ICA will be closed to the public through September 12 for installation.
Jan 21–Mar 26, 2006

Brian Tolle

About

Brian Tolle, 2006

Project Space: Brian Tolle, 2006, installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

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.

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.
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"Support for this exhibition has been provided by the University of Pennsylvanias Office of the Secretary and the Provosts 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.

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 300year anniversary of Benjamin Franklins birth (17062006), and its projects have been endorsed as the official national celebration by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission, a federal advisory body.

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."