Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Makes People Powerful (2013). Fabric with applique and embroidery. Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi Gallery.
This spring, the Free Library of Philadelphia is showcasing fraktur, the historical Pennsylvania German folk art style, with Framing Fraktur. This Center-funded exhibition places contemporary art, including drawings, paintings, woodblock prints, and embroideries, alongside traditional works drawn from the Library's Rare Book Department collection. Word & Image: Contemporary Artists Connect to Fraktur is curated by Judith Tannebaum and features the works of seven international artists: Marian Bantjes (Canada), 2009 Pew Fellow Anthony Campuzano (United States), Imran Qureshi (Pakistan), Elaine Reichek (United States), Bob and Roberta Smith (England), and Gert and Uwe Tobias (Romania/Germany). The exhibition is now available in book form from the University of Pennsylvania Press, with vivid illustrations that explore the scope of this art style.
On view at the Library through June 14, Framing Fraktur has received praise for its breadth, bringing attention to the many ways in which text and image interact.
Peter Crimmins of WHYY interviews three of the artists from the contemporary exhibition—Bob and Roberta Smith, Anthony Campuzano, and Marian Bantjes—for a radio segment on the connection between their contemporary work and historical Fraktur sensibilities. "Making eyes move around the field, telling stories, repetition, and mark-making" are the areas of overlap, says Campuzano.
For PhillyVoice, Aubrey Nagle writes that the contemporary works "feature a similar cultural connection between text and art," in the spirit of the traditional fraktur exhibitions.
Word & Image is "an especially unique endeavor for a public library," says Rachel Karasick for The Library as Incubator Project, "radically expand[ing] the conversation...to help current visitors to the library reinterpret and reengage with the historic fraktur collection."
Al Dia's Arturo Varela features the wide scope of materials in Word & Image with an extensive gallery of images, demonstrating the variety of ways in which the artists "convey particular subject matter about their own culture and identity."
Uwishunu encourages Philadelphians to visit the "brilliant colors and whimsical imagery" of the exhibition, and to view Word & Image as the link between tradition and the contemporary.