Rocky (Re)runs

a group exhibition @ dvaa

Exhibition Runs: April 10th - April 29th, 2018


Public Opening Reception:

Tuesday, April 10th 2018, 6 - 8pm

About the exhibition:

Organized by John James Pron, Andrew Hart and Ken Jacobs, this exhibition uses the 1976-2006 Rocky Balboa film series and its settings to examine the presence and absence of change in what are now called Philadelphia’s “middle neighborhoods,” areas that are generally affordable, attractive, and offer a reasonable quality of life, but may be in danger of decline. The show’s participants return to Rocky’s world as film viewers and artists, perhaps to memorialize a lost past, document a fluid present, or design for an unknowable future.

In the way that they encapsulate the underdog grit of their hero and locale, the character and settings of the early Rocky films could not have been situated in any city other than Philadelphia nor at any other time than the early 1970s.  In the second film, Rocky Balboa is seen on a training run that passes through a number of locales. The journey can be seen in many ways: as a single run; as a series of runs; as visual pornography that exploits derelict neighborhoods; as a celebratory paean to iconic Philadelphia views.  The sequence, repeated almost to the point of parody in later parts of the Rocky franchise, is short, noir-ish, stark, and surprisingly different from recollections of it formed by many viewers decades later.

Philadelphia 1976 is drastically different from Philadelphia 2018, yet the Rocky images still feel familiar to native Philadelphians.  While some settings have changed dramatically in conjunction with the city’s urban Renaissance, blight, poverty, drugs, and crime remain in many others. Is the training run an encapsulation of a particular time?  Is it timeless? Is Rocky Balboa one man or everyman? Does he symbolize personal triumph over grinding oppression or was he just exceptionally lucky?  Does he lead the others to achieve salvation? To fulfill their destiny? To discover their true selves?

About the Artists:

John James Pron, co-curator of this exhibition, is a practicing architect, and artist (having displayed his collages, drawings and models for over 15 years with the 3 rd St Gallery on 2 nd St, Old City, Philadelphia as well as in many regional galleries). His design office specializes in the adaptive reuse of older traditional buildings in city and region- hotels in particular. He was born, raised, educated (with a B.A and an M.Arch from the University of Pennsylvania) and is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia. He is now Emeritus Professor of the Department of Architecture, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, where he has taught basic design, architectural design, graphics and architectural history at Temple for almost 40 years, both on main campus and at Temple Rome. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and his professional practice and as well as his artistic oeuvre confront apparent contradictions: the city vs the natural world, reality vs the surreal, serenity vs passion, new vs old, unity vs diversity, the historic past versus the anticipated future, the classical tradition vs the modern movement- firmly convinced that all can fruitfully coexist in a dynamic world.

Andrew Hart, co-curator of this exhibition, is a practicing architect and also a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Philadelphia University (now Jefferson University) College of Architecture and the Built Environment. He graduated from Temple University with a B.Arch and from Cornell University with an M.Arch in 2013. He has been a resident of North Philadelphia for 15 years, though he has studied rural Italian architecture, the coal mines of Wilkes- Barre and abandoned villages in Spain. Andrew’s work draws connections between past and present, memory and identity, old and new, digital and analog, while his current studies, built work and research looks to the line between photograph, drawing and model building. He is most often covered in graphite, ink and dust, but- more recently- makes pioneering explorations in laser-cut technology applied to architectonically-inspired sculptural objects.

Ken Jacobs, co-curator of this exhibition, is not an exhibiting artist, but instead has played the role of shaping the intellectual challenges of this show as well as serving as a major critic of the artists’ developing submissions. He holds a B.Arch from Temple University and a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania and teaches history and theory at Temple, Philadelphia University, Drexel University and the Moore College of Art. He is also a preservation architect with 30 years experience in historic research, programming, design and construction administration. Entering the field of architecture to become a strictly “modern” architect, he now concludes that old buildings tell us as much about the present as they do about the past. His dissertation focused on Leopold Eidlitz, a 19 th century architect who strongly believed in the blend of idealism and pragmatism, of science and art. Can beautiful architectural forms be valued for the knowledge they imparted rather than for the precedent they convey? Ken is asking the participating designers a similar question: what does Rocky’s films- the earliest from 40 years ago- tell us about the city of Philadelphia, past and present.

Gabriella D’Angelo received her M.Arch I from the University of Buffalo and her M.Arch II from the Cooper Union in New York City She is an active designer and Assistant Professor of Architecture at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in upstate NY, where she is continuously experimenting with the formal, material, experiential and construction methodologies in conceiving and evolving architectural technologies. In recent years, her design practice has generated architecture as a tool for social, political and environmental justice, focusing on architecture as agency.

Ryan Drummond is an architect by training and profession, having a Master’s degree at Cornell University, and undergraduate studies from Temple University, and he has worked professionally in both New York City and Philadelphia.  At Cornell, he studied under Peter Eisenman, Lebbeus Woods, and Anthony Vidler, all of whom influence his thinking about architecture’s relationship to representation and disciplinary knowledge.  In gallery settings, he creates artworks that explore his continually evolving interests in history, cultural artifacts, architecture, urbanism, landscape, art history and literature. He expresses himself through drawing, collage and painting

Marc Lewis Krawitz is an architect, designer and educator based in Philadelphia. He received a B.Arch degree from the Department of Architecture, Tyler School of Art at Temple University. In addition to his practice, he teaches Architectural Representation at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. Currently a Designer for Ballinger Architects, he was previously a collaborator at Austin+Mergold, where he built the winning entry “SuralArk” in Manhattan’s Socrates Sculpture Park. In 2015, he won a state-wide design competition, the John Stewardson Memorial Fellowship in Architecture that allowed him to travel extensively in Europe, focusing on his investigations of the ‘middle ground’ between Architecture, Landscape Ecology and Economy. His research focuses on Representation, specifically the translation from drawing to building.

