Category Archives: Installation

Time

Thea Alvin:  The Nature of Time 

Rowan University Art Gallery 

The Nature of Time, gallery view 

GLASSBORO, NJ: Rowan University Art Gallery presents The Nature of Time, a new  installation by stone mason Thea Alvin. On view through July 24th at 301 West High Street,  Wednesday – Saturday 11 am – 5 pm, Artist reception July 9th, 2021, 4 – 7 pm. This project  complements the anticipated Time Sweeps, her permanent public art work coming soon to  the East Garden Courtyard of Discovery Hall at Rowan University.  

Made from nearly 14 tons of integrated stone pieces of Pennsylvania Field Stone, which  contains fossils, moss, and lichen, the installation consists of three distinctive formations: a  winding wall, a stone floor mosaic, and a cairn, which are joined by large format  photographs of Thea’s numerous public art projects, ambient projected light, video and a  melodic background soundscape.  

Time Sweeps is a stone sculpture currently under construction, in the East Garden  Courtyard of Discovery Hall at Rowan University. The approximately 264-ton sculpture will  be composed of three main features: a 100 ft. long winding wall with an arch, and two non connecting winding walls, and a small passageway between the two walls, often referred to  as a squeeze. The sculpture is comprised of primarily Pennsylvania Fieldstone (264 tons),  which contains fossils, moss, and lichen, and also includes seven boulders (2-3 tons each)  of the primary stone types (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) including basalt,  conglomerate, gabbro, gneiss, granite, rhyolite, schist. Six of the boulders sit at the end of  walls and the seventh are columns of basalt that will mark the winter solstice. The wall will  be capped in buff sandstone from Colorado (12 tons) containing dendrites. 

Conceived as an “organic collaboration,” between the artist, the land, the stone, and the  visitor, Time Sweeps is a uniquely interactive public artwork that provides quiet space for  personal reflection and experiential learning.  

When describing her design process Thea explains, “Each sculpture is a composed  expression of the thoughts of the land itself. I’m in the moment with the chosen material,  capturing that angst, that patience, that essence, and setting it in stone. The lines are laid  and the rhythm is established on paper, but the melody becomes clear as the structure rises  from the ground in situ.” 

Using the natural world as her primary inspiration, Thea sees stone as an object in motion; as lines pushed by wind and driven by rain, casting shadows, capturing light. It is her  intention to create places of rest and reflection, while honoring the natural faces of the  stone by not adding too many marks that suggest that it was forced into position. The  beauty of the material is allowed to shine through, imperfectly perfect. Not asking too much  of the viewer, but acceptance and gratitude. 

Thea Alvin is an artist and stone mason, a designer and builder with determination and  creativity. She started her career in stone at age 16, working for her father as a tender, then  for years as a mason and then stone mason. She refined her stone style while traveling and  working all over the world, from China to Iceland, Canada to Italy, and all across North  America. She draws on the traditions in stone and expands those to create large site specific, unique, geologic installations. 

Time Sweeps, in progress

Contact: Mary Salvante, salvante@rowan.edu, 856-256-4521

www.rowan.edu/artgallery

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Afromythology

Shawn Theodore, Fanm Jade Ble (Blue Jade Woman), 2019

Shawn Theodore: Night Stars
A Solo Exhibition of New Work
February 26 – March 20, 2021

February 11, 2021 (Philadelphia, PA) – Paradigm Gallery is pleased to present Night Stars, a solo exhibition of new photographic work by interdisciplinary artist Shawn Theodore. Night Stars is an expansion of Theodore’s investigation into a space he calls ‘Afromythology’, which unites
the real and imaginary histories and futures of African Americans. In Night Stars, Theodore widens this space by melding together the traditions of African indigo making and the magical powers of water and stars.

The evocative exhibition illuminates the space where they all converge, a body of work that is a deep, deep blue. Night Stars marks the first exhibition at Paradigm with the artist. Night Stars is open to the public from February 26 – March 20th with an opening event on Friday, February 26th at 5:30PM.

Theodore makes connections, finds linked points and intersections within the past and seeing what is repeated in the current he identifies recurring themes, like spirituality. Spirituality has been passed on from generation to generation, and is something that is ostensibly part of the Black experience, but it is not something you can see or touch; it happens without direct knowledge, just faith.

