Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde

University of the Arts



Rafael Ferrer, Fuegian House with Harpy Eagle, 1971, leaves, ice, tarp, branches, paint, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photo by Marcia Tucker.


Hanna Wilke, Early Box and Six Phallic and Excremental Sculptures, 1960–1963, terra cotta, plaster of Paris, and glazed terra cotta. Photo courtesy of Donald and Helen Goddard and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.


Cynthia Carlson, Triple Buldges, 1975, acrylic on woven canvas, 48" x 78". Photo courtesy of the artist.


Robert Venturi, Vanna Venturi House, 1964, Philadelphia.

The University of the Arts’ Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde will highlight and explore Philadelphia’s significant contributions to visual culture in the 1950s through the 1970s in an exhibition, a publication, and performances. The project will invite audiences to envision Philadelphia as “a city of firsts,” which produced the first Pop Art exhibitions, innovations in architecture and urban planning, one of the country’s first rock music magazines, and a substantial post-war growth of art schools. On view at both the University of the Arts’ Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery and the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Invisible City will include works by major architects, photographers, sculptors, painters and conceptual artists of the period, including Denise Scott Brown, Rafael Ferrer (1993 Pew Fellow), Ree Morton, Italo Scanga, and Robert Venturi. The exhibition will be enriched by time-based ephemeral pieces such as posters, pamphlets, and films. In examining the region’s performance art history, Alex Da Corte (2012 Pew Fellow) will reconstruct Allan Kaprow's important happening Chicken at the Gershman Y, where it was originally performed in 1962. Invisible City builds on extensive research and website documentation that was initiated by the university’s director of exhibitions, Sid Sachs, and supported by a 2014 Center Discovery grant.

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.