Project Space: Brian TolleJanuary 21 - March 26, 2006
As part of Philadelphia's citywide celebration of Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania has commissioned artist Brian Tolle to create a new work. January 17th, 2006 will mark Franklin's tercentenary and the first day to review Tolle's exhibition in observation of this event in the Project Space at ICA.
Brian Tolle uses history as a material to create art that, as he says: reflects upon history to understand the present. He democratized Thomas Jefferson's writing desk, for instance, by assembling a group of four replicas the artist faithfully hand-carpentered from wood, and another pop-up cardboard version that he designed for mass production. For his Franklin project at ICA, Tolle has elected a series of images that pitch this luminary historical figure in a contemporary light. As with all of Tolle's work, this installation was developed through extensive research and involves a combination of complex handcraft and high-tech production.
After months of reading and visiting historic sites and archives throughout Philadelphia, Tolle arrived at three emblematic images. Signifying Franklin's genius for invention and politics, his enlightened philosophy of independence, tempered by humor and pragmatism, these images are: an electric snake (after Franklin's famous political cartoon "Join or Die" inciting the importance of unification); a brilliant sun burst (when the Constitution was finally signed, Franklin declared that the sun carved on the back of President Washington's chair was rising over a new nation); and Franklin's face engraved on the $100 dollar bill (Franklin's printing press minted the first American currency). As room-scale elements these images are realized with a graphic punch-which the populist Franklin would certainly appreciate -- in an installation composed of painting, printing, mural, and sculpture. Presented within the context of the Franklin tercentenary and today's heightened political climate, this installation celebrates Franklin as an iconic revolutionary.
Brian Tolle (b. 1964, lives in New York) is a veteran of complex site-specific works of art. He is best known for the Irish Hunger Memorial (2001), which shapes the landscape of Lower Manhattan with a full-scale replica of a hillside Irish farm desiccated by the potato famine. His work has been exhibited internationally at the Kunsthalle Bern; the Saatchi Collection, London; P.S.1, New York, among other venues. This year Tolle was invited to create the first annual benefit print for Bomb magazine. The image of Franklin's face, literally drawn from lines of Franklin's own writings, relates directly to Tolle's project for ICA.
Installation views at ICA. Photos by Aaron Igler. > click to enlarge
Ben Franklin 300 Philadelphia is a year-long celebration of Benjamin Franklin's 300th birthday, coordinated and marketed by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the National Constitution Center and CBS 3. Festivities will run from fall 2005 through 2006 and will focus on the world premiere of the international traveling exhibition, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World at the National Constitution Center. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, a non-profit organization, is supported by a lead grant of $4 million from The Pew Charitable Trusts and established to reaffirm Franklin's enduring legacy in his 300th birthday year. For more information about the exhibition, related programs and traveling to Philadelphia, visit GoPhila.com.
Support for this exhibition has been provided by the University of Pennsylvania's Office of the Secretary and the Provost's Office. Additional support has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 11/28/05.)
The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary is an alliance created in 2000 by five Philadelphia institutions: the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the University of Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to celebrate the 300-year anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth (1706-2006), and its projects have been endorsed as the official national celebration by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission, a federal advisory body.
General Education/Outreach Programming
ICA is grateful for support provided by the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, The Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation, The Honickman Foundation and The Barra Foundation Inc. Additional support has been provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 11/28/05.) All programs subject to change.
Photos: Brian Tolle working on Ben Franklin project in his New York studio. Photos by Philip Berkman.