Anthony Coleman at Marvin Gardens


Looking at an Anthony Coleman is like hearing a familiar riff in a new song—it takes a moment to recognize the sampled source in a fresh context. In his solo exhibition here, the self-taught, Philadelphia-based artist presents ebullient reworkings of beloved pop-cultural characters across eleven drawings—made with graphite and colored pencil on paper—that were produced between 2018 and 2022.

Observe Tweety Bird on Red, 2022: The image is hardly a dead ringer for the animated Looney Tunes canary, but his iconic silhouette—an ovoid head atop a svelte torso with bulbous feet—gets remixed. Hallmarks remain, such as oval eyes and turned-out talons, but Tweety’s general shape is both pinched and protracted. From his squished noggin sprouts a jittery, rectangular appendage, while his body has been liquefied into a triangular heap. The cartoon’s typically dainty attributes are greatly exaggerated: Outrageously thick eyelashes and an elongated beak skim the paper’s edges.

The degrees of hyperbole in his subjects’ features vary from picture to picture: in Iron Sheik, 2018–2022, the professional wrestler’s headdress and infamous mustache droop downward, shrouding his stocky midsection; in Franken Berry, 2022, the cereal-box mascot’s dimpled skull is refashioned into a heart, and his electric-bolt ears are stretched outward, forming broad rusty bands. A set of album-cover-art-inspired drawings—De La Soul, Stevie Wonder, Spank Rock, all 2018—incorporate graphic lettering, adding another level of formal invention and play. All his subjects appear fixed in space, suspended by their frenetically colored, monochrome backgrounds.

Coleman’s likenesses emerge from abstractions of reality. He filters and flattens pop content through a deeply individual yet rigorous set of constraints, creating lyrical images that are incredibly human and exquisitely strange.

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