Tucked away on a quiet street in Northern Liberties sits a quaint art gallery with a welcoming exterior and even friendlier owners inside. Frank and Helen Hyder, owners of the Projects Gallery, operate dually out of both Philadelphia and Miami exhibiting pieces from different levels of artists whether rising or established. Currently on display is Hyder’s most recent exhibition, entitled “The Frontier,” composed of myriad media that demonstrates his distinct style. The initial attraction to this gallery stemmed from my personal interest of art inspired by nature and the creation of beautiful work from materials uncharacteristically combined, two elements that manifest throughout the rooms of this gallery.
The first room features a nearly full-wall painting of colorful images paired with the contrast of black and white paint. At first glance, the artwork appears to be mere paint on canvas, but a closer look reveals a more complex infusion of numerous materials combining to create works that are reminiscent of the jungles Hyder has explored. Incorporating a variety of materials including, but by no means limited to, Mylar, digital print, and Plexiglas, Hyder devises a series of works of the same theme: nature.
“It’s always about a little touch of this, a little touch of that, a little touch of the human soul,” Frank says while explaining his idea behind the exhibition’s title. “I can’t separate human beings from nature whether we’re in a tropical world or a plastic world it’s nature.” These themes are certainly evident as one walks through the gallery. The second room features a similar yet curious take on these themes, working with some of the same materials but chiefly back-lit Plexiglas. The darkened lighting in this room leaves for the captivating experience of viewing the pieces from many different lights. The works in this room are best encountered and interpreted by the individual, so to truly perceive them one must visit this lovely gallery.
But how does he create these beautiful pieces of art with such a conglomeration of materials following such a set theme? What are these faces semi-hidden behind the leaves, and who are these people? Essentially, Frank compiles his materials and, for example, in a curved Plexiglas piece, will put the glass in an oven to make it pliable, then print out a digital image of one of his paintings on trace paper to serve as a base for the piece. Concerning the people in some of the images, Frank has found that different individuals view them in various ways based on their own schema, which make the paintings truly something to be experienced firsthand.
If you’d prefer a more in-depth look at the art and answers to these questions, take a stroll in Northern Liberties to the Projects Gallery, where you can chat with Frank and Helen. They are both quite friendly and more than willing to discuss art and their expert knowledge of the processes that lead to the final product: vibrant, nonpareil works of art.
An outwardly modest yet confident artist, Frank has traveled the world creating works of all different mediums, including sculpture, painting and large inflatables. Because of their frequent travel, there are no set hours for the gallery, but a simple phone call will ensure that the space will be open for your perusing pleasure. “The Frontier” is on display until June 5th, although the Projects Gallery is open year-round and features an array of artists in addition to Frank. Missing this exhibition would without a doubt be a shame for Philadelphians, as Frank’s art is often displayed around the world and not always solely in this city. Take a walk through his jungle, and see for yourself the mystery behind the illuminated, pensive faces in the leaves.
Alyssa Shaw is a first year English Major at Drexel University.
Images courtesy of Projects Gallery and Joseph Painter.