Philadelphia’s art landscape becomes more vibrant and more relevant this fall when new exhibitions tap into political and social issues. Philadelphia Assembled asks viewers to consider the city’s future by visiting this collaborative exhibition created by organizers across the city, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Citywide Monument Lab encourages dialogue about how Philadelphia should be represented in the public space. A Time to Break Silence: Pictures of Social Change at the James A. Michener Art Museum honors Dr. King’s controversial speech that challenged the United States to redirect military spending to poverty relief. And the Penn Museum explores the rich cultures and histories of one of today’s most turbulent regions in Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq.
Here’s a chronological look at the displays continuing Philadelphia’s artistic excellence and its role as a center for culture-defining expression and discourse:
Political & Social Expressions:
1. Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq: The Penn Museum explores the rich cultures, diverse populations and deep history of one of the world’s most turbulent regions. Modern works by Syrian-born artist Issam Kourbaj stand next to ancient artifacts; together, they tell stories of everyday life and global contributions, upheavals and peace, despair and hope. Through November 26, 2018. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000, penn.museum
2. A Time to Break Silence: Pictures of Social Change: Photographs document protest and political and social change; they also shape our view of our current and historic culture. Bucks County’s James A. Michener Art Museum stages this display of images in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s controversial speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” in which the civil rights leader called for military spending in Vietnam to be redirected to ending poverty. September 9, 2017-February 4, 2018. 138 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 340-9800, michenerartmuseum.org
3. Philadelphia Assembled: The Philadelphia Museum of Art and artist Jeanne van Heeswijk worked with dozens of collaborators to stage a part-artistic, part-civic engagement exhibition that examines Philadelphia’s future. After months of citywide programs and installations, the pay-what-you-wish exhibition takes form at the Perelman Building. September 10-December 10, 2017. 2525 Pennsylvania Avenue, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
4. Beyond Boundaries: Feminine Forms: Both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and Bryn Mawr College stage this exhibition, conceived by graduate students and featuring 80 works on paper, paintings and sculptures. The show explores the institutions’ strategies to collect and categorize works by female artists and questions the continuation of the gendered stereotypes to which art by women has been subjected. September 15, 2017-January 28, 2018 (opens September 28 at Bryn Mawr College). Bryn Mawr College, Canaday Library, 101 N. Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr, (610) 526-5276, brynmawr.edu; PAFA, 118 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600, pafa.org
5. Monument Lab: For nine weeks, temporary Philadelphia monuments by more than 20 local and international artists pop up in public spaces all around the city. These free exhibits aim to challenge viewers to think about representations of our history, memory and future. Organized by Mural Arts Philadelphia, Monument Lab includes interactive laboratories to encourage conversation and a hub at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which displays public monument proposals generated during the run. September 16-November 19, 2017. (215) 685-0750, muralarts.org
6. Chuck Close Photographs: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts features 90 images from this eminent American artist’s career, the first-such comprehensive survey of Close’s barrier-breaking photography. The exhibition spans 1964 through today and includes the artist’s iconic black-and-white maquettes, massive composite Polaroids, small daguerreotypes and recent nudes. October 6, 2017-April 8, 2018. 118 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600, pafa.org
Art Exhibitions Of All Sorts:
7. Morris Arboretum in Motion: The Kinetic Sculptures of Lyman Whitaker: More than 50 kinetic, calming Wind Sculptures adorn Morris Arboretum’s historic garden. Ranging from five to 27 feet tall, the handcrafted pieces rely on the wind to move; they’re meant to evoke contemplation about people’s relationships with nature. Through October 9, 2017.100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) -247-5777, morrisarboretum.org
8. Big Bling: Artist Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-high work—made of wood and chain-link fencing with a bright gold shackle at the top—evokes a range of reactions. A first-time collaboration of the Association for Public Art and Madison Square Park Conservancy, the sculpture greets fitness enthusiasts along Kelly Drive. Through November 2017. Kelly Drive between Fountain Green Drive and Girard Avenue Bridge, (215) 546-7550, associationforpublicart.org
9. Lisa Nilsson: Connective Tissue: The complexity of human anatomy shines through Lisa Nilsson’s scientific and artistic pieces, on display at the Mütter Museum. The artist creates her detailed works with rolled and shaped paper—a technique called quilling or paper filigree, first practiced by monks and nuns in the 16th through 18th centuries. Through January 4, 2018. 19 S. 22nd Street, (215) 560-8564, muttermuseum.org
10. Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture: Two hundred models, plans, original drawings, photographs and films make up the first major retrospective of Louis Kahn’s work in 20 years during the last stop on an international tour. On display at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the late Philadelphia architect’s major works—Roosevelt Memorial in New York; Kimbell Art Museum in Texas; and National Assembly Building in Bangladesh—demonstrate Kahn’s genius and influence—as do his early urban planning concepts and single-family houses. August 11-November 5, 2017. 1214 Arch Street, (215) 561-8888, fabricworkshopandmuseum.org
11. Fireflies: Acclaimed artist Cai Guo-Qiang brings 27 luminous, kinetic pedicabs to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the kickoff of Parkway 100, the boulevard’s 14-month-long centennial celebration. Cai’s oeuvre includes the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics; this opening will include 900 lanterns; the exhibition will be open for riding and admiring four hours each Thursday through Sunday evening. September 14-October 8, 2017. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, parkway100.org
12. Time’s Funeral: Drawings & Poems by Justin Duerr: Artist Justin Duerr covers the galleries of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens with fantastical roll paper-and-Sharpie drawings. The otherworldly depictions pair well with the fascinating mosaic space. September 15-November 12, 2017. 1020 South Street, (215) 733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org
13. A Grand Vision: Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance: American Renaissance luminary Violet Oakley contributed to Pennsylvania’s and the nation’s artistic expressions over her 50-year career. On display at the Woodmere Art Museum, the first showcase of her work in three decades focuses on her public commissions: designs for her murals, stained glass and portraits displayed in civic buildings, churches and schools. September 30, 2017-January 21, 2018. 9201 Germantown Avenue, (215) 247-0476, woodmereartmuseum.org
14. Graphic Women: More than 30 charcoals, pastels, illustrations and watercolors usually not displayed because of their delicate nature comprise this exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Presented in conjunction with A Grand Vision at Woodmere, the rare display features the works of female Philadelphia artists Violet Oakley, her teacher Cecilia Beaux and their contemporaries Mary Cassatt, Susan MacDowell Eakins and others. November 16, 2017-February 18, 2018. 118 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600, pafa.org
15. Kiefer Rodin: That Auguste Rodin’s work stands the test of time is clearly evident in this Barnes Foundation exhibition. Rodin’s sculptures and drawings display alongside contemporary artist Anselm Kiefer’s new, large-scale illustrated books, sculptures and paintings—all inspired by Rodin’s work. Presented in collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris, the showcase is part of #Rodin100, marking 100 years since the artist’s death (November 17, 1917) with exhibits and programming at major art museums. November 17, 2017-March 12, 2018. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 278-7200, barnesfoundation.org
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