Inliquid logo
February 23, 2024

Review of "hearth, frame, foundation"

About the Author
Pete Sparber

Pete Sparber is an artist and writer based in Philadelphia. Through his writing, he hopes to engage with and catalyze the development of visual arts in Philadelphia by publishing The Current, an Instagram-based blog featuring a curated sampling of some of the strong visual art now developing across the city.
See the exhibition here

InLiquid Member Artist and Writer Pete Sparber reviews "hearth, frame, foundation," on view at Park Towne Place January 26 - May 12, 2024.

Standing eighteen stories above the 2200 block of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the four Park Towne Place towers appear solidly built on the city’s soil and bedrock. However, in the dimension of time, like most of our city, the towers also rest on a particular history. To quote Amy Cohen, in her article ‘Artist Explores Urban Renewal at Park Towne Place’, (Hidden City, July 2, 2022) “Louis Kahn is credited with the first sketches of four residential towers on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. He based his ideas on Le Corbusier’s Unite D’habitation concept of large housing complexes punctuated by green spaces. (…) The area was once full of abandoned warehouses, obsolete industrial sites, and the small worksites and rowhouses of a shrinking Polish-American-community”. Resonating with that invisible past, and under the curation of InLiquid’s Cecilia McKinnon, the new installation of hearth, frame, foundation brings together five artists. Their work is in dialogue with that invisible past and the symbols, materials and processes we use to reimagine and reconstruct our cities. 

As a preview to the upcoming exhibition, I got a chance to tour the Park Towne Place installations with Cecilia. With the support of an expert crew the Inliquid team has brought off a gorgeous, meticulously installed, light-filled showcase. Cecilia began our discussion by talking about her “interest in the built environment, architecture, and lived spaces” and “looked for artists working with those themes”. The other driving concern were the three spaces themselves with “a ton of natural light and traffic…and thinking about how to activate that”. Now, fully installed, the work soars from the floor to ceiling. There are hair-raising feats of installation (rows of precisely placed i-hooks at the upper edge of 20’ ceilings, as well as a Japanese-garden-like sensitivity to reflection, light, and the views created as we walk through each space and perceive it from our shifting perspective. I’ve selected a few of those works and a few of those views to help provide a sense of the exhibition.

Francis Beaty, trained as an architect, now reconfigures common architectural materials in ways that liberate them from the constraints of their function. Under Francis’ hand the materials assume a new form and arrest our attention, as we discover something of their inherent beauty. In this installation soft plastic mesh, normally used to catch falling construction debris, is reborn as an undulating, transparent red ribbon flowing between the floor and ceiling of the double height North Tower Gallery. 

Pictured here is another piece by Francis Beaty in the West Tower Gallery, Lift Off #3. This work, previously installed in a high-ceilinged church, is constructed from carved and burned Tyvek insulation. A material that’s always covered and hidden in the final building has been liberated and now, presented as a series of translucent membranes, appears like the spread wings of angels caught in their ascent.

Three works from the series “Kensington Apotheosis” by Michael Morgan sit atop salvaged plinths. The objects, taking on new life, are reconstituted ceramic sherds excavated from a 19th century trash dump behind Michael’s Kensington house. The many joints, like sinews connecting bones, are inspired by Kintsugi, the Japanese art that honors the beauty of broken objects with gold-infused repair.

Sine, a Jacquard tapestry from Annette Cord, incorporates visual cues from the city. With a focus on text and writing, Annette sees the city as a surface with a story that can be read in its signs and symbols.  Here a photo negative of construction mesh (see Francis Beaty’s work above) overlays a gridded structure, with both overwritten by dramatic slashes of graffiti.  Elements of construction and the very immediate marks of human expression are layered and woven together both figuratively and literally.

Cimone Kind Berman, owner of Argent Mirror, plays with light, reflection and transparency in her moon-shaped glass discs. With expertise in how metal is applied to glass to create subtle distortions and colorations she elicits sensations of age and passing time. The associations with self-reflection, loss and memory are not far behind. The work, both transparent and reflective, is beautifully show-cased in the light filled tower galleries that themselves are built of, and demarcated by glass walls and partitions.

Maquette: Arches of Resurgence by Michael Morgan, a self-described ‘brick sculptor’, is both architectural and organic. The legs are solid, standing against gravity, but then above the brickwork explodes with energy. Michael’s brickwork reminds us that this construction material, so present in Philadelphia, is formed from the earth’s clay, infused with water, molded with the human hand, and then hardened with fire. In his structures the material comes to life. 

Spread like wings, this set of Rita Sheer’s constructed canvases are based on abstracted greenhouses…spaces in which life can grow and flourish. The flow of materials through time and space undergird all their constructions, drawings and weavings. Whether boldly carved and sculpted canvases, or delicate pencil renderings, the mechanisms of transformation (looms, hinges, factories) are dominant presences across all of their pieces on display.

A note about Park Towne Place 

InLiquid works hand-in-hand with the Park Towne Place management. Cecilia explains “we’ve had a partnership for six or seven years…we are also involved in their permanent collection.” Aside from orchestrating a rotation of each building’s entry gallery, the results of the partnership are on display in the enclosed cases and wall placements throughout each building’s public spaces. The display of contemporary art is a central feature of the complex’s identity, which leverages its proximity to Philadelphia’s major art museums. It’s clearly a triple winning strategy for the progressive management of the complex, the exposure of InLiquid and other local artists, and perhaps most importantly for the residents of Park Towne Place and their families who live surrounded by an ever changing array of museum-quality contemporary art. 

hearth, frame, foundation 

Now through May 12th 

Opening reception: March 6th, 6:00-8:00pm 

Park Towne Place: North, West and South Tower galleries 

2200 Benjamin Franklin Boulevard 


Francis Beaty* 

Cimon Kind Berman 

Annette Cords* 

Michael Morgan* 

Rita Sheer 

(*InLiquid members)

Pete Sparber is an artist and writer based in Philadelphia. Through his writing, he hopes to engage with and catalyze the development of visual arts in Philadelphia by publishing The Current, an Instagram-based blog featuring a curated sampling of some of the strong visual art now developing across the city.

No items found.
This is some text inside of a div block.
This is the start of the list
This is the end of the list

Related News