Opening Today: Philadelphia Contemporary's JANE IRISH: ANTIPODES


Philadelphia Contemporary, a globally oriented visual and performance art nonprofit, is pleased to present its latest public art installation, Jane Irish: Antipodes, in partnership with The Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and the Friends of Lemon Hill. The exhibition is on view from April 13 – June 3.

For the exhibition, Irish has transformed the historic Lemon Hill Mansion in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park – the first major art project in the more than 200-year history of the estate – filling it with a floor-to-ceiling installation of paintings and ceramics that provide an all-encompassing journey through the interconnectedness of history, from colonialism on the Indian subcontinent to anti-Vietnam War activism in Philadelphia.

“Jane’s incredibly ambitious formal approach to the exhibition is reflective of the complexity of the issues she’s tackling,” said Philadelphia Contemporary Artistic Director Nato Thompson. “Humane and exacting, this installation produces a historical cosmology that connects everything from Edgar Allen Poe to the anti-Vietnam war protests to the powerful legacy of colonialism.”

Playing off of the mansion’s layout, which features two oval rooms, one on each floor, Irish embraces the concept of hemispheric opposites, or antipodes, as a framework for dialectical imagery. In vibrant layers, Irish weaves together elements of war and peace, exploitation and colonialism, activism and repression, past and future into a critical examination of an American port city and everything that entails.

The first floor’s oval room will completely covered in floor-to-ceiling paintings dedicated to the Indian Ocean, which sits directly opposite Philadelphia on the globe. Combining portraits of European explorers and martyred missionaries with Southeast Asian motifs, the paintings will create a layered history of the Indian Ocean as a space of trade and exchange between Southeast Asian nations, and eventually a site of exploitative colonial expeditions.

Above, in the second floor oval room, will be a tribute to Philadelphia antiwar activists, particularly Philadelphia-based members of the VVAW movement (Vietnam Veterans Against the War). Covering the walls in paintings and the ceiling with interlocking canvases, Irish will consider how 20th-Century Philadelphians resisted American involvement in the Vietnam War, positing activism as an oppositional force to the colonial histories she will explore on the first floor. Through these two floors, and across the installation, Irish reveals how pivotal years in our contemporary, local history are inextricably bound to histories from the opposite side of the globe.

About Jane Irish

Jane Irish received her MFA from Queens College, CUNY, and has exhibited in New York and Philadelphia since 1983. Irish has had a solo exhibition in the Morris Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and has been included in exhibits at the Walker Art Center, MN; Institute of Contemporary Art, PA; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; the Utah Museum of Fine Arts; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Baltimore Museum of Art. She has been the recipient of several prestigious grants, including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, a Painting Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and a Painting Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About Lemon Hill

Built in the neoclassical style, Lemon Hill originally served as a greenhouse for founding father Robert Morris. In 1800, a merchant named Henry Pratt purchased the property and renovated it to what it is now. He named the house for the lemon trees grown in the greenhouse. Originally grown in India and China, lemons arrived in America on the ships of Christopher Columbus, and the Spanish conquistadors.

Lemon Hill Mansion. Courtesy of The Fairmount Park Conservancy

About Philadelphia Contemporary

Founded in 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary is dedicated to bringing visual art, performance art, and spoken word to the city of Philadelphia. A nomadic contemporary art organization with ambitions to establish a free standing globally oriented and locally aware museum, Philadelphia Contemporary has pioneered a vibrant and sustainable model based on partnerships and collaborations. Having commenced pop-up programming in October 2016, Philadelphia Contemporary continues to develop an ambitious roster of projects that will be mounted in the coming years, while planning for a permanent home in a new building.

Related Articles
Source: Opening Today: Philadelphia Contemporary's JANE IRISH: ANTIPODES