Unique collaborative in-person show by 3 local artists

by Len Lear
Posted 5/12/21

Three local artists have an exhibit of their work that will take place May 21 to 23 at the Cellini Showroom in Ambler, and is quite unusual for two reasons.

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Unique collaborative in-person show by 3 local artists


Three local artists have an exhibit of their work that will take place May 21 to 23 at the Cellini Showroom, 113 Poplar St. in Ambler, and is quite unusual for two reasons. First, it will be in person and not on Zoom (with 15 masked people at a time). Secondly — and I have never seen this before in decades of writing about local art exhibits — the artists have sublimated their egos so much that every painting has been worked on by all three artists. None was created by just one artist.

“Our collaboration is a softening of the ego,” explained Richard Metz, of Erdenheim, a spokesman for the trio who call themselves the Kindred Art Collaborative. “It is a subtle letting go of 'what's mine.' In fact, the main concept of each work is not so much explicit content or form but collaboration itself. This is a radical choice, perhaps a new vision of the future. 

“The three of us (Metz, Mikel Elam, of Germantown, and Carl Cellini, of Maple Glen) all work on the same painting at the same time. The works slowly (sometimes magically) appear; then we discuss it and keep going. The work evolves as each of us complements, responds to, adds and subtracts from the ongoing work. Sometimes someone suggests turning the work upside down. When it's finished is always a question we struggle with, as some paintings are hung up and then worked on again after several months.”

The three artists embrace improvisation as something akin to jazz. The surface of the canvas is to them a kind of dance space, but they do their dancing with brushes, not their legs. In their improvisation, the Kindred Art Collaborative insists that they are plumbing their subconscious for dreams, memories and messages.

Cellini and Metz grew up in the Philadelphia area and went to Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in the late 1970s. They started playing music together with Raymond King as the “What You Say Band,” which dissolved in the early 1980s. Cellini and Metz shared a studio and living situation in center city Philadelphia after graduating art school in 1980-81. They also worked together at Allens Lane Art Center in West Mt. Airy and stayed in touch. They spent a few months painting outdoors together in 1991, landscapes in the day and at the Shawmont Train Station in Roxborough at night.

They lost contact after 1998 but reconnected in the Ambler area in mid-2018. After that, they both had notions about working on the same paintings at the same time. They eventually did just that at Cellini’s studio, creating works together “with the goal of experimentation, expression and joy.” Working large and abstractly allowed the collaborative process to flow based on design, movement, improvisation and music. The paintings can be as large as 48 to 95 inches in width and 36 to 63 inches in length.

Mikel Elam grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of the Arts in the late 1970s. Metz met Elam while both worked at a Philadelphia art supply store in 1982, and they became friends. They lost contact after a few years as Elam traveled the world with famed jazz musician Miles Davis as his personal assistant. (A recent article in the Local chronicled Elam's work with Davis on the jazz icon's own paintings.)

Elam has lived, exhibited and had his paintings represented in galleries in Los Angeles and New York City as well as the Philadelphia region. Metz and Elam reconnected in the late 1990s. After a few months of making collaborative paintings in the summer of 2019, Cellini and Metz pursued the idea of adding a third collaborator to the group, and Elam was a natural choice. Elam suggested the name “Kindred” to express their shared humanity and expressive goals. All three also pursue their own artwork, and they may add even more artists to the Collaborative in the future.

Cellini also has a computer business and is a sculptor and martial artist, which shows in his work since he seems to attack the canvas with primal shapes and brush strokes. He might even put his feet in wet paint and apply the paint to the canvas with his feet. He has shown in numerous galleries regionally in his 40+ years of painting.

For more information, visit kindredartcollaborative.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com


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