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Interfering for Inspection: Philadelphia Photo Arts Center Holds Exhibit to Examine Art and Perception

Art has many intersecting layers and the same can be said about life. Opening March 9th, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) will host an art exhibit entitled Interference that will explore both the layers of art and life. Held in the PPAC gallery (1400 N. American St.), the exhibit will feature artists Andre Bradley and Paul Anthony Smith whose art explores their experiences as black men.

Bradley, a Philadelphia native, derives his work from personal experience. Bradley’s Dark Archives series explores his own childhood from the perspective of a black man in booklet form. The work includes both writing and photographs from Bradley’s family archives. Dark Archives will be reimagined for Interference in an effort to visually communicate signs of being handled, loved and damaged over the years — just like the person in the photos has been.

Paul Anthony Smith, based in Brooklyn with roots in Jamaica, adds layers to his own photographs, whether it’s putting the images in a collage or using brushes in Photoshop. Through his artistic process, Smith thinks about society’s own layers.

“Laws put people in a gray area… laws that the average person doesn’t understand,” Smith said. “Nothing is upfront.”

Smith’s works symbolize the dichotomy of the interior and the exterior, the inclusive and the exclusive, and who is on what side of the fence. He draws a lot of influence from life in the Caribbean and other personal experiences.

“Most of the work I do is autobiographical but speaks on larger topics,” Smith said.

“I wanted a pairing [of artists] that helps us see, understand, think or feel about all of the work at a level we wouldn’t otherwise have done,” curator Nathaniel Stein said in a press release. “They are both talking about social and personal dimensions of the relationship between hiding and revealing, and about the ways photographs do both at once.”

Debuting at Interference, Only in America is the result Smith’s drawn inspiration from Mike Tyson. In this piece, Smith questions the definition of freedom and the American Dream. Smith applies his analysis of freedom locally.

“In Kensington, there are a lot of open lands and open lots,” Smith said. “[It’s capitalist] because the more it’s developed, everything becomes fenced away.”

Smith hopes the art sparks conversation, community engagement and awareness. He hopes people walk away from the gallery not just seeing, but thinking as well. Smith claims it’s needed in this climate.

“My work is on the borderline of being dark,” Smith said. “[But I have to] make work like that right now with our current political stance.”

Interference opens with a reception and artist talk on March 9 from 6 – 8PM and will run until May 20.

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