Philadelphia designer and children’s book author and illustrator Alexander Stadler has his name popping up all around the city. The Rhode Island School of Design graduate brought together 40 local designers to sell their work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Store in a pop-up bazaar that he calls Philadelphia Produces Original Design or P.POD. Stadler describes his unique, handmade items as “freakish, brilliant or gorgeous.” They are on sale until Dec. 31.On campus, Stadler has decked the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery in Nesbitt Hall with his recurring characters and whimsical designs. Stadler’s exhibit, Modus Operandi, opened Nov. 7 with an artist-accompanied reception Nov. 16.
In the days leading up to Modus Operandi’s opening at Drexel, passersby could catch Stadler quickly creating illustrations both in the three large windows at the opening of the gallery and on the solitary wall in front of Nesbitt Hall’s lobby. The lone white wall currently bears the title of the exhibit and the line “dreaming of Bedlam in Alexander McQueen,” floating amid a dozing pup, whose dreams depict him as freestanding. Padlocked arms spread wide, he is happily adorned in heels and a flamboyant, trailing ensemble. The windows are covered with smiling-faced tulips and Stadler’s iconic bunnies, all of which follow a wallpaper-like pattern in black and red.
The gallery space is utilized by a number of colorful works by Stadler, ranging spectacularly in medium. Hiding modestly behind the extraneous wall in the corner are two shelves of Stadler’s penned children’s books, including “What Willie Wore Solo,” “Julian Rodriguez” and “Beverly Billingsly,” offering audiences a chance to skip through the author’s fashion-forward stories and meet a few cute characters — Willie the designer-wearing dog, the skinny and the scruffy pup from the Julian Rodriguez series — who make numerous appearances throughout the exhibit alongside Stadler’s Technicolor bunny rabbits.
The mixed media is simultaneously appealing to children, teens and young adults. NYC-based Stadler-Kahn scarves made from imported Italian merino wool frequent the gallery space, hanging neatly off of rods on the wall. Not as bright in color, these scarves grab attention with their fun prints and patterns, ranging from polka dots, crisscrosses and spots to neat rectangular colored blocks.
The patterns from these scarves are echoed in four long panels made up of 9 to 11 separate frames, hanging both horizontally and vertically around the place. Much brighter and messy in execution, these canvases do not require a steady brush to create fun and curious shapes and patterns.
Designer-loving Willie the dog pops up multiple times, most noticeably at the forefront of the exhibit space, where she fights the wind and rain “battling the elements in a Burberry trench.” Another fun canvas highlights 13 singular images of Miss Willie, accompanied by captions such as: “Jogging along the Thames in Manolo Blahnik” and “Like most of us, Willie is hoping to just float through life, and she’s planning to do it in this Armani Prive.“
Most interesting is a bulletin board collage at the back of the gallery, headed by a 2-D cardboard Technicolor TV. The name of the game is quirky, as the wall is crammed with all kinds of odds and ends. These pieces range from wool globes and colored samples of carpet tassels to a personalized packet of Sweet’n Low, to old photos and samples of pop culture ranging from the 1940s to today. Just above a holographic Family Guy poster is a newspaper clipping of Brook Astor noting that in 1998 “she made philanthropy fun.”
Equally as entertaining, Modus Operandi also includes two samples of clothing screened with Stadler’s illustrations and an abbreviated collection of interesting photographs. Objects like police car sirens, city buildings and mailroom bins are celebrated for their simplicity and use of color and material in Stadler’s photojournalistic endeavors.
A few more surprises await visitors of Stadler’s exhibit, open through Thursday, Dec. 8. The Leonard Pearlstein Gallery is at 33rd and Market streets. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.drexel.edu/westphal or call 215-895-2548.