Jordan M. Mrazik is a South Philadelphia resident who practices architecture in Philadelphia and has an abiding interest in contextual thought. With a B.Arch from Virginia Tech, his research has ranged from working on farms in SW Virginia to exploring hidden ruins embedded in European cities. His eclectic background and expanding skill sets have produced thinking that pairs everyday occurrences with architectural tectonics. His artwork- in drawing and collage- is the product of visual compulsion and personal intrigue. He employs a fundamental vocabulary of memory, color, syntax and shadow to explore artificial environments and unmask the people who occupy them. He actively studies the relationship between space and time, place and occasion

Laura Blau is a fulltime architect practicing in South Philadelphia, one of the principals at BluPath Design, a firm specializing in passive solar design for the past twenty years. Prior to architecture, she was an award winning fine arts painter and sculptor, as well as a frequent studio professor at Temple University’s Architecture Program, and taught art at the Rhode Island School of Design as well as Moore College in Philadelphia. She is also an important speaker at major conferences on passive house and sustainable design. One significant commission the firm has recently completed is a net-zero energy ready solar house placed on top of an existing 1-story commercial garage in the Italian Market area- an important prototype for the future of that traditional neighborhood.

Juliet Whelan is a South Philadelphia resident and an architect who founded the architecture practice Jibe Design in 2005- an award-winning firm specializing in, but not limited to, residential projects and retail.  Her architecture work explores the juncture of clean utility and spatial artistry. She recognizes that she must not only calibrate a building’s visual and functional impact but also its impact on the larger environment; and so she seeks green design solutions. The process through which she finds coherent form involves directed collaboration, solitary research, and capricious insight. Juliet has also served as an instructor at Temple University’s Department of Architecture and holds a B.Arch degree from Rice University.   She began painting with acrylics in 2005 on her winter vacation and has been endeavoring at painting in her spare time ever since.  She enjoys experimenting with and trying to understand and control the medium – both from a perspective of craft and communication.  She delights in the freedom of painting – the liberation from budget, client, function.

Gary Grissom is a photographer with degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of the Arts, and Community College of Philadelphia and was a past recipient of a Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship. A painter by education, he has also explored theater design and video and has exhibited broadly in many Philadelphia arts venues since the late 1970’s. A self-described “bricoleur of the city”, incessantly roams the streets, vividly documenting its incredible diversity of experiences, objects, settings and people. Grissom finds transcendant beauty in small, unlikely corners as well as its messy public zones, documenting the ephemeral activities and the pulsating lifestyles of today’s Philadelphians, reflected in storefront displays or out the windows of city buses.

Joseph Fattore is an architect, construction professional and a B.Arch graduate of the Temple University Architecture Program, where he also studies Theater and TV/film- always seeking ways to merge those two interests. As a practicing architecture (and American Institute of Architects member), he specialized in immersive environments such as planetariums, casinos, themed restaurants and amusement parks. Simultanously, he served as an Architectural Documentarian for WHYY-TV, producing short video studies of iconic locations such as the PSFS Building, Reading Terminal Market, Girard College and One Liberty Place. He has experience as a set designer and production coordinator for movies, appeared as an extra on the films Rocky 5 and Twelve Monkeys, and received a Regional Emmy Award for a Fox 29 special on the highest number of deaths in the Vietnam War at a local high school. As a visual artist(no “s”), he creates architectonically- inspired installations.

Steve Kwasnik is an On Tour editor and producer at WHYY (PBS Channel 12) and a video artist in his own right. On Tour is an 2014 Regional Emmy Award-winning music and performance program recorded live on location at local venues in and around Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey and features regional, national and international artists performing a wide range of musical styles interwoven with intimate artist interviews. Kwasnik is also a boxer.

A. Thomas Schomberg is a noted Colorado-based sculptor, with a long illustrious career specializing not only in heroic characterizations of many athletes and diverse sports, but also for his many war memorials. Born in Iowa, with arts degrees from Wayne State College, and the University of Denver, he was made a Fellow of the National Sculpture Society, NYC. His commissions, spanning 40 years, stand in many US cities as well as in China, Australia, Italy and Poland. In 1976, Sylvester Stallone hired his to create a 9” high bronze statue of a triumphant Rocky as a movie prop, temporarily placed at the top of the Museum steps, but since moved to an adjacent site at the base of the plateau.

Michael Vitez is a Pulitzer-prize winner and former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and writer who published Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps (Paul Dry Books, publisher, Phila 2006)- 52 stories stories of people who have found inspiration in Rocky, endured similar challenges and had reason to celebrate their accomplishments. Vitez will present a powerpoint lecture (illustrated with photos by Pulitzer-prize winner Michael Gralish) highlighting some of the most compelling of their stories. He is currently the Director of the Narrative Medicine Program at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University Hospital, where he works with students, doctors, nurses and staff to encourage their fundamental “humanity”- an often overlooked but indispensable part of medicine.