May 22, 1994

Artistic fashions do not affect the modes of the two featured Philadelphia artists in the summer show, "The Artist's Eye," at the Studio of Ben Solowey. The current passion of painters Giovanni Casadei and Andrea Krupp – the exploration of landscape and, in some cases, still life – has landed them in a congenial setting as guest exhibitors. Featured are 48 of their own paintings, adjoining a display of Ben Solowey's paintings chosen by the couple from the large inventory of Solowey's work at his studio.

Casadei, a young Roman native, and Krupp, his Philadelphia bride, are sensitive, old-school painters whose ambitions never outstrip their abilities. In their outdoor subjects, both apparently want to be known as the most innocent of artists. No matter how sophisticated and art-history conscious they are, their little paintings give off a blissful beauty – a trait they share with the best Soloweys on view.

For a long time, landscape painters had seemed eccentric or old fashioned among contmeporary artists. If you were ambitous, you moved toward rarefied abstraction and did not struggle with issues of representation. But Casadei and Krupp address themselves to a visible, daily world in a manner not many painters have cared to employ lately. They've managed a fairly lieteral style that is anything but heroic or noble through subjects that are themselves, in a profound way.

The only disturbing note for me is that there's no sense of time in work in the work. It might have easily been done a century and a half ago as today. Does this mean, therefore, that these are very conventional pictures, or pictures about convention? Not really.

In Casasdei's refreshing landscapes and still lifes, for example, this out-of-timeness takes it cue from another living local artist, Casadei's former teacher, the gifted Seymour remenick. In sensuous oil painintings of that tradition, visual choices never have the force of decisions made, but seem breathed on canvas.

In the same vein, Casssadei's still lifes are personal, often domestic. what gives them their intimacy is the posture of domestic usefuln ess of the objects depicted in them. his studio paintings are less about the setting as a workplace than as the artist's living space. his gentle views of Manayunk (a favorite subject fo so many artists, Remenick included), the Swedish Museum and bucks County tend to be elegaic – a metaphor for the effort to reclaim and remember clearly.

Appealing as it is, Casadei's work so closely resembles Remenick's that we're left with a residue of familarity. This suggests such painting needs to reexamine itself.

Watercolor scenes by Andrea Krupp reflect her background as a printmaker. It's on the level of draftsmanship that they ultimately excel. her landscapes and cityscapes, done here and abroad, deal with the sinewy underpinnings of nature and the built environment, rather than pastoral pleasures. Overlapping washes of color create occassional ridges of line that offer a subtle indication of the subject's interior life.

Here the Solowey studio, whatever else it may dish up in the future, justifies itself afresh by locating a couple of young artists who never knew Solowey but whose open-air painting approach to landscape (that is, their work is done on the spot, from nature) is compatible with his. And it presents them in a show that takes us beyond the familiar lockstep search for relvant themes and up-to-date manner.

July 22, 1994

The Ben Solowey Studio in Bedminster, where the painter lived until his death in 1978, has moved beyond showing only his work, in a setting that re-creates the atmosphere of an artist's studio with charming fidelity.

Director David Leopold has invited two Philadelphia artists, Giovanni Casadei and Andrea Krupp, to participate in an exhibition. They chose a number of Solowey's works from the studio collection to be shown alongside their own.

Naturally one looks for consonances. The most obvious is that all three artists work traditionally; they're pure painters interested in time-honored themes such as landscape, still life and the interior.

Solowey, like Casadei a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was comfortable in a variety of media. The pieces that Casadei and Krupp selected reflect this versatility.

For example, they chose a conte crayon drawing of a figure on a sofa, a lithograph portrait of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, to represent Solowey's theater work; a beautiful little pastel of cherry trees in the show, a monotype of a nude – the only print in this medium that Solowey ever made – and a Cezannesque landscape.

Solowey's delicate touch is echoed in some of Krupp's watercolors, which are mostly landscapes, seascapes and city views. Her style combines the impressionistic quality of watercolor with precise description, which is most evident in views of Rome and Philadelphia.

Krupp said she admired the liveliness and immediacy of Solowey's watercolor landscapes. "They look like they were painted outside, on the spot, which is my approach to landscape painting."

Casadei's style is more suggestive than Krupp's, his objects are less sharply defined and his space is often flattened and ambiguous. Like Solowey, though, he pays alot of attention to his picture frames. Solowey made many of his own. Casadei's frames are broad and heavy, and obviously made specifically for his paintings.

As usual, the show isn't the whole story here. Much of the pleasure of a visIt derives from the studio itself, which has been preserved much as Solowey left it. and the ambience of an old Bucks County farm that was the artist's home for more than 35 years is worth the trip by itself.

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