In Night Stars, Theodore looks deeper for where instances of faith happen such as in music, quilt making or code switching. All of these hold examples of coded language, subversive art and intent and Night Stars is constructed from these metaphysical bridges. Bridges like quilts that were used to smuggle secret messages guiding people to freedom, far beyond the maker’s own physical passing. Or the Dogon tribe of West Africa, who were master astronomers.

They believed that their ancestors were descendants of a species from the Sirius star system eight and half light years away and to be free meant going back home. Though they were physically limited, their collective celestial knowledge somehow traveled across time and space to other groups of Black people who used it to understand the same set of stars that were used in the same way: to be led to freedom. ‘Afromyth’ sits upon these bridges.

The works in Night Stars are a series of statuesque portraits, monuments within a vast space of blue. Blue is a multi-tiered reference within the exhibition. The color is known to ward off evil in African and African American culture and Theodore questions how that symbolic signal came to
be and why it still holds that power today.

The artist says, “To create in blue, one must first understand its powerful nature. There has to be a world that exists inside of the color. A spiritual process is happening that is begging us to look inside of it, and somewhere within it are answers”. Theodore connects the symbolic color to the 19th century process of cyanotype.

The artist has always been fascinated by the historic practice, which produces a cyan-blue print; however, it is extremely rare to find a Black subject in one of these prints. Rather than shooting in cyanotype, Theodore uses it as a guideline, photographing his subjects using blue filters and blue cast lights.

The resulting works are less historic than they are revolutionary. On the series Theodore says, “Featured in this collection are portraits made of bejeweled deities in the indigo-hued ether, the fervor of fête revelers, the quiet stillness amongst the dense foliage and haints of Low Country of South Carolina, possession in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, and sunrise reverence at the edge of the Caribbean Sea. At the center is the viewer, who stands at the bardos of these seemingly disjointed experiences, their presence unifying the real and unreal”.


Photography often acts as a fast route to see the past, but what is beyond the camera’s sight? Subconsciously, the brain creates narratives beyond physical photographs, beyond what we logically know or see. These leaps are our imagined archives and it’s within their boundless possibilities that Night Stars lives, filling the gaps.

*Due to COVID-19, “Night Stars” will be open for regular weekend hours with limited capacity and is available to view by private appointments during the week until further notice. The digital exhibition twin is available on https://www.paradigmarts.org/ for viewing from home. These policies are dependent on the current policies of the CDC, WHO and the Governor and Mayor’s offices. Paradigm Gallery’s number one priority is the safety and wellness of their visitors. For live updates on the exhibition and appointments, please visit the Paradigm website and socials. For any questions on Paradigm’s current policies, please email info@paradigm-gallery.com.

About Shawn Theodore
Shawn Theodore (b. 1970, Germany) is an award-winning photographer whose work opens broad conversations regarding the role of the photographer in the shaping of agency and imagery, engages in new forms of storytelling, and impacts the trajectory of the collective black consciousness.


Theodore has participated in exhibitions at various institutions, galleries and fairs, including the African American Museum in Philadelphia (2017, 2018), Mennello Museum of American Art (2018), The Barnes Foundation (2017, 2018, 2019), Steven Kasher Gallery (2018), AIPAD (2018, 2019), Hudson Valley Community College (2018), Catherine Edelman Gallery (2017), The Bakalar & Paine Galleries at MassArt (2017), Snap! Orlando (2018), Richard Beavers Gallery (2018), PRIZM Art Fair, Scope Art Fair, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Rush Arts Gallery (2017, 2018), and the University of the Arts (2019).

His commercial projects include works for Apple, Showtime Networks, RocNation, PAPER Magazine, New York Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The Atlantic, The New York Times, PDN and others.
Theodore was awarded the prestigious PDN’s 30 New & Emerging Photographers to Watch (2019), the Getty Images / ARRAY ‘Where We Stand’ (2018) grant and a grant from the Knight Foundation for ‘A Dream Deferred’ (2018). He is a two-time nominee of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Fellowship, and a nominee of the Magnum Foundation Fund.

Theodore earned his BA in JPRA (Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising) from Temple University. He currently attends the MFA for Photography program at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD Atlanta). Theodore is a current trustee of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center.

