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Graffiti & Ornament

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In the exhibition Graffiti & Ornament, artists Roberto Lugo and Leo Tecosky create site-responsive works at The Woodlands’ historic Hamilton Mansion in West Philadelphia.

March 31 to April 28, 2019 | Opening: Sunday, March 31st, 1pm – 4pm
Exhibition Open Hours: Wed – Thurs: 11am – 4pm; Fri – Sun: 1pm – 6pm
(Closed Easter Sunday)

Curated by Elizabeth Essner | Organized by Past Present Projects of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia

Leo Tecosky,  Tughra, Neon,  2016; Roberto Lugo,  Thurgood Marshall / W.E.B. Du Bois,  2018, courtesy of the Wexler Gallery, Philadelphia; The Woodlands, William Hamilton Mansion

Leo Tecosky, Tughra, Neon, 2016; Roberto Lugo, Thurgood Marshall / W.E.B. Du Bois, 2018, courtesy of the Wexler Gallery, Philadelphia; The Woodlands, William Hamilton Mansion

Opening March 31st, The Woodlands in West Philadelphia will present Graffiti & Ornament, an exhibition bringing the work of artists Roberto Lugo and Leo Tecosky into the historic Hamilton Mansion. Bridging past histories of Philadelphia with the present, the site-specific exhibition connects a carved 19th century graffiti inscription at The Woodlands to these two contemporary artists who embrace graffiti and hip-hop culture within their artistic practice.  

Artist, activist, and self-titled ‘ghetto potter,’ Roberto Lugo was born in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. For Graffiti & Ornament, Lugo will tell the story, he says, of “my side of Philly.” Today a professor of ceramics at Tyler School of Art, Lugo’s vessels recall traditional ceramics, but the artist inserts his Puerto Rican heritage, and his personal and cultural heroes into the work. Lugo’s work bears witness to histories that have often been excluded, and as a result, reshapes the narrative of ceramics. Graffiti often becomes the ornament on his vessels, which depict portraits that range from hip-hop stars the Wu-Tang Clan, to poet Gwendolyn Brooks. For Graffiti & Ornament, Lugo will create monumental vessels to memorialize those from his Kensington community, echoing the wooded cemetery that surrounds the Hamilton mansion. 

Artist Leo Tecoksy’s sculptural glass and neon pieces for Graffiti & Ornament will create a multifaceted homage to his grandmother Evelyn Rose Tecosky, a life-long Philadelphia resident whose Depression glass collection inspired the artist’s own work in glass. Sited around the mansion’s stately bay windows, Tecosky’s installations of hanging glass arrows, stars, and crowns will reflect traditional chandeliers and graffiti graphics, their pale colors a nod to his grandmother’s Depression glass. Evelyn, his grandmother’s name, will transform into graffiti-influenced neon sculptures. Finally, a hand-blown and etched lamp will cast pattern and language onto the mansion’s dining room walls, using light to layer the contemporary era onto the house’s celebrated neoclassical interior.

In Graffiti & Ornament, the site-specific work of Lugo and Tecosky will shed new light on the historic interior of the Hamilton Mansion at the Woodlands, connecting Philadelphia’s past to its present in unexpected ways.

Graffiti & Ornament is generously funded by the Knight Foundation with additional support provided by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Graffiti & Ornament is organized by PAST PRESENT PROJECTS (PPP) of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia, a nonprofit arts organization that believes that historic house museums and landmarks are potent community resources and that the best way to preserve them is to engage audiences within these resonant sites.

The Woodlands, a 54-acre undulating landscape which is at once a one-of-a-kind 18th-century English pleasure garden, 19th-century rural cemetery, and a modern green oasis for its neighbors in bustling University City and West Philadelphia. Designated a National Historic Landmark District and actively used today, the cemetery, mansion, landscape, and programs are an educational resource meant to enrich the lives of area residents and visitors by serving as a hub for activities and educational programs that interpret, celebrate and make available to the public The Woodlands’ historic buildings and tranquil green space.