Philadelphia, PA – As part of Monumental Tour, Kindred Arts presents acclaimed American artists Arthur Jafa, Coby Kennedy, Christopher Myers, and Hank Willis Thomas in a group showing of sculptures across the city of Philadelphia. These titans of contemporary art appear as a part of the traveling outdoor art exhibit, empowering social change through the arts. The works will be on display September 22, 2021 – January 31, 2022, at four locations along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Delaware River Waterfront.
Situated on carefully considered public sites, the works call attention to each artist’s distinct visual voice and engage with one another in a curated discourse. Collectively, the works honor and examine aspects of the African American experience, from the first slaves brought over in the 16th century to the present-day prison pipeline, and the struggle for liberation in between.
Individually, the sculptures invite the viewer to consider themes such as: colonization, oppression, privilege, Black middle-class labor, and the decline of industry, Black pride, Black power, Black joy, and subjugation. Each work is an invitation to viewers from any background to learn about and connect with a narrative or era they may not have endured personally, but one which continues to impact the African American experience.
The Philadelphia, Center City iteration of the tour marks the first time these four works will be displayed simultaneously. Those interested in learning about the works and seeking information on public programs can visit the exhibit virtually at www.monumentaltour.org. The ambitious deployment of this limited-time curation is made possible with the support of The City of Philadelphia and Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.
Honoring a hero
The tour will also honor the monumental achievements of Julian Francis Abele, Philadelphia’s first pioneering African American architect born in Philadelphia in 1881. Despite his many significant contributions, Abele remained virtually unknown outside Philadelphia’s architectural community. We now appreciate Abele as one of the early twentieth century’s most adept designers of revival buildings; such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Central Branch Of The Free Library of Philadelphia. Michael Spain, Director of Education at Center for Architecture and Design (CFAD) honors Abele’s architectural contributions with a walking audio that spans the length of the exhibit. The tour can be found on www.monumentaltour.org.
This exhibition is free and open to the public.
WORKS & LOCATIONS
Hank Willis Thomas: ALL POWER TO ALL PEOPLE EAKINS OVAL – 2451 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Hank Willis Thomas’ All Power to All People is a provocative artwork combining the Afro pick and the Black Power salute, both icons of Black identity and empowerment. At approximately 28 feet tall, the work stands as a symbol of community, strength, perseverance, comradeship, and belonging. The sculpture’s title references a legendary Black Panther Party slogan. All Power to All People is illustrative of the artist’s longstanding investigation into the role public art plays in shaping collective discourse and societal values.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad
Christopher Myers: CALIBAN’S HANDS
SHAKESPEARE PARK – Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Christopher Myers’ monumental sculpture is symbolic of the indigenous cultures occupied and suppressed by European colonial societies, and speaks to the dynamics of privilege, oppression, and forced servitude. The title references a character from Shakespeare’s Tempest.
Many consider the play an allegory of European colonization, and throughout the centuries, Caliban’s character has featured prominently in arguments that defend or resist colonialist tyranny. Interpreted as a white man’s burden, colonization was a means of conquering new lands and imposing the colonizer’s culture on the native people.
Christopher Myers was born in New York, where he continues to live and work. An acclaimed writer and illustrator of young-adult literature, Myers’ artistic practice is equally rooted in his storytelling and interest in global affairs.
Coby Kennedy: KALIEF BROWDER THE BOX
THOMAS PAINE PLAZA- 1401 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Kennedy’s sculpture The Box is a protest work. The steel and glass sculpture replicates the dimensions of a solitary confinement cell. The exterior features texts and graphs that explore the U.S. carceral system. The work is a critique of the gross abuses of civil liberties found in American incarceration systems. It aims to provide a creatively driven introduction to the myriad impacts of mass incarceration and to inspire participants to envision a transformed world without prisons.
Coby Kennedy is a graduate of Columbia University’s Fine Art MFA and Pratt Institute’s Industrial Design BA programs. The artist and industrial conceptual designer have completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2011), Red Bull Arts Detroit (2016), and Anderson Ranch Arts Center (2018).
Arthur Jafa – BIG WHEEL IV
CHERRY STREET PIER – 121 North Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Arthur Jafa’s Big Wheel is a spacious, yearning, and open-ended installation comprising four gargantuan, seven-foot tires originally made for monster trucks. Each is laced with a mesh of iron chain; like industrial chakras, they manifest Jafa’s obsession with the culture of monster vehicles that has fascinated him since his Mississippi childhood. The heavy manufacturing evokes the deindustrialization and transition to the service economy that Jafa’s generation watched unfold and that dashed so many Black middle-class aspirations. The installation features a sound component consisting of a loop of Teddy Pendergrass ballads, which are as much an authentic product of late-industrial America as are the tires and gantry. This installation was made possible with support from host institution Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.
Arthur Jafa is a filmmaker, cinematographer, and co-founder of motion picture studio TNEG. Jafa was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Health and Safety
The exhibit can be accessed safely in person and most locations can be viewed from a motor vehicle. The public can participate in all programming online, with updates available on Instagram at @monumental_tour.
As a reminder, those interested in learning about the works, and information on public programs can visit the exhibit virtually at www.monumentaltour.org.
Monumental Tour is a touring exhibition empowering social change through the arts, offering the public an opportunity to engage with questions of symbolism, history, the genealogy of artifacts, and the sedimentation of power through visual culture. The presentation works to build spaces where inclined citizens may participate, be affirmed, become informed, and to exemplify how American public art can honor multiple lived experiences and simultaneously inspire equitable commemorative landscapes.
Kindred Arts explores the significance of public sites and their function in enriching communities. Kindred produces culturally-specific public programs that support tradition, history, and ritual. Kindred Arts Director Marsha Reid is an interdisciplinary arts presenter, producer, cultural organizer, and activist, based in Harlem, New York. Her non-profit work and collaborative projects address cultural equity, public space, community, and communitas.
City of Philadelphia
The City of Philadelphia is the sixth largest city in the United States, and the first World Heritage City in the nation, that operates through the guiding principles of service, integrity, respect, accountability, collaboration, diversity and inclusion. Through these ideals, the City strives to effectively deliver services and make Philadelphia a place where all residents have the opportunity to reach their potential. As Philadelphia’s 99th Mayor, Jim Kenney has championed bold anti-poverty initiatives through investments in education and public spaces, continues to defend Philadelphia’s values as a Welcoming City while making significant strides in criminal justice reform, and is focused on advancing racial justice and driving equitable economic recovery to ensure that Philadelphia is a city that works for all. Learn more by visiting phila.gov.
Delaware River Waterfront Corporation is a 501(c)(3) created in January 2009, exclusively for the benefit of the City of Philadelphia and its citizens. The fundamental purpose of DRWC is to design, develop, program and maintain public amenities such as permanent and seasonal parks, trails, and streetscape improvements to transform the waterfront into a vibrant destination for recreational, cultural, and commercial activities for the residents and visitors of Philadelphia as is consistent with the goals of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware. Daily programming throughout the entire year is changing the way Philadelphians see and converse about the waterfront, and is helping to create spaces and communities that connect residents and visitors to the waterfront.