About Paradigm Gallery
Paradigm Gallery + Studio® was established in 2010 by co-founders and curators, Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston. The gallery exhibits meaningful, process-intense contemporary artwork from around the world. Now open 11 years, Paradigm Gallery is globally recognized and known as a tastemaker within their greater Philadelphia arts community. As the gallery grows, it maintains its original mission to keep art accessible. Through monthly donations, free public art installations, and initiatives like Insider Picks, Paradigm Gallery, continues to be a champion of small businesses and emerging and mid-career artists.

Location:
746 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Media Contact:
Lainya Magaña, A&O PR
347 395 4155
lainya@aopublic.com

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Wall

Nicki Hitz Edson, Medusa Mask, 1975. Crocheted wool. Promised gift of The Julie Schafler Dale Collection.

Off the Wall: American Art to Wear

November 10, 2019 – May 17, 2020

This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, a major exhibition that highlights a distinctive American art movement that emerged in the late 1960s and flourished during the following decades. It examines a generation of pioneering artists who used body-related forms to express a personal vision and frames their work in relation to the cultural, historical and social concerns of their time. Focusing on iconic works made during the three decades between 1967 and 1997, the exhibition features 115 works by 62 artists. Comprised primarily of selections from a promised gift of Julie Schafler Dale, it also includes works from the museum’s collection and loans from private collections. Off the Wall: American Art to Wear is accompanied by a new publication of the same title, co-published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Press.

Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO, said: “This exhibition introduces to our visitors an exceptionally creative and adventurous aspect of American art which took the body as a vehicle for its expression. We are not only deeply grateful to Julie Schafler Dale for her extraordinary gifts and support of the museum but also see this as an opportunity to acknowledge the dynamic role she played in nurturing the growth and development of this movement.” 

Sharron Hedges, Midnight Sky (Julie’s Coat), 1977. Wool, crocheted. Promised gift of The Julie Schafler Dale Collection. Photography by Otto Stupakoff ©Julie Schafler Dale.

The champions of Art to Wear during the early years were a few forward-thinking museums, among them New York’s Museum of Contemporary Crafts (Museum of Art and Design), collectors, and galleries such as Sandra Sakata’s Obiko, founded in 1972 in San Francisco, and Julie Schafler Dale’s Julie: Artisans Gallery, which opened the following year on Madison Avenue in New York. For over 40 years, Dale’s gallery was a premier destination for presenting one-of-a-kind wearable works by American artists. Through her gallery installations and rotating window displays, she gave visibility to the Art to Wear movement. In 1986, she brought further recognition to the art form by publishing the seminal book Art to Wear—from which the title of this exhibition is taken—which provided in-depth profiles of artists alongside photographs by Brazilian fashion photographer Otta Stupakoff. Dale’s gallery closed in 2013. 

Off the Wall is arranged in nine sections; the titles of some are derived from popular music of the ‘60s and ‘70s to suggest the wide-ranging concerns of the artists. The introductory section, The Times They Are A Changin’ (Bob Dylan, 1964), contains works by Lenore Tawney, Dorian Zachai, Claire Zeisler, Ed Rossbach, and Debra Rapoport to illustrate how textile artists in the late ‘50s and ‘60s liberated tapestry weaving from the wall, adapting it to three-dimensional sculptural forms inspired by pre-Columbian weaving. In 1969, a group of five students at Pratt Institute studying painting, sculpture, industrial design, multimedia, and graphic design taught each other how to crochet, leading to remarkable outcomes. Janet Lipkin, Jean Cacicedo, Marika Contompasis, Sharron Hedges, and Dina Knapp all created clothing-related forms that they would describe as wearable sculpture, thus establishing a cornerstone of the Art to Wear movement. Included in this section is a wool crochet and knit Samurai Top, 1972, by Sharron Hedges, modeled by the young Julie Dale for the book Creative Crochet, authored by two of the artist’s friends, Nicki Hitz Edson and Arlene Stimmel. 

Janet Lipkin, African Mask, 1970. Wool, leather, wood. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman, 2003. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photography by Otto Stupakoff ©Julie Schafler Dale.

