street” is dense with language and symbols, but Da Corte designed the installation with missing elements. The walls of the gallery are painted with what appears to be product advertising language, but written so large that only fragments of words and letters can be read, obscuring any marketing messaging. The visual presentation suggests a pressure to buy something, without offering any brand to consume.

An image of Marilyn Monroe stands next to another painting.
Alex Da Corte’s “Mirror Marilyn” and “Anti-Hero” Hang side by side against a backdrop of what appears to be product advertising language, but written so large that only fragments of words and letters can be read. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Anxiety is suggested through images from RL Stine’s “Fear Street” series of horror novels of the early 1990s, and menacing vultures from Disney’s “Snow White,” but the cause of the fear is not articulated. Da Corte created a reverse-glass painting of a bouquet of flowers held out as though a gift, but the figure offering the flowers has been removed from the image.

A series of paintings in a brightly-colored gallery space.
Alex Da Corte’s large-scale, reverse glass paintings, wall murals and sculptures cover every inch of wall space at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery. The image on the left is from RL Stein’s “Fear Street” series of horror novels of the early 1990s. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

There are what appear to be protest signs leaning against the walls, but the placards fixed to sticks are blank, as though waiting for a cause to rally behind.

Da Corte said the blank signs echo the recent COVID policy protests in China when demonstrators held up blank white signs, but he was Mostly thinking about the 1968 Memphis Sanitation workers strike, during which Martin Luther King, Jr. famously delivered his final and Prophetic speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

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