The next section, Good Vibrations (Beach Boys, 1966), traces the migration of many of these young artists from the East Coast to the West Coast where they joined California’s vibrant artistic community and connected with Sandra Sakata’s Obiko. A pair of colorful denim hand-embroidered mini shorts by Anna VA Polesny embroidered while traveling conveys this new youthful spirit. Pacific Rim influences are evident in the Japanese kimono form as a blank canvas offering infinite possibilities for pattern and design.  Marika Contompasis’s machine-knitted kimono made of rectangular sections, Trout-Magnolia Kimono, 1977, and Janet Lipkin’s Mexico at Midday, a coat made in 1988 are exceptional examples. The section also looks at the art of performance, reflected in Ben Compton and Marian Clayden’s Nocturnal Moth, 1974,inspired by Federico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita (1960). A range of counter-culture influences, evoking ceremony and spirituality, pervade this section. 

Oh, Mother Earth (Neil Young, 1990) is a nod to the publications The Whole Earth Catalog (1968) and Mother Earth News (1970) and looks to nature and environmental concerns while another section, This Land is Your Land (Woodie Guthrie, 1944) explores iconic American imagery from the Brooklyn Bridge to the American West. Examples in those two sections include Joan Ann Jablow’s Big Bird cape, 1977, made entirely of recycled bird feathers, and Joan Steiner’s Manhattan Collar, 1979, which reimagines New York’s skyline in miniature. 

Joan Steiner, Manhattan Collar, 1979. Silk, wool, cotton, lace, and buckram
Collection of Joanna S. Rose. Photography by Otto Stupakoff ©Julie Schafler Dale

In A Land Called Fantasy (Earth, Wind & Fire, 1977) explores fantasy and science fiction, two genres that offered young people an escape from the period’s cultural and political upheavals. Noteworthy here are works by Jean Cacicedo and Nina Huryn, both of whom riff on one of the most widely read English language books at the time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy Lord of the Rings (1965). Cacicedo responded with a portrait of Treebeard, 1973, a Tolkien character, while Huryn created her own fantasy world in Tree Outfit, with itsflowing pants, loose shirt and leather sleeveless jacket containing forest and folklore imagery, a work made especially for Julie: Artisans Gallery in 1976. Other artists turned to dreams, such as Susanna Lewis, who created Moth Cape, 1979, in response to a nightmare that she had of a giant moth enveloping her body.

Come Together (The Beatles, 1969) responds to the popular use of assemblage in art-making, especially the use of nontraditional materials. Red Ray, from the series, Seven Rays, by Kaisik Wong, is included as an example of a work that was commissioned by his close friend Salvador Dalí in 1974 for the grand opening of the Dalí Theatre Museum in Figueres, Spain. Nearby is Mario Rivoli’s Overdone Jacket, 1973, made of found objects such as pins, metal bottle caps, beads, and other items. 

A section called I Am Woman (Helen Reddy, 1971) underscores the ways in which artists invoked feminism directly and indirectly in Art to Wear. Janet Lipkin, for example, invested her works with symbols of freedom while searching for new directions in her life, as seen in Flamingo, 1982, and Transforming Woman, 1992. Other works like Combat Vest, 1985, by Sheila Perez, feature plastic toy soldiers as protective armor for the chest area, while Nicki Hitz Edson’s Medusa Mask, 1975, is a wild expression of fraught emotions surrounding the breakup of her marriage.

Linda J. Mendelson, In Kyo-Kawara, 2015, Wool machine knitted, plastic buttons. Promised gift of The Julie Schaffler Dale Collection.

Colour My World (Chicago, 1970) reflects the buoyant rainbow color spectrum that was ubiquitous during this era. Recently published works on color theory by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers provided a cornerstone of the new art education. For Linda Mendelson, color, typography, and text became inseparable. She adapted Albers’s ideas and linked color progression with lines from a poem titled Coat by William Butler Yeats from which she drew inspiration. Other artists such as Tim Harding created an effect similar to impressionist brush strokes by slashing and fraying dyed fabrics, as seen in his colorful coat Garden: Field of Flowers, 1991. 

The final section Everybody’s Talkin’ (Harry Nilsson, 1968) explores the use of text in Art to Wear. Jo-Ellen Trilling engages in visual word play using common prepositions on a jacket, while Jean Cacicedo channels her grief over her father’s death using words taken from the bible that celebrated his life in My Father’s House, 1994.

Sheila Perez Ghidini, Combat Vest, circa 1985.Molded plastic figures on quilted plain weave supplemental warp and weft patterning. Promised gift of The Julie Schafler Dale Collection.

Dilys E. Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles, who organized the exhibition, said: “We are looking back at this period with a fresh lens through which to consider a uniquely American art form that continues to have a worldwide influence. With roots and connections in fine arts, fiber art, craft, performance and fashion, there are so many important artists to appreciate. For this reason I am delighted by the opportunity to cast a light on such extraordinary talents, including so many adventurous women who deserve much greater recognition.” 

Publication
Off the Wall: American Art to Wear is accompanied by a new publication of the same name co-published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Press, co-authored by exhibition curators Dilys E. Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and independent textile scholar and curator Mary Schoeser, with a contribution written by Julie Schafler Dale. The volume provides the social, political, and artistic context for Art to Wear. ISBN 9780876332917.

Curators

Dilys E. Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles and Mary Schoeser, Independent Textile Historian and Curator

Support

This exhibition has been made possible by Julie Schafler Dale, PNC, The Coby Foundation, the Arlin and Neysa Adams Endowment Fund, Catherine and Laurence Altman, the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other generous donors.

Social Media

Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube: @philamuseum

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is Philadelphia’s art museum. We are a world-renowned collection. A landmark building. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

Thank you to the Philadelphia Museum of Art press room for the content of this post.

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Unity

Rocks, Rebeca Martel

The Unity of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt in the Americas 

A multi-part art installation celebrating Alexander Von Humboldt’s 250 Anniversary,

November 15th through December 9th, 2019. 

Cherry Street Pier, 121 N. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106. 

The Unity of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt in the Americas, celebrates the 250th anniversary of the German polymath scientist Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) through the work of five Philadelphia based American artists. The exhibition uses photography, video, sound, performance, painting, and sculpture, paying homage to Humboldt’s travels in the Americas, including a Philadelphia stop, in 1804.

Henry Bermudez

Humboldt’s five-year trip through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba, Peru, and Mexico was a watershed journey that allowed him to develop his theories on nature not only as an interconnected system, but also helped to form his observations on man’s destructive impact on the environment; theories centuries ahead of their time and which are now currently accepted unanimously by scientists, as we face global warming and environmental devastation. The five artists represented in the exhibition come from five of the countries Humboldt visited during his five-year journey, they are: Henry Bermudez, (Venezuela), Pedro Ospina and Salome Cosmique, (Colombia), Rebecca Martell, (Mexico), and Devin Asher Cohen, (USA).

Rocas, Rebeca Martell

Humboldt, the most famous man of his age, (more famous than Napoleon), achieved fame through his unquenchable interest in both exploration and in the search for scientific knowledge. It was this combination as both scientist and intrepid explorer that made his travels so celebrated. His travels through the Americas redrew the map of the continent and laid the groundwork for several fields of study including, biogeography, geology, and climatology, among others. Humboldt’s name appears on more things than any other historical figure: animals, birds, plants, flowers, fish, mountains, ocean currents, national parks, waterfalls, glaciers, a basin on the moon and two asteroids, not to mention thousands of institutions worldwide bearing his name. 

The exhibition organized by Casa De Duende and curated by David Acosta, Artistic Director, was made possible by a grant from the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, as part of their Waterfront Arts Program. The exhibition pays tribute to Humboldt and his love of the natural world through the work of five artists for whom Humboldt has had an impact on both their thinking and work. The exhibition runs through December 9th 2019. 

Henry Bermudez will display two large paper reconstructed paintings, which form part of a seven painting series dedicated to Alexander Von Humboldt, as well as several smaller botanical drawings. Pedro Ospina creates three large totem poles honoring the three clans of the Lena Lenape people (wolf, turtle and turkey) as well as the Delaware River. Salome Cosmique’s performance on opening night honors the Andean earth mother deity Pachamama mother of all living things. Rebecca Martell’s photographs of Mexican landscapes pay tribute to Humboldt’s visit to her native Puebla, while Asher Cohen’s sound installation serve as the artist’s homage to Humboldt. The sound pieces will fill the space, exuding within the setting an experiential state of being and the emotional quality, (not as observed) but as felt and imagined from the perspective of Von Humboldt during his travels from Puebla, Mexico to Philadelphia, capturing both, the oceanic sounds at sea, and the sound of the winds of arrival. 

About Casa de Duende: 

Casa de Duende is dedicated to presenting socially relevant art that addresses critical social issues and challenges both artists and communities to address these through art and art making. 

About Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, (DRWC) DRWC is a 501(c)(3) created in January 2009, exclusively for the benefit of the City of Philadelphia and its citizens. The fundamental purpose of DRWC is to design, develop, program and maintain public amenities such as permanent and seasonal parks, trails, and streetscape improvements to transform the waterfront into a vibrant destination for recreational, cultural, and commercial activities for the residents and visitors of Philadelphia as is consistent with the goals of the Master Plan for Central Delaware. Daily programming throughout the entire year is changing the way Philadelphians see and converse about the waterfront, and is helping to create spaces and communities that connect residents and visitors to the waterfront. Visit delawareriverwaterfront.com for more information.

Thank you to David Acosta for the content of this post.

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Different

Installation view of Designs for Different Futures (Bodies), featuring Seated Design: Sleeves and Shirt, 2016, by Lucy Jones; TiLite Wheelchair for FFORA Attachment System, 2019, by Numotion; Wheelchair Wheels for FFORA Attachment System, 2019, by Sinergy, Inc.; Photo by Juan Arce, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2019.

Designs for Different Futures

Philadelphia Museum of Art: October 22, 2019–March 8, 2020

Walker Art Center: September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021

Art Institute of Chicago: February 6 –May 16, 2021

The role of designers in shaping how we think about the future is the subject of a major exhibition that will premiere at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this fall. Designs for Different Futures brings together some 80 works that address the challenges and opportunities that humans may encounter in the years, decades, and centuries ahead. Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Art Institute of Chicago, Designs for Different Futures will be presented at the Walker and the Art Institute of Chicago following its presentation in Philadelphia.

Among the questions today’s designers seek to answer are:  What role can technology play in augmenting or replacing a broad range of human activities?  Can intimacy be maintained at a distance? How can we negotiate privacy in a world in which the sharing and use of personal information has blurred traditional boundaries? How might we use design to help heal or transform ourselves, bodily and psychologically? How will we feed an ever-growing population?

While no one can precisely predict the shape of things to come, the works in the exhibition are firmly fixed on the future, providing design solutions for a number of speculative scenarios. In some instances, these proposals are borne of a sense of anxiety, and in others of a sense of excitement over the possibilities that can be created through the use of innovative materials, new technologies, and, most importantly, fresh ideas.

Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, stated: “We often think of art museums as places that foster a dialogue between the past and the present, but they also can and should be places that inspire us to think about the future and to ask how artists and designers can help us think creatively about it. We are delighted to be able to collaborate with the Walker Art Center and the Art Institute of Chicago on this engaging project, which will offer our visitors an opportunity to understand not only how designers are imagining—and responding to—different visions of the future, but also to understand just how profoundly forward-looking design contributes in our own time to shaping the world that we occupy and will bequeath as a legacy to future generations.”

Thinking about the future has always been part of the human condition. It has also been a perennial field of inquiry for designers and architects whose speculations on this subject—ranging from the concrete to the whimsical—can profoundly affect how we imagine what is to come. Among the many forward-looking projects on view, visitors to Designs for Different Futures will encounter lab-grown food, robotic companions, family leave policy proposals, and textiles made of seaweed. 

“Some of these possibilities will come to fruition, while others will remain dreams or even threats,” said Kathryn Hiesinger, The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700, who coordinated the exhibition in Philadelphia with former assistant curator Michelle Millar Fisher. “We’d like visitors to join us as we present designs that consider the possible, debate the inevitable, and weigh the alternatives. This exhibition explores how design—understood expansively—can help us all grapple with what might be on the horizon and allows our imaginations to take flight.”

Installation view of Designs for Different Futures (Resources), featuring Another Generosity, designed 2018 by Eero Lundén, Ron Aasholm, and Carmen Lee of Lundén Architecture Company in collaboration with Bergent, BuroHappold Engineering, and Aalto University (Courtesy of the designers). Photo by Juan Arce, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2019.

The exhibition is divided into 11 thematic sections. In Resources, visitors will encounter an inflatable pod measuring 15 feet in diameter, part of the work Another Generosity first created in 2018 by Finnish architect Eero Lundén and designed in this incarnation in collaboration with Ron Aasholm and Carmen Lee. The pod slowly expands and contracts in the space, responding to changing levels of carbon dioxide as visitors exhale around it, and provoking questions about the ongoing effect of the human footprint on the environment. The section titled Generations will explore ways in which the choices we make today may contribute to the well-being or suffering of those who come after us. Here, visitors will find a model of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a repository that stores the world’s largest collection of crop seeds. Located within a mountain on a remote island near the Arctic Circle, the facility is designed to withstand natural or human-made disasters. The Earths section of the exhibition speculates on the challenges of extra-terrestrial communication in Lisa Moura’s Alien Nations installation and showcases typeface from the 2016 science-fiction film Arrival

In Bodies, designers grapple with choices about how our physical and psychological selves might look, feel, and function in different future scenarios. Featured here is one of the world’s lightest and most advanced exoskeletons, designed to help people with mobility challenges remain upright and active. Also notable is the CRISPR Kit, an affordable and accessible gene-editing toolbox, which has the potential to revolutionize biomedical research and open opportunities for gene therapy and genetic engineering.

Intimacies is a section that explores how technologies and online interfaces may affect love, family, and community. Here, urban experiences of sex and love are the focus of Andrés Jaque’s Intimate Strangers, an audio-visual installation focusing on the gay dating app. Through internet-enabled devices, designers explore the possibility of digitally mediated love and sex,  suggesting what advanced digital networks hold for human sexuality. 

Foods contains projects that explore the future of the human diet. Among them is a modular edible-insect farm, Cricket Shelter, by Terreform ONE, which offers a ready source of protein for impending food crises. A kitchen installation suggests how technology and design may contribute to new modes of food production, including an Ouroboros Steak made from human cells. 

Additional sections of the exhibition will focus on the future of Jobs and how Cities will function and look 100 years from now—with robotic baby feeders, driverless cars, and other developments—affording a glimpse at how we might navigate living beyond this planet. Shoes grown from sweat are among the innovations visitors will find in a section devoted to Materials, while Power willlook at how design may affect our citizenship and help us retain agency over such essentials as our DNA, our voices, and our electronic communications in a future where the lines between record-keeping, communication, and surveillance blur. Data acknowledges and questions the different ways that information might be collected and used, with all its inherent biases and asymmetries, to shape different futures. 

Future Library, 2014–2114, designed by Katie Paterson (Exhibition display gift of the Future Library Trust, 2018 and purchased with the European Decorative Arts Revolving Fund, 2018). Photograph © Bjørvika Utvikling by Kristin von Hirsch, 2017. Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2019.

Futures Therapy Lab

As part of the exhibition, visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art galleries will also encounter a space for community meetups, public programs, school visits, and self-directed activities. The Futures Therapy Lab will weave personal connections between visitors and the exhibition as part of a collaboration between the museum’s Education Department and the curatorial team. Weekly programs, many of which will occur on Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesday Nights, will connect visitors with designers, artists, and locally based creatives. The Futures Therapy Lab will contain a crowdsourced Futures Library that includes everything from science-fiction books to the exhibition catalogue. “Thinking about possible futures is both exhilarating and anxiety-provoking,” said Emily Schreiner, the Zoë and Dean Pappas Curator of Education, Public Programs. “The Futures Therapy Lab is a place for conversation, critique, and creativity in which visitors can imagine their own hopes, fears and solutions for the future through reflection, discussion, and art making.” 

Support

Designs for Different Futures is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Art Institute of Chicago. 

In Philadelphia, this exhibition is generously supported by the Annenberg Foundation Fund for Major Exhibitions, the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, the Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer in honor of Collab’s 50th Anniversary, the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Laura and William C. Buck Endowment for Exhibitions, the Harriet and Ronald Lassin Fund for Special Exhibitions, the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, and an anonymous donor.

Publication

Centered on the innovative contemporary design objects, projects, and speculations of the exhibition’s checklist, the accompanying volume proposes design as a means through which to understand, question, and negotiate individual and collective futures, giving provocative voice to the most urgent issues of today. It asks readers to contemplate the design context within broader historical, social, political, and aesthetic spectrums. Designs for Different Futures addresses futures near and far, exploring such issues as human-digital interaction, climate change, political and social inequality, resource scarcity, transportation, and infrastructure.

The primary authors are Kathryn B. Hiesinger, Michelle Millar Fisher, Emmet Byrne, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor, and Zoë Ryan, with Andrew Blauvelt, Colin Fanning, Orkan Telhan, Juliana Rowen Barton, and Maude de Schauensee. Additional contributions include texts by V. Michael Bove Jr. and Nora Jackson, Christina Cogdell, Marina Gorbis, Srećko Horvat, Bruno Latour, Marisol LeBrón, Ezio Manzini, Chris Rapley, Danielle Wood, LinYee Yuan, and Emma Yann Zhang; and interviews with Gabriella Coleman, Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin), Aimi Hamraie and Jillian Mercado, Francis Kéré, David Kirby, Helen Kirkum, Alexandra Midal, Neri Oxman, and Eyal Weizman.

Designs for Different Futures will be distributed by Yale University Press. The book was overseen by Philadelphia Museum of Art publishing director Katie Reilly and editors Katie Brennan and Kathleen Krattenmaker. It is designed by Ryan Gerald Nelson, Senior Graphic Designer at the Walker Art Center, under the direction of Walker design director Emmet Byrne.

It is available in the museum store ($40) or via the museum website.  

Designs for Different Futures 

ISBN 9780876332900 

Petit Pli—Clothes That Grow, designed 2017 by Ryan Mario Yasin (Courtesy of the designer). Photograph © Ryan Mario Yasin. Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2019.

Related Program

The Futures Therapy Lab will host a series of weekly happenings:

Artists in the Lab
Artists and designers share their work through talks, demonstrations, and workshops. Wednesday Nights, 5:00–8:45 p.m.

The Designer is In
Talk it out. One-on-one sessions with local designers offer new perspectives on your everyday life. Thursdays & Saturdays, 2:00–4:00 p.m.

Sci-Fi Sundays
Drop-in readings that explore narratives of the future. Select Sundays, 2:00–3:00pm

See Full Schedule of Related Public Programs 

Curatorial Team

The curatorial team is comprised of: at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kathryn B. Hiesinger, The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700, and Michelle Millar Fisher, formerly The Louis C. Madeira IV Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700; at the Walker Art Center, Emmet Byrne, Design Director and Associate Curator of Design; and at the Art Institute of Chicago, Maite Borjabad López-Pastor, Neville Bryan Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design, and Zoë Ryan, the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design. Consulting curators are Andrew Blauvelt, Director, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and Curator-at-Large, Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Colin Fanning, Independent Scholar, Bard Graduate Center, New York; and Orkan Telhan, Associate Professor of Fine Arts (Emerging Design Practices), University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia.

Kathryn B. Hiesinger is The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her work focuses on decorative arts and design from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and includes the exhibitions and publications Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion (2011), Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates (2001), Japanese Design: A Survey since 1950 (1994) and Design since 1945 (1983). 

Michelle Millar Fisher is the Ronald C. and Anita L Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and is currently completing her doctorate in architectural history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the co-author, with Paola Antonelli, of Items: Is Fashion Modern? (2017). 

Emmet Byrne is the Design Director and Associate Curator of Design at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He provides creative leadership and strategic direction for the Walker in all areas of visual communication, branding, publishing, while overseeing the award-winning in-house design studio. He was one of the founders of the Task Newsletter in 2009 and is the creator of the Walker’s Intangibles platform.

Maite Borjabad López-Pastor is the Neville Bryan Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is an architect and curator educated at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Columbia University, New York. She is the author and curator of Scenographies of Power: From the State of Exception to the Spaces of Exception (2017). Her work revolves around diverse forms of critical spatial practices, operating across architecture, art, and performance.

Zoë Ryan is the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the editor of As Seen: Exhibitions That Made Architecture and Design History (2017) and curator of In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury (2019) and the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial, The Future is Not What it Used to Be. Her projects explore the impact of architecture and design on society. 

Social Media
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